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Judgmental Stats: The Win

A few years ago, I wrote something about judgmental baseball stats. I’ve had numerous people email and ask me to revisit the concept. So, why not? Let’s revisit with a little Judgmental Stats Series.

Let me say up front: I’m not interested in actually CHANGING the traditional baseball stats. They’ve been around so long, and have so much history, that to change them and make them “more logical” would probably do more harm than good. Cy Young’s 511 wins, Ty Cobb’s .366 average, Rickey Henderson’s 130 stolen bases, these are ingrained in the game. We have in our mind what a 20-game winner, a .300 hitter, a  sub 3.00 ERA feels like, and there’s no real reason to mess with that. Even errors, a generally dumb concept, have such a place in the game’s story that doing away with them would leave a void.

But, even so, it’s still worth pointing out that, unlike what I suspect many baseball fans think, most historic baseball stats are not counting numbers or calculated with simple math. They are permeated with shaky math and ethical judgments about what players DESERVE to have credited and debited to their baseball accounts. We like to quote these stats like they are simple facts. They are not. If you see 10 oranges in a bucket it is a fact to say “There are 10 oranges in a bucket.”

But a baseball counting of that would say, “Well, one of those oranges is too small to qualify, and one of them is not exactly orange — more like vermillion — so that only counts as half an orange, and two of the oranges have seeds which make them different …”

The Pitcher Win is the most obvious of the judgmental stats. The Win has been talked about, complained about, rebelled against for years now — Brian Kenny, Keith Law, many others have written about how ridiculous it is to judge pitchers by a statistic that is so team oriented AND so weird. There’s no point going through the complicated rules revolving around the pitcher win.*

*”Winning and Losing Pitcher” requires THREE PAGES in the Baseball Rulebook, and this includes this baffling “comment” on Rule 9-17.

“It is the intent of Rule 9.17(b) (Rule 10.17(b)) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher.”

Have fun with that one, kids. Last year, Baltimore relief pitcher Brad Brach won 10 games. Now, you tell me: How did Brad Brach win 10 games? Glad you asked:

— On April 10, he came into a game with two outs in the fifth. Baltimore was leading 4-3, but Tampa Bay had runners on first and third. He got Brad Miller on a deep fly ball to end the inning. Brach pitched a scoreless sixth, the Orioles held on to their lead and Brach got the W.

— Next day, April 11, he came into a tie game in the eighth inning against Boston. He pitched a scoreless inning. The Orioles scored three runs in the ninth on Chris Davis’ home run. Brach now 2-0.

— On April 29, he came into the game in the seventh with Baltimore leading Chicago 3-2. He gave up a game-tying homer to Brad Lawrie before getting out of the inning. The Orioles scored three runs in the bottom of the inning on Nolan Reimold’s three-run homer. Brach now 3-0.

— On May 21, Brach came into a game against the Angels with two outs in the seventh. He got Albert Pujols to ground out and pitched a scoreless eighth. The Orles scored three runs in the top of the ninth on Matt Wieters home run. Brach now 4-0.

— On June 1, Brach came into a game against Boston in the sixth with the score tied. He got out of the inning when the Xander Boegarts single he gave up did not score Dustin Pedroia from second. The Orioles scored two runs in the bottom of the inning. Brach pitched a scoreless seventh. Brach now 5-0.

— July 9, Angels again, tie game, Brach pitches a scoreless eighth. Orioles score the winning run in the bottom of the inning. Brach now 6-1.

— On August 14, at San Francisco, Brach pitches a scoreless eighth with the Giants ahead 7-5. The Orioles score three runs in the ninth on a Jonathan Schoop home run. Brach now 7-1.

— On August 30, Brach finishes off the seventh with the score tied against Toronto, and he pitches a scoreless eighth. Matt Wieters hits a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning and Brach is 8-2.

— On September 16, Brach pitches a scoreless eighth with Tampa Bay ahead 4-3. Orioles score two in the bottom of the eighth. Brach is 9-3.

— Two days later, again against Tampa Bay, Brach pitched a scoreless eighth in a tie game, Mark Trumbo homers in the bottom of the inning and that’s Brach’s 10th victory.

Now, I went through all 10 of those to make the point: Are any of those wins what you think about when you consider the pitcher win? Brad Brach got 10 wins, more than numerous very good starters like Julio Teheran, by pitching an inning or so at the right time. That is and always has been ridiculous.

Then, even people who defend the pitcher win as a stat generally believe that relief pitcher wins are useless things. They will say, “Yeah, I never look at relief pitcher wins — but starter wins are still useful.” OK, well, are you ready for this? I’m going to give you a statistic that will blow your mind — you ready for this?

Here you go:

Number of games in 2016 where a pitcher got a win while pitching two innings or less: 724.

OK, you got that? That’s 724. Now get ready for this.

Number of games in 2016 where a pitcher got a win while pitching seven innings or more: 689.

Bchloo! Yeah, that’s the sound of my mind getting blown. It was more common in 2016 for pitchers to get wins by pitching a measly inning or two at the right time then it was for starters to get a win going at least seven innings. We are in a different time, a time when the win is outdated. Like Kevin Bacon so wisely said in Footloose, “And there was a time for this law, but not anymore.”

In the past, I’ve suggested — and I’ll suggest it here again — that only starters should get wins and losses. When I say this, people immediately point out that it’s stupid to give a starter credit for a win or loss if he doesn’t actually play any role in when the game is won or lost.



But, at least if you do it this way, you get a real, live counting stat. You are actually counting the team’s record when that pitcher starts. That’s a real thing, .not some bizarre judgmental, outdated, dartboard-in-the-dark sort of stat.

Here were your TRUE win-loss leaders in 2016:

Rick Porcello, 25-8

Jon Lester 24-8

J.A. Happ 24-8

Cole Hamels 24-8

Max Scherzer 24-10

Masahiro Tanaka 23-8

Johnny Cueto 23-9

Chris Tillman 22-8

Adam Wainwright 22-11

Chad Bettis 21-11

Collin McHugh 21-12

By the way, when using career true win stats, Jack Morris moves up to 302 wins (Hall of Fame!).  Six pitchers since Deadball have more than true 400 wins (Clemens, Maddux, Sutton, Ryan, Carlton, Spahn).

And it’s actually fascinating to look at true win percentages … here’s a question you probably have not thought much about: Is Tim Hudson a Hall of Famer? Unless you are specifically a Tim Hudson fan, your immediate reaction is probably: “No.” Or “What?” Hudson won 222 games with a 3.49 ERA, barely 2,000 strikeouts, never won the Cy Young or even got a first place Cy Young vote. Even if you look at advanced stats, his 57.2 WAR and 48.5 JAWS fall below Hall of Fame median numbers.

BUT what if we had counted wins this true counting way rather than the old way.

If we did: Hudson’s career record would be 297-182, which is really impressive. First of all: Did you have ANY IDEA that Tim Hudson started 297 winning games? And that .624 win percentage would rank in the Top 10 since Deadball. The only pitchers with that many wins and that high a winning percentage are Whitey Ford, Lefty Grove and Jim Palmer. I’m not saying this makes him a Hall of Famer. I am saying that if we counted wins in this truer and more logical way, his Hall of Fame case would certainly resonate more.*

*And how much better would Mike Mussina look with a 325-210 record?

Now, does this true win-loss record tell you anything more than the old win-loss record? Well, in a small way, yes: At least the true win-loss tells you something concrete, what the team’s record was when that pitcher started. This is how we count quarterback win-loss records, coach win-loss records, manager win-loss records, etc. Nobody even knows what the old win-loss record is supposed to count, exactly.

But in a larger way, no, they’re probably about the same level of meaningful, blurring the pitcher’s individual performance with the team’s offensive performance with general timing in a way that gives us a number that offers a badly obstructed view of the pitcher. There’s no way around that when you want to credit pitchers with wins or losses.

But, I would say, hey, if you want pitcher wins, drop the judgment and really count pitcher wins.


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53 Responses to Judgmental Stats: The Win

  1. invitro says:

    1. “I’m not interested in actually CHANGING the traditional baseball stats.”
    2. “In the past, I’ve suggested — and I’ll suggest it here again — that only starters should get wins and losses.”
    Isn’t #2 a change in a traditional baseball stat?

    • SDG says:

      Not really. In the old days wins went exclusively to starters and no one would have entertained ever giving the win to the broken-down alcoholic who they kept around for the incredibly rare situations when the starter’s arm fell off, regardless of what happened in the game. Joe’s just bringing it back to how it was at the beginning.

      • kehnn13 says:

        One good counterpoint I can think of off the top of my head: On June 23, 1917, Babe Ruth threw 4 pitches. The umpire called them all balls, the batter walked, and ruth punched the ump (and got ejected). Ernie Shore came in, picked off the runner and retired the next 26 hitters. Should Ruth really get the credit for the win??

        • Rob Smith says:

          Whatever the solution, you don’t use outlier situations to discredit the solution. The reason we know about the Babe Ruth/Ernie Shore situation is because it was rare (and of course, because it involved Babe Ruth). So the fact that Ruth would have gotten an undeserved win in 1917 doesn’t mean the solution is bad. Joe pointed out hundreds of undeserved wins in 2016 alone under the current system for assigning wins. So, accepting that a starter might get injured early or get tossed early doesn’t mean that solution isn’t still a lot better than we have today. I say this, while not endorsing the solution entirely. I’m just saying that you’re argument against it is extremely limited.

  2. Mike says:

    I always thought the pitcher who records the most outs for the winning team should get the win. I suspect it would not be too different than this approach, but maybe different enough to be “meaningful”, as far as pitcher wins go.

    • SDG says:

      That’s the inverse of the batting average problem. The pitcher who got the most outs could also be the pitcher who allowed the most, or only, runs.

      It’s a dumb relic from the 19th century when there were no relief pitchers and everyone pitched complete games. It’s not useful for comparing across eras or measuring pitcher quality.

  3. ajnrules says:

    I’ll fully confess, I’m a sucker for the pitcher wins and losses. I love going through the box scores every day to find out who gets the wins and losses. I love watching pitchers climb up the career wins leaderboard. I love reading about the 300-game winners. However, I will be the first person to admit that the win is a flawed stat. The rules are a bit befuddling, and with the rise of the bullpens the odds are stacked against the starters in collecting wins, as the stat Joe brought up shows. And the rules are not even consistent. Early in the 20th century the wins are assigned by the league office and the National League office assigned wins differently from the American League office. I suppose back in the 19th century the pitching wins were mostly determined by the teams wins and losses but almost everybody pitched complete games. It’s just a big mess.

    And yet I think the reason why people still discuss pitching wins and losses is this: it’s not terribly difficult to calculate and it gives us one way to compare pitchers across different eras. ERAs certainly don’t help because ERAs fluctuate based off of offensive and defensive quality across eras. There’s no way anybody can get down to the ERAs of the likes of Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, and Three-Finger Brown, not when the average ERAs nowadays are around 4.00. Strikeouts certainly don’t serve the purpose because batters nowadays strike out far more than they did 100, 50, or even 30 years ago. ERA+ and pitching WAR are often used to compare across eras, but they’re not easy for any Joe Fan to calculate. And yet pitchers get wins in 2017 as they did in 1917. And even with the advent of the bullpens, generally the same number of people reach win milestones between the days of antiquity and now.

    Number of pitchers that reached 200 wins in 35-year intervals
    -1875-1910: 26
    -1911-1945: 29
    -1946-1980: 28
    -1981-2016: 33
    This may be a little misleading as this doesn’t account for the influx of pitchers from expansion, but even with an increasing number of wins going to relievers, pitchers are still going to get wins, and people are still going to celebrate win milestones like 100, 150, 200, 250, and 300. Is it a flawed stat? Yes. Is it a flawed way to compare pitchers across different eras? Definitely. But the pitching win is here to stay, and I don’t think it will ever leave the baseball conscious.

    • Patrick says:

      “I’ll fully confess, I’m a sucker for the pitcher wins and losses. I love going through the box scores every day to find out who gets the wins and losses. I love watching pitchers climb up the career wins leaderboard. I love reading about the 300-game winners. However, I will be the first person to admit that the win is a flawed stat.”

      Yup. And I feel the same way about RBIs and batting average. Statistics are not just about helping us determine ho good/valuable a player is/was. They’re things to track, and they’re fun. That’s why I hate the Brian Kenney’s and their “Kill the win” nonsense.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I agree. I understand that a lot of these stats are flawed in terms of understanding the game, but why does everything have to be oriented toward improving your understanding? It’s entertainment, not brain surgery. But what does annoy me is when people can’t accept that the traditional stats have issues or when some announcer talks about how a certain pitcher “knows how to win” without acknowledging that wins are contextual. But I would hate to do away with the win stat because so much of baseball history is tied up with it; Dizzy Dean and Denny McClain with 30 wins, Cy Young, on and on.

        • Rob Smith says:

          And that’s why the Wins will never be eliminated entirely. But the context is changing. Most everyone realizes that Wins are not everything as they once were.

        • Patrick says:

          Some of this is just a function of announcers having limited time and needing to appeal to a mass audience. I think they could be better, but they’ve got some things that stand in their was as well

    • MikeN says:

      It bugs me that Tim Wakefield didn’t end up tied as all-time Red Sox wins leader with Roger Clemens and Cy Young. The bullpen kept blowing leads for him.

      • Mike Riley says:

        It “bugs” me that you actually compare Wakefield to Clemens and Cy. Wakefield was a decent pitcher who went 11-10 every year and pitched a very long time. Clemens is the greatest pitcher of the modern era.

        Blowing leads? The bullpen blew leads for Wakefield and Clemens at the same rate during their Boston years (Wake lost 41 wins in 430 starts to the pen, Clemens lost 36 in 382 starts), about 9.5%. Note that Wakefield benefitted greatly from the bullpen taking him off the hook for 48 losses, while Clemens teammates saved him just 21 times.

        Tough wins and cheap losses while in Boston: Wakefield had 46 cheap wins and 44 tough losses, to 23 cheap wins and 41 tough losses for Clemens. I’m very glad that Clemens and Young stand together at the top of the Sox win list.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Of course, between 1876 and 1910, there were about 61,900 major league starts. In 1981 to 2016, there were about 162,200.

      Looking at individual opportunity, the least amount of career starts by a 200 game winner is 310. Between 1871 and 1910, 44 different pitchers reached 310 starts. Between 2004 and 2016, 46 pitchers did the same. The total for the 1981 to 2016 era is 124.

  4. All good grist for the mill. But it seems to me that the bigger problem of the moment is the save rule, because it encourages the misuse of closers. If the save were given for the pitcher’s performance at the moment he comes into the game, and whether he actually saves it for his team when its lead is threatened, my Dodgers might have Kenley Jansen come in for, say, the 7th if the game is on the line then, instead of waiting for the 9th. I think Bill James has made this kind of argument, and that puts me in the odd position of agreeing with him ….

    • SDG says:

      That is a big problem. Managers are so wedded to the save stat and the concept of closers that they often don’t put their best relievers in the most high-levreage situations if those situations don’t come in the ninth.

      What I think will happen in the future, and what will kill the win for sure, is it will be routine for the starter, or whoever pitches the most innings, to pitch fewer than half. Maybe fewer than a third. Pitching will be more specialized, but not to time of the game but to situation. Bases loaded? Put in your GB specialist and get the DP. Starter getting shelled? Put in your innings eater. How do you give the win then?

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I think the problem is that managers are wedded to the idea that pitching the 9th inning or the last inning with a lead is psychologically different and that only certain guys can do it. I don’t think it’s the concept of the save so much as it is that managers think only guys who have become closers can actually close out a game. Plus, there is the idea that it’s worse for the team psychologically to lose a game in the 9th inning after having a lead than to lose it in, say, the 7th.

        • Rob Smith says:

          I think the bigger issue is that the “closers” realize that the Save stat is what earns them a big contract. And why closers, like Aroldis Chapman, don’t want to be used in innings besides the 9th. The money is paid today for the 9th inning only. If you pitch other innings, then you’re paid millions less than the guy who pitches the 9th. Until teams start spreading the money around, the best relief pitchers will still seek closer roles. If you insist they pitch the 8th inning FA relief pitchers will look at other teams.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Well, if the manager tells a pitcher to pitch in the 7th,is he going to say no? He’s still getting paid. There is at this point more prestige (and, as you say) money in pitching the 9th, but that shouldn’t be the deciding factor in how pitchers are used.

          • SDG says:

            Maybe, but the best closers (Rivera, say) know they have the power to walk away from the team if they’re used in middle relief. What team wants to risk that?

    • Craig from Az says:

      I agree the save is a really, really stupid stat (at least as stupid as the win). But I certainly would not change the stat because managers are too obstinate to manage to win, instead of managing to the stats. Leave that as an opportunity for a real manager to take advantage of.

  5. Mort says:

    In this era of ubiquitous assembly line bullpens, Joe’s method of counting wins would be a definite improvement. There’d still be problems, such as this year’s Seattle Mariner comeback against the Padres from 14 runs down, or Babe Ruth’s famous first inning relief appearance in which he retired the 26 hitters he faced. We wouldn’t want the starting pitcher getting the wins in those games. I would require that the starter pitch a certain number of innings to get the decision, as now. However, if the starter doesn’t qualify for the decision, then there really isn’t a pressing need to give it to another pitcher. Call it a ‘team win’ or a ‘team loss’, analogous to the NBA’s team rebound. Percentages of team wins vs. team losses might be a handy quick guide to how effective a bullpen is, collectively.

    • Scott says:

      It was Ernie Shore who came on in relief of Babe Ruth. But that game really shows why the win shouldn’t go to the starter. I think a simpler definition should simply be the pitcher (on the winning team) who contributed most to the team’s victory. It’s almost completely subjective, but it’s more likely to be the starter than in modern situation. If a pitcher leaves the game down 2-1 with two outs in the eighth and his team scores two in the ninth, he should get the win. But should the other team’s starter get the loss if the closer gives up two runs when facing four batters? Intuitively, we know who should be the winning pitcher and the losing pitcher for this game under my definition. This would keep with the spirit that the pitcher has the most influence over the game and that the starter has a disproportionate impact, but allow it to change with modern usage.

      The stat recognizes that the pitcher has more influence over the game than any other player. Like win-loss records for goalies and quarterbacks, over the long run is a pretty good barometer of success.

      • SDG says:

        That doesn’t make sense. You’re saying “If you have to give the win to someone, it makes sense to give it to the pitcher.” But why give a team stat to an individual player at all? No other sport does that. If the win is going to be assigned to an individual, shouldn’t it be the manager? Or if, say, there were 6 young pitchers who plaed that game and they all relied on the veteran catcher – maybe the win should go to the catcher. Or maybe we could use it like an MVP for every game, where it goes to the player that has the highest WPA for the game. See how insane that sounds?

        The win is for the whole team.

        • Patrick says:

          “But why give a team stat to an individual player at all? No other sport does that”

          Hockey goalies do. And in the nfl, it’s not officially used, but conversation around elite quarterbacks is constantly centered on wins and losses, especially in the postseason (Ask Matt Ryan how that’s gone for him).

          • nightfly says:

            Goaltenders and quarterbacks generally finish all the games they start, however, unless they are injured or terrible. It thus makes more sense for them to have won/lost records than starters, who are no longer expected even to get the game to their closer, much less finish. Imagine relying on your starting goalie to only get you through the first two periods!

            Along with that, hockey seems to have more tolerance for the goalie perpetually laboring on poor teams. Some still go gaga over gaudy win totals, of course, even if they’re a primary function of the team’s defensive and offensive strength, but several NHL goalies have been recognized as all-time greats despite never having much playoff success. Five of the 31 NHL goalies in the Hall of Fame have losing regular-season career records; eight of them have losing playoff records; four of them never won the Cup, and five others won only one.

            Among the next crop of contenders, there’s Curtis Joseph, Roberto Luongo, and Henrik Lundqvist, all of whom have at least 400 regular-season wins and a sub-.500 playoff record, and none of whom to date have a Cup (Joseph’s retired and now won’t ever make it).

        • invitro says:

          “Or maybe we could use it like an MVP for every game, where it goes to the player that has the highest WPA for the game. See how insane that sounds?” — That doesn’t sound insane at all… I like it. I want to know the leaders in WPA-wins now.

  6. Crazy Diamond says:

    Sometimes it’s fun to look at stats from a pessimistic view. For instance, instead of thinking that a player got a hit 30% of the time (for a .300 AVG) look at it as failing to get a hit 70% of the time (or .700 AVG failure rate). Same thing with W/L Percentage, SB Percentage, and the sabermetric stats =)

  7. birtelcom says:

    Maybe the principle should be, it!s never the stat that’s stupid, it’s how the stat may be used that can be stupid. A stat may have been created for one purpose, but as the game evolves, it becomes less helpful in the particular evaluation for which it was defined. So we can adjust how we use that stat, or refine it, or replace it. If we merely continue to use such a stat as if it still applies in exactly the way it used to, that’s stupid, not the stat itself. The changing usefulness of the Win is not necessarily a reason to replace it with something that might actually be less informative in many ways, Rather, perhaps recognize the traditional Win’s limitations, play around with additional stats that add new perspectives (such as Game Score or Win Probability Added or various possible Assigned Win approaches), while perhaps retaining Wins for whatever more limited value it still might have — if nothing else as an accounting mechanism to allow us to continue to track how the game has changed and continues to evolve.

  8. birtelcom says:

    One possible way, using newer stat tools, to assign Wins and Losses that may seem less arbitrary than the traditional definitions, could be to use Win Probability Added. Whenever a team wins a game, that team’s pitcher who generated the most WPA is awarded the Assigned Wiin, as the pitcher who contributed the most to the team’s success. Often, that will be the same pitcher as under the traditional definition, but will vary when appropriate. Looking for example at a few games at the start of the Mets schedule in 2016: tithe Mets won on April 5 with Syndergaard getting the W by either definition and the same for deGrom on April 8. But on April 13, Jerry Blevins got the tradtional W in relief by being in the right place at the right time, while starter Logan Verrett pitched six scoreless innings and earned the most WPA by far. So Verrett would get the Assigned Win. On April 15, in contrast, starter Bartolo Colon got the traditional Win based on a 5.1 IP stint in which he pitched OK, got lots of run support, but left in the sixth with men on second and third and one out in the 6th. Antonio Bastardo relieved Colon, immediately shut down the threat with no damge, totaled four outs without a blemish and ends up with by far the most WPA among Mets pitchers that day. So he gets the Assigned Win.

    • Bpdelia says:

      Yeah that’s the way to do it. And since most stats were used before being accepted as “” I’d recommend that FG or BEef start compiling that stat and writing articles about it. It would be a much more easy to digest stat than WPA currently is.

      I feel like thats a stat people would enjoy.

      • Richard says:

        “I feel like thats a stat people would enjoy.”

        Are you talking about stat nerds or the casual fan? Despite the occasional arbitrariness of the “win”, it still correlates very well with a pitcher’s general talent, and has the benefit of being easily understood by everyone. The more calculations involved in determining a stat, the more your listeners eyes will glaze over….

  9. Dave B says:

    That’s funny. My mind makes more of a PWOPP sound when it gets blown.

    I love the idea of only starting pitchers getting wins, though we’d have to recalibrate out thinking on what a “great” record is. I don’t think that errors are entirely dumb though I rarely look at them anymore. They’re at least well meaning and heck, Defensive Runs Saved has a defensive displays category which sounds an awful lot like errors to me.

  10. invitro says:

    The problem with pitcher wins is that they depend on the offense more than they do the pitcher. Pitcher wins would be great if they depended only on the pitcher. But we’ve already got a stat for that — quality starts. (Joe’s proposed change (again, a huge change to a traditional stat) is pretty obviously more informative than current pitcher wins, but it’s still not at all as informative as ERA, let alone the more advanced metrics.)

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I think, however, that combining stats to go along with Ws gives a well-rounded picture. Ws by themselves is useless. But adding Quality Starts, ERA, WHIP, FIP, and other stats do help fill in the gray areas.

  11. Aaron says:

    Joe, I think that you are engaging in a small bit of sleight-of-hand. You say that Hudson would be 297-182, and that sounds really impressive. However, we are comparing that stat to our knowledge of wins based on the current system. We would have to know what all of the stats look like in order to judge this. Under true wins, is 300 still such a magic number? Maybe it’s 350? While I would imagine that most old-time stats would stay close to what they currently are (since pitchers tended to pitch much longer into games and thus get more decisions), the past 40 years worth of stats would need some serious revision.

    At the same time, a new wrinkle would develop. Current pitchers would gt more wins for pitching fewer innings. As such, they could potentially have longer careers and thus amass more true wins than their pre-1970 (more or less) peers. You could chalk that up to the game changing, but it would be the same argument as the one-inning closer versus the 3-inning closer – the former racks up the stats while doing less work.

    • Nickolai says:

      Joe is clearly more focused on the W/L percentage in this hypothetical, not the absolute # of wins. The 300 win threshold is arbitrary.

    • John Autin says:

      With game stats available since 1913:
      — Hudson’s 297 team wins started would be #27, tied with Whitey Ford.
      — His .620 team W% in starts would be 9th among the 144 guys with 200+ wins started.

      Here are the top 20 in team wins started since 1913, listing their team record and W% in starts:

      (1) Roger Clemens … 433-273, .613
      (2) Greg Maddux … 431-309, .582
      (3) Don Sutton … 418-338, .553
      (4) Nolan Ryan … 405-368, .524
      (5) Steve Carlton … 404-305, .570
      (6) Warren Spahn … 401-262, .605
      (7) Tom Glavine … 391-291, .573
      (8) Tommy John … 386-313, .552
      (9) Phil Niekro … 379-335, .531
      (10) Randy Johnson … 371-232, .615
      (11) Tom Seaver … 369-278, .570
      (12) Bert Blyleven … 364-321, .531
      (13) Gaylord Perry … 360-329, .522
      (14) Jim Kaat … 345-277, .555
      (15) Jamie Moyer … 343-294, .538
      (16) Early Wynn … 339-273, .554
      (17) Fergie Jenkins … 338-256, .569
      (18) Pete Alexander … 335-188, .641
      (19) Jim Palmer … 325-196, .624
      (20) Mike Mussina … 325-210, .607

  12. mark G says:

    I’m amused by all the comments that argue against Joe’s simple W/L proposal because “It wouldn’t make sense to give a pitcher a win when … [he pitches 1 inning/he gives up 6 runs/whatever]. The stats are filled with stuff like that.
    It doesn’t make sense to give a batter a hit when 2 outfielders each think the other will catch the ball.
    It doesn’t make sense to give a right fielder an error on a perfect throw to third that hits the runner.
    It doesn’t make sense to credit a batter with a hit for hitting a runner.
    It doesn’t make sense to give a batter a sacrifice when he tried hard as he could to hit a home run.
    It doesn’t make sense that Harvey Haddix got a loss after pitching 12 perfect innings.

    Suddenly with all that we can’t have a nice, simple stat because sometimes its application defies common sense?

  13. Bert says:

    Early to mid 60s, at what was then Class A Charlotte. A lefty (who name is long gone from my memory) came into a tie game in the top of ninth with 2 out and runner on first. He immediately picked off the runner and Charlotte scored the game winner in the bottom of the 9th.

    The winning “pitcher” never threw even one pitch.

  14. Brent says:

    Joe argues against baseball “facts” and “stats” with this statement: But a baseball counting of that would say, “Well, one of those oranges is too small to qualify, and one of them is not exactly orange — more like vermillion — so that only counts as half an orange, and two of the oranges have seeds which make them different …”

    But of course, there are a lot of fields of study that we can attack in a similar fashion. For instance, how many continents are there? If you said anything other than 7, what land groups do you consider a continent? How many oceans are there? If you are my age, you probably said 4, but my kids tell me there are 5.

    How about astronomy? How many planets are there?

    “Facts”, even about things that haven’t changed in their form in humanity’s history, can change.

  15. Johnny says:

    How about keeping reliever wins a possibility by saying the pitcher who pitches the most innings for each team gets the win/lose with a tie going to the first pitcher of the two?

  16. Chris Hill says:

    You had it backwards. Oranges originally all had seeds. It’s seedless oranges that are worth only 7/10 of a seeded orange. Thought everybody knew that.

  17. invitro says:

    Should Tim Hudson’s high rank for this particular stat be surprising? He’s pitched quite well, for a very long time, for almost entirely good-to-great teams*, so I’d expect him to rank really highly. (*I didn’t check his teams’ W/L records, but I’m pretty sure this claim is correct.) I wonder how much better his .624 new-win %age is above his teams’. (And there’s yet another new stat: new-win %age minus team %age.)

  18. Frog says:

    Is there a pitcher stat that records total bases allowed vs outs recorded? And would this be a useful stat? To me it seems to capture the good and bad…

  19. DSE4AU says:

    Joe’s idea is interesting, but I think one way to add it and solve some of the problems with the “cheap win” is to basically just say the starting pitcher is the only person who can get the win, and he has to pitch the requisite 5 innings to qualify. Does there really have to be a winning pitcher in every game? I mean, if we are playing with the definitions, let’s consider whether the pitcher “win” is necessary every night!

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