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Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
John Grochowski | For the Sun-Times

Taking a deep statistical dive into Dylan Cease’s gem

Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease throws against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Major-league pitchers have only 27 complete games this season, including 11 complete-game shutouts through Sunday’s games.

Dylan Cease’s one-hitter Saturday in a 13-0 thrashing of the Twins was the White Sox’ second complete game of the season. Johnny Cueto had the first on Aug. 4, but lost 3-2 to the Rangers.

Cease’s gem was one of the season’s most dominant performances with a game score of 90. But by win probability added, the one-hitter ranks 14th among Cease’s 2022 outings. That’s because WPA is a balancing act between pitching and hitting. The 13-run burst added so much to the Sox’ chance of winning there was less win probability available to the pitcher.

Game score starts a pitcher at 50 points. One point is added for each strikeout, one for each out recorded and two for each inning pitched after the fourth. One point is deducted for each walk, two for each hit, two for each unearned run and four for each earned run.

Cease, with seven strikeouts and two walks, added 27 points for outs, 10 for innings after the fourth and seven for strikeouts. Two points were deducted for walks and two for the lone hit.

The resulting 90 game score is tied with Clayton Kershaw and Shohei Ohtani for fifth in the majors this season.

Since dominance by the pitcher is spotlighted, strikeouts play a big role. The highest game score of 2022 is 94 by the Braves’ Spencer Snider on Sept. 1 in beating the Rockies 3-0. That was not a complete game. Snider went eight innings, yielding two hits, but struck out 16 and walked no one.

Others in the 90s have been the Reds’ Tyler Mahle (93 vs. the Diamondbacks), Cardinals’ Jordan Montgomery (92 vs. the Cubs) and Dodgers’ Walker Buehler (91 vs. the Diamondbacks).

Cease’s WPA for his big game was .171, were 1.000 is the 100 percent chance of winning when the game ends. His highest of the season was 3.89 May 2 when he went seven innings, struck out 11, allowed one hit and hit a batter in beating the Angels 3-0.

The outcome of each plate appearance adds or subtracts from the probability of winning. Game context matters. With the Sox leading 3-0 to start the Angels’ half of the seventh, Cease struck out Mike Trout. That raised the Sox’ win probability from 90.4 percent to 92.6 percent, and added .022 to Cease’s WPA.

Against the Twins, Cease struck out seventh-inning leadoff man Kyle Garlick, but the Sox had a 7-0 lead. With rounding, it moved the Sox from a 99.7 to a 99.8 percent chance of winning, and Cease’s WPA added only .002. Closer games add more to WPA for strong pitching performances.

For the season, Cease’s 2.53 WPA is 13th among pitchers, with the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara first at 4.32.

That hitters contributed mightily to Cease’s latest victory takes no luster off his performance. Rare for the 2020s, the complete-game shutout and 90 game score stands as one of the best-pitched games of the season.

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