MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins

It’s almost over. The hot stove season is winding down and Spring Training slowly appears on the headline. Before the 2014 season begins in earnest, lets give 2013 its day in the sun. The pitchers, specifically. Which starter hurled the best game of the year?

Below are some nominees of my choosing but it is by no means the definitive list. Enjoy this buzz through some of the best of 2013 before it all becomes another cruel memory.

David Price vs. Texas, Game 163

9 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K, three swinging strikes

In game 163 of the 2013 season, David Price turned in the kind of start a pitcher like Jack Morris is always credited with. He simply outlasted the other pitcher and, in turn, the other team. His numbers weren’t great but manager Joe Madden stuck with him and, somehow, Price ended up with a gutty victory that sent his Rays on to the Wild Card play-in.

Matt Harvey vs. White Sox, May 7th

9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K, 16 swinging strikes

Yes, weep for Mets fans who must wait out Matt Harvey’s Tommy John recovery and rehabilitation with another summer spent staring into the void. But weep for all of baseball, too.

Because there simply isn’t a more exciting pitcher to watch right now. Full stop. Harvey’s stuff is as good as it gets and he put on a show in his first full season. Just picking one Matt Harvey start for this list was much harder than you think.

Jose Fernandez vs. San Diego, July 1st

8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 13 swinging strikes

This was the unofficial coming out party for Jose Fernandez. It seemed like he couldn’t get out of third gear for most of the season but once the calendar turned to July, he was a different guy.

From this start through the end of the year, Fernandez went bananas, striking out 103 batters in just 88 innings, allowing a mere 15 runs. He made the leap from “interesting story” to “breakout star of the year” over 13 incredible starts. Here’s hoping it continues into 2014.

Anibal Sanchez vs. Atlanta, April 26th

8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 17 K, 26 swinging strikes.

That’s…that’s a lot of strikeouts. Wow. That’s a whole lot of strikeouts. Whenever you set a team record for a club that’s been around since 1901, you’re doing something right.

Anibal Sanchez is one of the more underrated pitchers in baseball right now. He lead the American League in ERA and finished fourth in Cy Young voting. All after signing a large contract to stay in the D. Pretty impressive stuff all the way around.

Shelby Miller vs. Colorado, May 10th

9 IP, 1 H, 0 B, 0 BB, 13 K, 11 swinging strikes

Before he was a national punchline for his strange October disappearance (despite remaining on the Cardinals post-season roster, Shelby Miller pitched once in the NLDS versus Pittsburg and was NEVER HEARD FROM AGAIN for the month of October), Shelby Miller was a star rookie for the Cardinals.

This start against the Rockies ranks as the best of the year in all baseball by Game Score (98). Miller allowed the first batter of the game to reach and then he mowed down the next 27 batters in a row. A dominant performance from one of the most promising young arms in the league.

Justin Verlander vs. Oakland, ALDS Game 5

8 IP, 2 H , 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, 22 swinging strikes

Before this crucial Game 5 start against the Oakland A’s, now-retired Tigers manager Jim Leyland cracked up the assembled writers and reporters with his response to the question “who’s available in the bullpen tonight?”

Leyland’s answer? “Verlander.”

Turns out Leyland was on to something, as Verlander mowed down the A’s in an elimination game as only Justin Verlander can. It wasn’t the complete game domination of 2012 but it was nearly as great a start. Verlander at his best, which is as good as it gets.

Tim Lincecum vs. San Diego, July 13th

9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 13 K, 27 swinging strikes (!!!)

There was never any doubt, was there? Buster hugs forever.

Yu Darvish vs. the Astros

Take. Your. Pick.

One out from a perfect game with 14 strikeouts (26 swinging strikes) or

No-hitter into the eighth with 15 strikeouts? Which one ya got?

Somehow this list excludes two no-hitters, a 15 strikeout performance from Cliff Lee, a Stephen Strasburg complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts on just 99 pitches, and a dozen other Madduxes (complete game shutout on fewer than 100 pitches). Which is to say – there is plenty of room for debate.

So I’ll put it to you – what do you think was the best pitched game of 2013?

Comments (6)

  1. I’m surprised to see Tim on this list that excludes the three starts that you mentioned at the bottom. It was a super fun game to watch for sure, his vintage Timmy changeup was great but the guy got flat out lucky to be able to throw over 140 pitches (may have been over 150) without letting a runner reach with a hit. And, just like all no hitters, this game featured some spectacular defense. I’ll give Verlander and Price a tie for best of the season. Both pitchers had their best game against great competition in games that mattered a ton.
    Yu D was the opposite. Games that didn’t mean as much against the a historically bad offense. Side note. If all three of these pitchers are available in the 2nd round of my draft this year, I would pick Yu in a second. ;-)

  2. “striking out 103 strikeouts in just 88 innings” – this sounds like a NotGraphs post.

    I could watch Yu Darvish embarrass the Astros (or any other team for that matter) all day, every day. I think the near perfect game just shades it.

  3. Any good Lincecum performance nowadays=flash in the pan brilliance.

  4. Ok. I’ll agree. Timmy forever. Do you have a way to find out how many other pitchers produced 27 or more swinging strikes in a start last season?

  5. I really appreciate these posts, Drew. It helps me cherry pick games to watch on MLB.tv during the winter, rather than just watch randoms (which is totally fine of course). I’ll have to start next summer writing down notable performances.

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