I remember watching Kerry Wood’s 20 K game as a youngster, although I didn’t understand the magnitude of the feat until I visited my father’s office, where there was a poster of Nolan Ryan with “20” imprinted over his trademark pitching motion. Ryan was the archetype for me at that time, so I naturally fell in love with the wonky curveball-throwing Wood.
Performances like Wood’s — salient, standout events in baseball history — are reasons why young kids fall in love with the game and why longtime fans continue to watch. But do we actually truly understand the momentous nature of Wood’s start?
According to game score, the metric created by Bill James, the 112 rating Wood earned on May 6, 1998 ranks best all time. Yes, dating back to when baseball launched professionally in the 1800’s, Kerry Wood’s nine-inning start is the single greatest performance ever. The only performance to even come close to Wood’s 112 was Max Scherzer’s 109 against the Mets in 2015, when he nearly no-hit the team that eventually knocked the Cubs out of the playoffs. Randy Johnson also came close when he earned a 108 by pitching a perfect game against the Braves in 2004.
Think about that for a moment: None of the 23 perfect games in history has a higher game score than Wood’s domination of the Astros 19 years ago. Even the other 20-strikeout games don’t match. It already stands forever in Cubs history, but Wood’s start might never be matched in MLB’s future.