By In Baseball

Winning and Losing

I’ve written here before about how unusual a pitcher Nolan Ryan was. He was one of a kind in so many ways. Most strikeouts ever. Most walks ever. Most no-hitters, fewest hits per nine innings, most wild pitches (not counting Tony Mullane, who retired in 1894), most stolen bases against, most errors for any pitcher since Deadball and so on.

But in doodling around with some numbers, I came across a category I was SURE Nolan Ryan would lead. I was absolutely sure. But, as it turns out … well, you’ll see.

Let’s begin here with this somewhat quirky but (in my mind) significant statistic: Since the Deadball Era ended, there have been 126 pitchers who started 200 games that their team won.

I know that’s kind of a bizarre category — starts that your team wins — but, as many of you know, I believe this is how we should do the whole pitcher wins and losses dance. Forget the odd and illogical individual statistic and just make a team stat, the way we do with quarterbacks and goalies. The pitcher’s won-loss record should be what his team’s won-loss record was in his starts.

I suppose it’s worth going into this again. I believe that the pitcher win, in addition to being a lousy way to judge a pitcher’s ability, is an anachronism. It’s from another age. It doesn’t make any sense at all in a time when pitchers almost never complete games, in a time when teams use three, four, five pitchers to get through even well-pitched games. The pitcher win stat as it is now constituted is not a question of performance. It’s a question of timing.

Go read the rule determining when a pitcher gets a win and when he doesn’t — Rule 9.17 if you’re following along in your hymnal. It is 700 or so baffling words that offer all sorts of weird suggestions for the official scorer to choose who officially “won” the game. Determining which relief pitcher “won” the game is essentially like asking people to watch ants build an ant farm, then pointing at one and saying, “That one is the most valuable ant.”

The pitcher win made some sense, as a general principle, back when starters completed a reasonably high percentage of their games. There was a baseline to work with.

It’s always fun to put together a complete games chart. Here are  percentages of starts that were completed::

1915: 55.1% complete games

1925: 49.1% complete games

1935: 44.5% complete games

1945: 46.3% complete games

1955: 30.3% complete games

1965: 22.8% complete games.

1975: 27.2% complete games

1985: 14.9% complete games

1995: 6.8% complete games

2005:3.9% complete games

2015: 1.4% complete games

If you only count nine-inning complete games, there have been nine this year. Nine. That is throughout major league baseball — and Shelby Miller has thrown two of them

The complete game is  not only rare, it is essentially gone as a sports concept like the drop kick and the two-hand set shot. And because we KNOW that the starter will not finish the game but we DON’T KNOW when the winning run will actually be scored, the whole pitcher win-loss thing is just a game of chance. Consider some of the stupid scenarios that are part of winning a game.

— Starters have to pitch five innings to get a win, but relievers can win with one pitch.

—  Starters who throw an effective five innings CAN win a game, starters who throw an effective 4 2/3 innings cannot.*

*Unless it rains.

— A relief pitcher who comes in with a three-run lead and blows it can get the win if his team scores winning runs in the bottom half of the inning.

And so on.

It’s so unnecessarily baffling. And there’s such a simple solution: Just give the starting pitcher the win and loss. Always. I just don’t think any of the quirky and unnecessarily complicated rules are relevant to the times now. A four-inning start is not much different from a five-inning start — and I tend to believe that as bullpens become bigger we will get more four inning starts (and, perhaps, four-man rotations). I think the starting pitcher will ALWAYS be the pitcher of record. And we can invent much more interesting and useful statistics for relievers.


Now, you may ask (or you may not): Why not just get rid of pitcher wins and losses altogether? The whole idea is just kind of silly: Everyone knows that pitchers don’t win and lose games by themselves … and they never did. Everyone knows that some pitchers have gotten WAY too much credit simply because their teams happened to score a lot of runs for them. Why is it any more useful to know what the team record was when pitchers start?

Well, I guess my answer would go along like so: Even though starting pitchers don’t win or lose games, they ARE the most important factor in a team’s success that day. In that way, as mentioned, they are like quarterbacks or goaltenders. I think the reason the pitcher win has so stubbornly remained a part of baseball is because of that, because we know that starters do play a major role in victory or defeat, because we do want a bottom-line way to determine how successful they’ve been.

As far as why team wins are much more useful than pitcher wins, consider last year’s Cy Young race between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez.

By pitcher wins, Corey Kluber went 18-9 and Felix Hernandez went 15-6.

Now, what does that mean? Seriously, what could you possibly learn from that? Did Kluber make more starts than Hernandez? No, they actually made the same number of starts.

Did Kluber’s Indians have more success when he pitched than Hernandez’s Mariners? No. Their teams actually had exactly the same record in their starts: 22-12.

Did Hernandez pitch fewer innings causing him to have fewer decisions? No, they pitched almost exactly the same number of innings (Hernandez actually pitched 1/3 of an inning more than Kluber).

Their won-loss records are not only meaningless, they are distracting and confusing and misleading. Think about it: If you were trying to explain the won-loss record to an alien or someone from Australia who had never seen a baseball game or my mother, how exactly could you explain Kluber’s 18-9 record? What does that even mean? You would explain that Felix Hernandez won 15 of 21 … whats?

So now try it the other way: Let’s say that Kluber’s record was 22-12 and Hernandez’s record was also 22-12. Now, the alien or the Australian or my mother says; What does that mean?

And you say: That means their team won 22 of the 34 games they started.

That’s it: Real information, right up front. Of course you can argue it’s not all that useful information. You can come up with a million scenarios where it’s silly to give the starting pitcher a win or a loss: Say a starter who throws one pitch, hurts his arm and comes out or a starter who leaves the game with a five-run lead that the bullpen blows. Sometimes the pitcher will not DESERVE a win or loss.

But, as Eastwood said, deserve’s got nothing to do with it. We’re now getting into what I call judgmental baseball stats. We all know pitchers don’t win or lose baseball games by themselves … and we all know that sometimes they will get hosed or they will get unfairly rewarded. But that’s the point anyway. If we’re going to give them wins and losses anyway (and we are) let’s stop pretending that it makes sense and just give the starting pitcher his real record.

Whew, that was a longer preamble than I expected. Anyway, from here forward in this post, when I talk about a  pitcher winning I’m actually talking about the team winning a game the pitcher started. I understand this might be confusing and irritate some but, hey, you will notice I at least did not call the Cleveland Indians the “Spiders.”

OK, since 1920 here are the all-time leaders in wins:

1. Roger Clemens, 433

2. Greg Maddux, 431

3. Don Sutton, 418

4. Nolan Ryan, 405

5. Steve Carlton, 404

6. Warren Spahn, 401

Those are those six pitchers whose teams  won 400 of their starts. Now, here are the Top five winning percentages (remember, this is among pitchers whose teams have won 200 or more of their starts):

1. Whitey Ford, 297-139, .681.

2. Lefty Grove, 304-150, .670

3. Lefty Gomez, 212-108, .663

4. Sandy Koufax, 206-108, .656

5. Bob Lemon, .220-128, .624

You will probably notice that the top four were all left-handed pitchers. Just kind of interesting.

The lowest winning percentages? Well, as it turns out, eight pitchers who won at least 200 wins also had losing records.

8. Charlie Hough: 219-221

7. A.J. Burnett: 205-207

6. Jeff Suppan: 207-210

5. Bob Friend: 240-254

4. Rick Wise: 221-234

3. Bobo Newsom: 233-247

2. Livan Hernandez: 225-249

1. Mike Moore: 207-233

An aside: Frank Tanana — this is fitting — won exactly as many games as he lost: 308-308.

Now, we’re getting to the fun Nolan Ryan stuff (or, anyway, I think it’s fun). As you might expect,  pitchers’ ERA’s are a much better — typically about three  runs better — when they win than when they lose. That just goes without saying, right? Some days you have it, some days you don’t. When you pitch well, you usually win, and when you don’t pitch as well you usually lose.

My expectation was that nobody, absolutely nobody, better fit this description than Nolan Ryan. When Ryan was on, forget it. No chance. And when he was off … yuck.

Ryan had a lot of off days. His teams lost THREE HUNDRED SIXTY EIGHT times when he took the mound. That is thirty more losses than any other pitcher since Deadball. So my guess was that Ryan HAD to have the biggest difference between when he was on and when he was off in the history of baseball. And that is sort of true.

When Nolan Ryan’s team won, his ERA was 1.78. He gave up — and this seems ludicrous — 1,821 hits in 3,099 innings: That’s 5.2 hits per nine innings. He also allowed just 109 home runs. To give you an idea, that would be like giving up seven home runs in a 200-inning season.

When Ryan’s team lost, however, his ERA was 5.14, his WHIP was an unseemly 1.54 and he gave up 205 homers in 2,227 innings. Teams stole 442 bases against him (nobody seemed to care less about holding on base runners). He still struck out a lot of guys, and he still gave up fewer than a hit per inning (though a much more human 8.3 per nine innings). But the numbers show the Nolan Ryan I have grown to love: On his good days, you couldn’t beat him. On his off-days, he’d make so many mistakes that you could.

So, what is the category that I expected Ryan to lead but he doesn’t? Well, here are the Top 5 ERAs for pitchers on their winning days:

5. Bob Gibson, 1.86

4. Sandy Koufax, 1.86

3. Don Drysdale, 1.81

2. Nolan Ryan, 1.78

1. ??????????, 1.77

What? There was a pitcher with a lower ERA in victories than Nolan Ryan? I just wasn’t expecting that at all. Who could that possibly be?

First guess, no doubt, Pedro Martinez. But it isn’t him. You have to remember: Martinez played in such a huge offensive time, his ERA could only be so low. As it turns out, his ERA when his team won was 1.91, eighth on the list.

All my next guesses would have been wrong too: I would have guessed Tom Seaver (1.88), Greg Maddux (2.01) or Roger Clemens (2.04). I would have guessed Randy Johnson (2.26) or Bert Blyleven (1.98) or Whitey Ford (2.00). I would have kept guessing.

Jim Palmer had an interesting career — his teams went 325-196, and he had a 1.90 ERA when his teams won and a 4.62 ERA when his teams lost. Did you know, as a total aside, that Jim Palmer never struck out 200 batters in a season?

The best career ERA in losses, by the way, belongs to Seaver. His teams lost 278 games, but he had a 4.44 ERA in those losses. In other words, his record probably should have been better — Seaver pitched on a quite a few low-scoring teams.

The worst ERA in losses? No surprise: It’s Tim Wakefield. When that knuckler wasn’t knuckling, look out — he had a 6.55 ERA in his losses.

OK, enough suspense? Who had the lowest ERA when his team won the game?

Answer: Gaylord Perry. Yeah, in Perry’s 360 wins, he had a 1.77 ERA.

In his 329 losses, he had a 4.96 ERA.

Perry really had quite a remarkable career; underrated, I think, when telling the grand story of baseball. He’s become known in history simply as the spitball guy (“A hard slider” as his daughter called it) but I tend to think of him as the pitcher who came up more ways to get hitters out than anyone since Satchel Paige. He would throw spitballs, puffballs, any kind of off-speed junk to win. And he spent most of his career on lousy teams. That — the lousy teams part — sums up WHY I think Perry had the lowest ERA among winning pitchers. He didn’t have any choice.

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59 Responses to Winning and Losing

  1. tim says:

    I wonder about bartolo colon. Its rather remarkable that hes won 211 games. Regardless of advance statistics, including the fine stat known as era plus, which rates him below average the last two years, hes put up a 7 and 3 record this year. Won 15 games last year at 41 and threw 200 plus innings. When hes hit, hes hit hard. Conversely, when hes on, he can still dominate. Having a blast watching him rack up wins these last few years, despite his uncanny ability to.give up the homerun.

  2. Joe says:

    As someone reading this from Australia, pitcher wins are right up there with the things that make least sense in baseball. That said, I’ve always found the obsession with dissecting and analysing every minute activity in the game to be just as baffling. Keep up the great work, I love being baffled.

    • I’ve also stuggled with Quarterback wins. Yeah, Brady & Manning do win you some games. But, how about Trent Dilfer with Tampa? Probably nobody on the team had less impact on that Super Bowl season than Dilfer. His job was to not mess it up. They hid him like a crazy uncle in the attic. And even Elway’s Super Bowl years were not big years for him. He was mostly handing the ball of to Terrell Davis those years. But still Elway “won two Super Bowls” and Dilfer “won one”. Makes no sense to me. Especially on teams with 50 players and 22 offensive/defensive starters.

  3. jeff2099 says:

    I played catch with Perry at Limestone College in 1988 – a thrill I remember vividly nearly 30 years later!

  4. tim says:

    Agreed. Dissecting the game til its not enjoyable really grinds my gears. I have love for some advances stats, but on an individual game by game basis it makes no sense. If ryan howard goes 9 for 28 with 8 rbis in a best of seven series, how does war caculate that? Enjoy the individual moments, folks. There’s 162 games in a schedule. And to go 1 for 4 with three strikeouts, yet hit a three run homer in that games is valuable.

    • thoughtclaw says:

      I mean no disrespect, but I will never understand this kind of comment. To me, there’s no such thing as dissecting the game until it’s not enjoyable. I consider myself a stathead, a fan of the sabermetrics, but at no point do those numbers trump watching an individual game and appreciating it on its own terms. The advanced stats never take away from that.

    • rich says:

      Who isn’t enjoying the moments here?

    • BobDD says:

      I’m glad you’re not in charge of the menu’s at my local restaurants, and would only put on the menu items that you like. Digging as deep as possible into the data is glorious fun for me (and many others), so let us have our fun and we’ll let you have your fun. There appears to be enough fun for all of us.

  5. tim says:

    Oh, and by no means am I endorsing ryan howard. Just an example

  6. Tom says:

    Fun column but another reminder why I stopped paying attention to stats except for “Team Wins ” and “Team Losses.”

  7. Mike Heithaus says:

    Joe: I hope you tease the numbers out a bit further. I’d love to know which pitchers would be hurt and helped the most overall by recalculating from the “traditional W-L” to the “team “W-L” (simply put, what pitcher’s win percentage jumps the most, and what pitcher’s drops the most).

    I also wonder who were best (beyond Seaver) and the worst pitchers (and best and worst of the “greats”) when their team lost.

    • Bill Caffrey says:

      Along these same lines, one of my favorite Seaver facts is this: he is the pitcher with the highest difference in MLB history between his teams’ winning percentage in his starts vs. his teams’ winning percentage in all other games.

      Hence, there is an argument to be made that Tom Seaver did more to turn losing teams into winning teams than any pitcher in history. (P.S. I don’t remember where I learned this fact but it may well have been from Joe on this blog).

      • Johnny B says:

        Back in the day that was the conventional wisdom – we always argued he’d win 25-30 games a year if he played for the Big Red Machine or the Pirates. Got traded to the Reds and never quite did that, but the Mets in those days had pitiful hitting. Anyways, from my unscientific viewpoint, I agree.

        Joe, I think this is a brilliant idea by the way. Logical and long overdue. The new commish seems openminded…..

  8. dglnj says:

    A reliever can actually win a game without throwing a pitch – enter with a runner on base and two outs in a game his team is trailing or tied, pick off the runner, and then his team takes the lead in the next half- inning.

    Per BB-Ref’s play index, two pitchers have accomplished this feat: B.J. Ryan on May 1, 2003 for the Orioles, and Alan Embree on July 7, 2009 for the Rockies.

    For extra bonus points, Embree got both an assist and a putout on the pickoff.

    • An assist and a putout? I am guessing he threw to first, the runner broke for second, got in a rundown and Embree eventually tagged him out?

      And got the win. That has to be the coolest stat ever.

    • nfieldr says:

      Sorry to follow up on your post without acknowledging. I need to refresh my screen before I post.

    • The pitcher doesn’t even have to make a pick-off throw. Say he drops the ball and kicks it away towards the plate while trying to retrieve it. The runners on first and second both start running. But the ball goes right to the catcher, so the runner who was on second heads back, and passes the runner who started in first. Automatic out.

      • John R says:

        But we can agree, at minimum, the pitcher has to touch the ball to get the win, right?

        • Jake says:

          possibly only by custom. let’s say the catcher holds on to the ball during a pitching change (as opposed to the manager taking it from the first pitcher and handing it to the second).

          manager walks off the field, game starts. stolen base attempt immediately – catcher and another fielder make the play, inning over.

          • dglnj says:

            No, can’t happen. On a pitching change, time is out; once time is out, for play to resume, the pitcher has to be holding the ball and in contact with the pitcher’s plate. So if the catcher is holding the ball during a pitching change, the game can’t “start” until the pitcher is holding the ball.

            I think the scenario Mike Schilling describes can theoretically happen if the pitcher were to step off the pitcher’s plate and then drop the ball (if the pitcher drops the ball while touching the pitcher’s plate, it’s a balk), I think the chances of the runner on first rounding second and passing the runner on second who’s heading back to the bag to be rather small – as in Fred Merkle people would talk about it for the next hundred years small.

  9. largebill says:

    Funny that you should have a column on pitcher “wins” today. Earlier this morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, they played a clip of Buster Olney arguing we’d never see another 300 game winner. Buster is usually one of the more level headed of sports writers, so it was especially surprising to see him fall into that trap. We have seen articles over the decades saying pitcher X or Y or Z would be the last to win 300 games because of change change L or M or N to the game. This time it is Mets handling of young pitchers. Previously it was the five man rotation. 300 wins or any career counting stat milestones are a testament to durability and is hard to achieve primarily because it is hard to physically continue to perform. So, these changes to ease young pitchers slowly into a full workload may have opposite the affect Buster excepts and more pitchers may survive into their40’s as decent pitchers.

    • largebill says:


    • Patrick Bohn says:

      There are just nine active pitchers with 150+ wins, and if you asked me to bet, I’d say none of them make it. In fact, the only active guys period I’d even give a decent shot to are Hernandez and Kershaw, So we’re probably 20 years away at least.

      • PhilM says:

        Even though there are always outliers like Jamie Moyer, pitchers don’t seem to be lasting long enough to get to 300 wins — look at Mussina. Only Sabathia, Hernandez, Kershaw, Verlander, and Buehrle are trending like the dozen post-war 300-game winners (100 wins at age 29, 150 at age 32, 200 at age 35, etc.). And like you, I don’t think any of them appear likely to last long enough: we’ll see about Kershaw in 14 years: those 12 300-game winners hit #300 (in the aggregate) at age 41.

  10. Reagan says:

    Great analysis, Joe. Two things jump out at me.

    First, as long as we are going to ditch Pitcher Wins in favor of Team Wins (due to the problems you listed with Pitcher Wins), should we not ditch ERA in favor of runs allowed (after all, Nolan did have all of those errors, which don’t show up in ERA) or FIP? I’d like to see that analysis (FIP, or something like that, in games won versus games lost).

    Second, which pitcher has the greatest disparity in ERA (or something like FIP) between games won and games lost. Maybe it’s Wakefield. Sort of looks that way.

    • dfj79 says:

      I’d support retiring ERA in favor of simple RA, for a few reasons:

      1. ERA only adjusts in one direction. It absolves the pitcher of responsibility for runs that score as a result of bad fielding, but it doesn’t penalize the pitcher for runs that would have scored if not for great fielding. That asymmetry has always bugged me.

      2. Further, ERA only absolves the pitcher of responsibility for runs that score as a result of a PARTICULAR KIND of bad fielding–bad hands or bad throws. But the pitcher DOES get charged for runs that score as a result of bad range. Again, there’s a very unsatisfying arbitrariness to that.

      3. ERA is biased in favor of low-strikeout (AKA “pitch to contact”) pitchers, who are likely to have more errors committed behind them simply because they’re allowing more balls in play to begin with. So, low-K pitchers will likely have a lower percentage of the runs they allow classified as “earned” than high-K pitchers will. But a run is a run is a run.

      4. Similarly, groundball pitchers are likely to have more errors committed behind them than flyball pitchers, because errors are committed far more often on ground balls than on fly balls.

      (Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t virtues to pitching to contact or going for ground balls–it just means that an increased likelihood of a reach-on-error is one of the tradeoffs you’re making when you go with that approach. So, you have to live with any runs that score as a result. Those runs count just the same, even if they’re not “earned.”)

      And then of course there’s the lunacy of not charging the pitcher for any runs that score after a two-out error.

      For those reasons (among others) I think ERA introduces more biases than it eliminates, and so RA is probably the better measure of a pitcher’s ability over the long haul.

  11. Jeff says:

    I’d like to see a reliever win without officially touching the ball. Everybody gathers behind the mound before he starts pitching, and one of the infielders pulls the hidden ball trick to end the inning.

    • mark says:

      Unfortunately for your scenario, I’m pretty sure that in order for the ball to be back in play, the pitcher needs to stand on the rubber with it in his hand. The hidden ball trick can only be used when the play seems dead, but is in fact alive. It cannot be done with a brand new pitcher.

      • Bill Caffrey says:

        This is correct. Once time has been called or the ball is otherwise dead, it’s not back in play until the pitcher is on the rubber with it. This is why you never see the hidden ball trick after a conference at the mound, because those invariably involve calling timeout.

        It usually occurs when there’s been a play on the infield (or a ball to the outfield) and the pitcher just get back up on the mound as though the the infield had thrown the ball back to him after the play when i fact someone on the IF is still holding onto it.

        As a total aside, back in junior high a team tried to run it on me while I was on 1B. But they did it by the manager calling time and coming out to mound and then sending the 1B back from the mound conference with the ball. Totally illegal because the ball was never put back in play after the mound conference. Anyway, I wasn’t fooled and didn’t step off the bag but I’ve always wondered if the ump would’ve called me out or if he would’ve got it right.

  12. nfieldr says:

    — Starters have to pitch five innings to get a win, but relievers can win with one pitch.

    Not completely true. I witnessed a pitcher be the winning pitcher without making a pitch. Tie game, top of the 9th, two out, relief pitcher enters the game with a runner on first. The runner was picked off before the pitcher made a pitch to the plate. The home team scored in the bottom of the 9th and the reliever was the winning pitcher.

    This has probably happened other times, but in this case it was the Charlotte Hornets of the early 60’s Southern League that pulled off the feat.

  13. Jeff says:

    I would have to guess that given that the number of innings he threw (5th most ever; 2nd most non-deadball) and the high pitch counts associated with all those walks and strikeouts, he must have thrown more pitches than anyone in MLB history. That combined with the intensity with which he threw those pitches is perhaps the most unique and impressive thing about Ryan.

  14. You still can’t just always give a win to the starting pitcher just because he started the game. Let’s say the Royals scored 12 runs after Guthrie gave up 11 yesterday in 1 inning. He’s still getting credited with the win? C’mon. And yes, I know you covered how some wins and losses would be unfair but that’s ridiculous in this case. Change it to 3 innings. It’s 1/3 of a regulation game.

  15. A little something that always puzzled me:

    MLB Rule 10.17(c): The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
    Rule 10.17(c) Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher). Rule 10.17(b) Comment provides guidance on choosing the winning pitcher from among several succeeding relief pitchers.

    First, why don’t official scorers make use of this more often? Second, why does the win have to go to a succeeding relief pitcher and not revert to the starting pitcher, assuming he had the lead when he left the game?

  16. Biff says:

    Is the “pitcher win” stat really goofier than something like FIP?

    FIP counts a home run that clears the 315 ft fence in right field, yet ignores the 400 ft shot to dead center that bounces up against the wall.

    ALL stats have flaws. Yet for some reason, it seems that Joe likes to bash the old stats and worship the new ones.

    • Ed says:


      FIP has far more predictive value than pitcher wins, so it’s a more valuable stat.

      • Biff says:

        Has anyone bothered to rank the top 50 pitchers in career wins and also career FIP and calculate the correlation between the two lists?

        My guess is the correlation would be quite high.

        • Ed says:

          For a career, yeah — that’s probably true. Pitchers who have the chance to rack up a bunch of career wins are generally going to be among the best pitchers of their generation. It’s even true on a season to season basis, because the win leaders each season typically had a really good year (although not always).

          But if I had a choice between player A and player B for my team next season, and player A went 23-4 with a 5.10 FIP the year before and player B went 6-17 with a 2.98 FIP, I take player B every single time.

        • John R says:

          Plus, the career leaders in *every* counting stat tend to be great players, just because you have to be great to stick around long enough to get the most of anything. The all-time leader in home runs allowed is in the HoF. The all-time leader in losses has the award for good pitching named after him.

  17. You know Perry was a great player, because the Stoneham-era Giants traded him away. In 1971, because he’d had an off-year and was obviously washed up (at 32). So he was: He only pitched 12 more years, during which he only won 2 Cy Youngs.

  18. Devon says:

    Awesome stuff here. But, I kept expecting for you to mention where Jack Morris fit in.

  19. Crout says:

    Excellent, as usual. I wonder what will happen in 20 years when each team of every game will have three “starters” who each pitch three innings?

  20. Frog says:

    Why the magic of a “starting” pitcher. I would say if he throws less than half a game (4.1 innings) then he should be considered as a reliever, the same as any other short term pitcher on the day.

  21. […] Joe Posnanski got into the act the other day, writing a column suggesting that pitchers should be awarded the win or loss in every game that […]

  22. A relief pitcher can actually record a win with ZERO pitches, and it has happened in the past. (Entered game with two outs and a man on, picked off a base-runner without throwing a single pitch, their team won the game in the bottom of the inning to end it.)

  23. btilghman says:

    “That — the lousy teams part — sums up WHY I think Perry had the lowest ERA among winning pitchers. He didn’t have any choice.”

    I’m sorry: are you saying he pitched to the score?

    • John R says:

      “Choice” is a weird way to put it, but the argument makes sense. For instance, imagine I’m a pitcher for a team that scores exactly one run every game. I wouldn’t win often, but my ERA in team wins would be 0.00. The more leeway the offense gives, the worse a pitcher can be and still get a win (traditional win or Posnanski win).

  24. greatest PA differential in losses vs wins?
    Don Larsen 1954
    688 PA-against in losses vs 170 in wins.

  25. largest differential in wOBA in wins vs losses (600 total PA-against limit):
    name – year – wobaInWins – wobaInLosses – difference
    Tim Hudson 2000 0.248 0.484 -0.235
    Ken Raffensberger 1950 0.253 0.481 -0.227
    Charlie Leibrandt 1992 0.255 0.471 -0.215
    Tommy John 1977 0.272 0.484 -0.212
    Nolan Ryan 1979 0.221 0.428 -0.207
    Jered Weaver 2012 0.231 0.437 -0.206
    Matt Moore 2013 0.249 0.455 -0.206
    Ricky Nolasco 2010 0.259 0.462 -0.203

    lowest wOBA in losses:
    name – year – wobaInWins – wobaInLosses – difference
    Roger Clemens 2005 0.250 0.256 -0.006
    Dwight Gooden 1985 0.245 0.258 -0.014
    Greg Maddux 1997 0.251 0.263 -0.012
    Steve Carlton 1981 0.294 0.265 0.029
    Pedro Martinez 1999 0.246 0.269 -0.022
    Scott Garrelts 1989 0.263 0.274 -0.010
    Kevin Appier 1992 0.294 0.275 0.020
    Chris Carpenter 2009 0.249 0.277 -0.029
    Randy Johnson 2004 0.224 0.279 -0.055

    woba nearly the same in wins and losses:
    name – year – wobaInWins – wobaInLosses – difference
    A.J. Burnett 2011 0.360 0.360 0.000
    Ken Holtzman 1976 0.347 0.346 0.001
    Don Robinson 1979 0.337 0.336 0.001
    Ernie Broglio 1961 0.339 0.338 0.001
    Vinegar Bend Mizell 1953 0.311 0.310 0.001
    Lew Burdette 1957 0.321 0.320 0.001
    Jonathan Sanchez 2010 0.301 0.302 -0.001
    Cliff Lee 2005 0.309 0.308 0.001
    Ron Darling 1987 0.319 0.318 0.002
    Steve Trout 1986 0.355 0.356 -0.002

  26. most PA-against in wins with 0 PA-against in losses?
    Pete Smith, 1992

  27. career wise, lowest wOBA-against in losses,

    Clayton Kershaw 0.324
    Sid Fernandez 0.330
    Jose Rijo 0.331
    Jose DeLeon 0.332
    Pedro Martinez 0.332
    David Price 0.333
    Mat Latos 0.337
    Matt Cain 0.340
    Josh Johnson 0.340
    Dean Chance 0.341

  28. career wise, top 10 wOBA differential in wins vs losses (5000 total PA-against minimum)

    name – wobaInWins – wobsInLosses – difference
    Ricky Nolasco 0.275 0.392 -0.118
    Mark Mulder 0.291 0.408 -0.117
    Orlando Hernandez 0.276 0.391 -0.116
    Mike Scott 0.254 0.367 -0.113
    Sal Maglie 0.296 0.408 -0.112
    Mike Smithson 0.293 0.404 -0.111
    Bronson Arroyo 0.281 0.391 -0.110
    Carl Erskine 0.299 0.409 -0.110
    Alex Kellner 0.301 0.410 -0.109
    Scott McGregor 0.290 0.399 -0.109

    Nolan Ryan is at
    Nolan Ryan 0.251 0.344 -0.093

    which is number 135 out of 450 in my sample.

  29. heres the data I’m using (pulled from retrosheet) if anyone wants to take a look,

  30. My concern about these numbers goes back to a line about Walter Johnson. Remember his 56-inning scoreless streak? Another player said he knew it was over when the Senators scored big in the first couple of innings, because he would ease off a bit when he had a big lead. So I wonder whether the stats Joe cites took into account how many runs their teams scored? I didn’t see that, but maybe I missed it.

  31. […] Joe Posnanski recommends: just assigning wins and losses to the starting pitcher for the game. Winning and Losing | Joe Posnanski I'd love to be able to record wins this way for pitchers. There are several other examples of […]

  32. Charles says:

    A save without throwing a pitch;

    4/28/89 Mitch Williams, Cubs. Came in, 9th inning, 2 outs. Picked Carmelo Martinez (SDP) off 2nd Base(!) without throwing a pitch!

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