Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The 100 Best Pitching Duels of 2011

If you're not familiar with Bill James, he helped usher in the new wave of thinking in baseball. He took the dusty old statistics of yesteryear and analyzed them in new ways. Most of the advanced metrics used to build franchises today can be traced back to him.

Last week, Bill James posted a blog on Grantland where he analyzed and ranked the top 100 pitchers' duels from the 2011 season. I hesitate to paint with a broad brush, but I understand that many fans, especially casual fans, want to see offense. Don't get me wrong, I love home runs. With one swing of the bat, the complexion of a game can change. But, there's an old-fashioned side to me that still prefers a great pitching duel.

In the blog, he identified the best pitching duels from last season. I replayed the games I attended last year in my head and tried to think of games that might make the list. Sure enough, two of my games made the list: 94 and 29. Oftentimes, even great match-ups on paper don't pan out. And some games don't seem like they will amount to anything, but they take you by surprise.

94. Tim Lincecum vs. Ryan Dempster: June 29, 2011

I attended that game with two of my friends from Elmhurst College. All three of us are in the same fantasy league. We had seats behind home plate, just slightly toward third base. James described the game expertly. "Lincecum good; Dempster better, bullpen got the win and the loss. Chicago 2, San Francisco 1." Carlos Marmol blew the win for Dempster. Aramis Ramirez came through with the game-winning hit for the Cubs. I only grabbed one photo from that game.

29. Cole Hamels vs. R. A. Dickey: September 24, 2011

Susan and I were in New York that weekend to see Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium. We didn't have tickets for Saturday. Our tickets were for Friday night. The rain fell on Friday and never stopped. The lights never turned on at Citi Field that evening and the tarp never left the infield. That rained out game was rescheduled as Game 1 of a doubleheader on Saturday. Susan asked if I wanted to go. I told her we didn't have to. No need to make it a entire baseball trip. She agreed to go for one game. Who knew it would end up being the 29th best pitching duel of the season. Here's a shot of Dickey on the mound during that game.

Yes, I am starting to suffer from baseball withdrawal.

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