Another post on this idea of team wins and losses? Well, you know, in the old days this would have been one massive 6,000-word post. But I’m getting older, so it comes out in segments now.
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In 1963, Sandy Koufax officially won 25 games, which was obviously very good. But if you could team-wins like I think you should, it was actually an all-time year — the Dodgers won 34 of the 40 games Koufax started that season. That’s THIRTY-FOUR wins for Koufax. That’s tied with Whitey Ford in 1961 for most wins in a season since the end of World War II.
So why was Koufax’s record 25-5 instead of 34-6? Glad you asked. Here, one by one, is how he pitched in the nine games his team won but he did not get the credit.
— 6 2/3 innings shutout ball, won game 2-1
— 4 2/3 innings, 6 runs allowed, team came back against Cubs 11-8
— 4/23 innings, 5 runs allowed, team came back against Milwaukee 6-5
— 5 1/3 innings, 3 runs alowed, won game 5-4
— 9 1/3 innings, 1 run, won game in extra innings
— 1/3 inning, four runs, team came back and won 7-5
— 12 innings, 1 run, team won 2-1 in 12 innings.
— 8 2/3 innings, 1 run, team won 2-1
— 7 2/3 innings, 3 runs, team won 5-3
And here’s the one game the team lost and he did not the L.
— 7 innings, 1 run, team lost 3-2 by giving up two runs in the ninth.
Yes, that’s a bit of a mishmash. What can we learn from this? Well, let’s talk a minute about DESERVE, something I generally don’t like to talk about when talking statistics.
Koufax clearly did not DESERVE a win that game when he lasted only a third of an inning.
He probably not really DESERVE the win the two times he did not last five innings and gave up six and five runs respectively.
Heck, if you want to push it a little bit, you can say he did not DESERVE to win the time he gave up three runs in 5 1/3 innings.
So, that’s four wins where you can argue that the team win stat isn’t really fair and that Koufax is taking a win that would be better suited for someone else. Looking specifically at the 1/3 of an inning game, Dick Calmus pitched five innings and allowed just one run. By almost any measure, you would have to see he DESERVES the win more.
Conversely, though, how can you justify not giving Koufax the win when he went 12 innings and gave up one run? You know who got the win in that game? Larry Sherry — for two scoreless innings. How can you justify not giving Koufax the win when he went 9 1/3 innings and gave up one run? Or the time he went 8 2/3 innings and gave up one run? Or the time he threw 6 2/3 shutout innings? You telling me someone else DESERVES the win more those days? No chance. That’s four wins certainly deserved, and I would say that he deserves the 7 2/3-inning start where gave up three runs.
We come back to the basic fact: People supposedly love simplicity. Well it doesn’t get any simpler than this: When Sandy Koufax started games, his team went 34-6. They did not go 25-5. And this is my point, the one I’m not sure I”m getting across: I’m not coming up with some new way of counting things here. Koufax’s record should be 34-6 because HIS RECORD REALLY WAS 34-6.
Let’s do this same breakdown for Whitey Ford in 1961. Remember, that was the great Yankees offense of Mantle and Maris; that team scored a boatload of runs. Ford’s official record was 25-4. But the team actually went 34-5 when he pitched.
Here is how he pitched in the nine games where the Yankees won but he got a no-decision:
— 6 1/3 innings, 10 runs (6 earned), Yankees came back to win 13-11.
— 8 innings, 2 runs, Yankees won 5-4.
— 4 2/3 innings, 7 runs, Yankees won 11-8.
— 8 innings 5 runs, Yankees won 6-5.
— 10 innings, 6 runs, Yankees won 7-6
— 4 innings, 6 runs, Yankees won 8-6
— 4 2/3 innings, 0 runs, Yankees won 1-0
— 2 innings, 5 runs, Yankees won 7-6
— 6 innings, 0 runs, Yankees won 3-1
And in the one loss:
— 7 innings, 4 runs, Yankees lost 5-4
OK, as a whole, Ford did not pitch nearly as well in his no-decisions as Koufax — that’s good for our purposes. Let’s look at DESERVE again. By our usual thinking he probably only DESERVED a win in two of his nine no-decisions. He gave up at least six funs in four starts, five runs in two others, if we’re playing Judge Dredd he probably did not DESERVE the wins in those games,
But is that really true? The Yankees had a really, really good offense that year. If you have an offense that scores 11 runs, how good do you have to be to DESERVE a win? Once again, by messing around with these special rules, we are not counting things, but we are instead making judgment calls. Here is how many innings the official “winning pitcher” threw in each of those games:
— 2 innings
— 1 inning
— 2 innings
— 1 inning
— 3 innings
— 3 innings
— 1 inning
— 6 innings
— 2 innings
Now, you tell me — how many of those pitchers DESERVED the win? Again, the simple fact is that when Whitey Ford took the mound, the 1961 Yankees almost never lost — they won 34 of 39 games. That, to me, is the only underlying truth here.
One of my favorite ever seasons was Ron Guidry’s 1978 season. He famously went 25-3. But really … that was a 30-win season, one of only eight 30-win seasons since World War II. Guidry went 30-5 in his starts.
The five times the Yankees won but Guidry did not officially get the win he pitched like so:
— 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs, Yankees won 4-3
— 6 1/3 innings, 2 runs (0 earned), Yankees won 3-2
— 6 innings, 4 runs, Yankees won 6-4
— 9 innings, 5 runs, Yankees won 7-6
— 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs (2 earned), Yankees won 4-3
You telling me he didn’t deserve to win all five of those starts? Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage vulture those five wins by throwing a couple of innings.Forget that. The guy went 30-5, not 25-3.
Let’s do one more, then I’ll list off all of the 30-game winners since 1945. In 1992, Pete Harnisch went 9-10 with a 3.70 ERA — a thoroughly uninteresting year if you look at his won-loss record. But Harnisch was actually a 20-game winner that year. His 11 winning no-decisions went like so:
— 6 1/3 shutout innings in a 3-1 win.
— 7 shutout innings in a 2-1 win.
— 6 innings, 1 run in a 4-1 win.
— 7 innings, 1 run in a 2-1 win
— 7 innings, 3 runs (2 earned) in a 4-3 win
— 7 shutout innings in a 2-0 win
— 5 innings, 1 run in a 5-4 win
— 2/3 of an inning, 0 runs, in a 5-4 win
— 5 innings, 6 runs in a 14-9 win
— 6 1/3 innings, 4 runs in a 7-6 win
— 4 2/3 innings, 3 runs in a 6-5 win
He pitched very well in 7 or 8 of these games and only pitched very poorly twice. Instead, those 11 wins were spread out to:
— Xavier Hernandez (1 scoreless)
— Hernandez (1 scoreless)
— Hernandez (1 2/3 scoreless)
— Joe Boever (2 scoreless)
— Al Osuna (1 scoreless)
— Rob Murphy (1 scoreless)
— Boever (2/3 inning scoreless)
— Hernandez (2 scoreless)
— Willie Blair (1 inning, 1 run)
— Doug Jones (1 1/3 scoreless)
— Osuna (1 scoreless)
You tell me how those guys deserve the win more than Harnisch.
OK, here are your 30-game winners since World War II ended:
Whitey Ford, 1961
Won-loss record: 25-4
Actual record: 34-5
Sandy Koufax, 1963
Won-loss record: 25-5
Actual record: 34-6
Denny McLain, 1968
Won-loss record: 31-6
Actual record: 33-8
Mike Cuellar, 1970
Won-loss record: 24-8
Actual record: 31-9
Don Drysdale, 1962
Won-loss record: 25-9
Actual record: 31-10
Ron Guidry, 1978
Won-loss record: 25-3
Actual record: 30-5
Mudcat Grant, 1965*
Won-loss record: 21-7
Actual record: 30-9
Sandy Koufax, 1965
Won-loss record: 26-8
Actual record: 30-11
*In case you are curious, Mudcat’s nine winning no-decisions are pretty typical. He threw quality starts in five of them, and pitched lousy in four of them. Grant, like Koufax in 1963, had a game where he lasted just 1/3 of an inning. Someone suggested changing the rule so that a pitcher — starter or reliever — has to throw at least one inning in order to get a win. Discuss.