It was a season to forget for the Yankees, but there were some memorable pitching performances nonetheless. In fact, two of the top five individual outings per game score in the majors this year belonged to the Bombers. Game score, the brainchild of Sabermetrics pioneer Bill James, is a statistic that attempts to distill the quality of a start into a single number; 50 is approximately average. Game score relies on innings pitched, strikeouts, walks, hits, and runs (earned and unearned). Let’s review the Yankees’ top five starts from 2023 per this metric.
5. Tie, GS of 80: Domingo Germán (5/1) and Gerrit Cole (9/10)
To give you an idea of how pitchers can achieve the same game score in a pair of different ways, Cole achieved his 80 in a nine-strikeout, seven-inning outing while Germán notched his in 8.1 innings with just six strikeouts. Cole was nearly outdueled by Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, who tossed eight no-hit innings against the hapless September Bombers, but the Yankees ended up winning 4-3 in 13 frames. Germán did outduel the Guardians’ Cal Quantrill; the Yankees lost 2-3 only because Clay Holmes blew the save. Regardless, both contests were far too close for comfort given the pitching dominance, results which were emblematic of the Yankees’ season as a whole.
4. GS of 83: Gerrit Cole (9/21)
Cole K’ed nine in this matchup with Toronto as well, achieving the higher game score by lasting eight innings and yielding one fewer hit despite one more run — the only one he allowed. The Yankees were in cruise control pretty much the entire game thanks to a first-inning three-run homer off the bat of Jake Bauers, though Clay Holmes made it interesting by allowing a pair of ninth-inning runs.
3. GS of 88: Gerrit Cole (9/27)
This is September Gerrit’s third appearance on the list, no surprise given his Cy Young push. Yet, this is the start that likely cemented the award for him. One of his two complete-game shutouts on the season, the outing was his final start of the year. Between this appearance and the previous entry on the list, Cole almost singlehandedly played spoiler to the Blue Jays, forcing them to settle for the sixth seed in the playoffs and suffer a first-round exit at the hands of the Minnesota Twins. Though he only struck out five in this one, he walked none and allowed just two hits in a 6-0 Yankees victory.
2. GS of 92: Gerrit Cole (4/16)
Cole’s other shutout and best start of the year, this one was a doozy. He blanked the Twins’ offense, striking out 10 and allowing just three baserunners. Pre-cutter Cole piled up 18 whiffs in this one, with eight coming on the heater, four on the knuckle curve, and five on the slider. Needless to say, even without the cut-fastball that he leaned on late in the season, Cole was sharp with his three primary offerings. Cy Young competitor Pablo López was stellar opposite the Yankees’ ace, holding the Bombers to two runs through six innings with seven K’s, but ultimately — as it seems he will in the Cy Young race — López came up short.
1. GS of 96: Domingo Germán (6/28)
Not only the Yankees’ best start of the year but also the majors’, Germán’s perfect game against the lowly A’s was a work of art. In an 11-0 Yankees win in which the Bombers lit up former farmhand JP Sears for seven runs in four innings, Germán retired 27 in a row, nine via the strikeout. Of his 17 whiffs, 12 came on the curveball, and he turned to his trademark offering for 51 of his 99 pitches. Of his 18 balls in play, just three were hit harder than 95 mph.
Germán, of course, would go on to make just five more starts before agreeing to attend inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse. The question of whether we’ll see him in a Yankees uniform again is a subject for another article; regardless, his perfect game will live on in the history books as one of just 24 in baseball history.
We will, however, see Gerrit Cole again next season. The brightest spot in an otherwise bleak 2023 Yankees season, the ace will be back in 2024, hopefully with a better supporting cast that can make another run at October.