Let’s talk about the Win. I think we all agree that wins, if they are at all useful, are only useful to gain some insight into starting pitchers. Nobody cares about the W-L records of Phil Regan, Oscar Villareal or Mariano Rivera except to provide trivia.
I think we can also agree that, whatever else you think about them, wins are less important when starting pitchers go 5 or 6 innings than when they went 7 to 9 innings. So they are clearly less important than they used to be.
The argument for wins is that they provide a combined statistic (for starters only) of effectiveness and durability. ERA is a good measure of effectiveness (or FIP, or WHIP) but you can be effective and only start 10 games a year.Innings pitched is a good measure of durability, but doesn’t distinguish between great pitchers and innings-eaters. Wins combine both. The only downside of wins to combine these two important characteristics, it is argued, is that it depends on offensive prowess of the team.
But we already have a counting stat that measures a combination of effectiveness and durability, and does so in a way that is completely independent of how many runs your team scores: WAR. If WAR is telling you one thing and Wins are telling you something else, it’s almost certainly Wins that are misleading.
A great example of this is the 2018 Nola-deGrom debate. Aaron Nola started 33 times, pitched 212 1/3 innings to a 2.37 ERA. Jacob deGrom started 32 times and pitched 217 innings to a 1.70 ERA. deGrom gave up 7 fewer homers (17-10) struck out 45 more batters (269-224) Nola earned 9.7 WAR and deGrom earned 9.5. But Nola was 17-6 and deGrom was 10-9. And nobody was fooled: deGrom got 29 of the 30 first place votes for Cy Young. (Max Scherzer got the other one, not Nola.) Nola even had the slightly higher WAR because of park adjustments playing in Citizens Bank. But the extra wins, and the win differential, were properly treated as meaningless.
At the other end, Drew Hutchinson was 13-5 with 18 starts for the Blue Jays in 2015. He pitched to a 5.57 ERA and amassed -1.5 WAR. The Blue Jays weren’t fooled. They sent him to the minors, couldn’t figure out how to make him a decent pitcher and traded him to the Pirates, who don’t know how to make anyone a decent pitcher. Hutchinson has mostly kicked around in the minors ever since.
We know WAR isn’t perfect, but show me an example of a pitcher whose WAR is highly at odds with his W-L numbers where it’s obviously WAR that missed something. I have a friend who I’ll call Dirk (because that happens to be his name) who thinks that Wins are a sign of psychological strength for a starting pitcher – unlike WAR (or any other stat for that matter) it shows that a starting pitcher didn’t let the other team take the lead, and refused to do so even on the days his own team sucked with the bat. My only problem with that story is that it’s like clutch hitting – it’s a nice story, and nothing more.
Speaking of Aaron Nola, he was pitching against the Braves tonight. And for the first five of them, he was the Aaron Nola of 2018, and just about every other Aaron Nola season. But he was matched by Kyle Wright, who gave up a homer to the only player in MLB history whose name is an anagram of TRUE JOLT, MA. His critical inning came in the 3rd, when with the bases loaded and no outs, he induced a strikeout from Alex Bohm and a Bryce Harper double play.
There are no timeouts in baseball, but Snit manufactured one by taking a challenge which had no chance of succeeding just to delay the proceedings long enough to substitute Will Smith for Wright. Why he wanted to do that, on the other hand, is a puzzling question. Odubel Herrera took Smith’s first pitch into the right field corner to score two runs, charged to Wright, natch. Hancock can still ride on his performance in the postseason with me, but if he’s going to have to depend on everyone else to drag his ass to the postseason, we’re all going to get a little testy.
At that point, Nola went on cruise control, and one more run in the top of the 8th off Jesse Chavez added a little more reliever room required when an Olson double finally shoved Nola aside in the 9th. Nola earned the “Win.” He also pitched very well, which is way more important.
With the loss, the record for longest streakless span in MLB history is looking very good.
Please. Enough already with the “one swing away from tying the game” stuff if you’re going to spend the rest of your night talking about “going the other way” and “a walk is a rally.”
Next: can someone explain to me what “right guy at the right time” is supposed to mean? As opposed to what? Wrong guy at the right time? Right guy at the wrong time? Wrong guy at the wrong time? (What would such a time be?) What time isn’t the right time to do something positive? Is Kyle Wright ever wrong?