Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Of Pitcher W-L Records, And Why They Are The Only Thing That Matters


On 80 pitches, Yu Darvish successfully completed 7.0 innings of duty on Monday night, surrendering only 1 run on 4 hits. He finished with 6 strikeouts to only 1 walk. But you know what? He didn’t get the win. And you know what? In baseball, wins and losses are all that matter, so you could say Yu Darvish struggled mightily. He failed to get the job done.

The Rangers lost, 1-0.

With the loss, Darvish falls to just 12-8 on the year. How many “aces” have you ever seen with a 12-8 record? The answer is zero. There is no such thing as an “ace” who only wins 60% of his games.

I mean, I’m looking around baseball right now; Max Scherzer is 19-2; Jorge De La Rosa is 16-6; Jordan Zimmerman is 16-8; Chris Tillman is 16-5; hell, even C.J. Wilson — the pitcher Jon Daniels idiotically chose not to re-sign so he could ascertain this Darvish character from Japan — is 15-6. What a terrible mistake that was. If you wanna talk about “aces,” then those are the pitchers you should be looking at.

Why didn’t JD try to trade for Tillman, or De La Rosa, or Wilson, at the July 31st deadline? Why did he spend over $110 million for a starting pitcher who can’t even win games? I just don’t know.

When I was in Little League, I learned everything I needed to know about baseball. My coach looked at me square in the eyes, as I looked up at him; he put his right hand on my shoulder, and you know what he said? He said, “Listen here, Eric. This is baseball. In baseball, you don’t want to draw walks. You want to swing the bat as often as possible, get as many hits as you can. Just… whatever you do, don’t draw walks. Also, since you are the catcher, you need to know — and this is important — no matter what, you want your starting pitcher to get the “W”. Even if he pitches his little butt off, if he doesn’t win the game, he fails the team. He fails you. Do you want your starting pitcher to let the team down? Do you want him to fail you? I don’t think you want him to fail, so make sure he gets that win.”

Every day of my life I’ve lived by those words. Since I was a 5 year-old, I’ve known the importance of the starting pitcher winning the game.

The other day, I was watching the Red Sox play the Yankees, and for some reason Boston’s manager decided to take out John Lackey, who had just allowed his 7th run with 2 outs in the 6th. And I called my younger brother — who’s a Sox fan — and I said, “Hey, Jeffrey, why is your manager taking Lackey out of the game? Doesn’t he know he’s on pace for a win?”

My little brother laughed at me, and said, “Eric, what the hell are you talking about? John Lackey just gave up 7 runs in 5.2 innings; he pitched horribly.”

But I didn’t understand. If he pitched so badly, then why did he get credited with a Win? Doesn’t Jeffrey know that wins and losses are the only thing that matters? He must be one of those new-wave baseball people who’s all interested in those sabermetric things, or whatever they are, because I don’t think he gets it. Sure, if Lackey had given up 7 runs in 5.2 innings and he had lost, then, then it would have been a bad game. But he got the win! You play baseball to win! Why can’t people accept this fact?!

The other day, some Ranger nerd — who probably stays up all night sitting at the computer in his parent’s basement — tried to tell me that Yu Darvish was actually a good starting pitcher. He said Darvish had, like, the 4th-best ERA in the American League (2.84), and that he’s the major league strikeout leader by a bunch.

And you know what I said to him? I said, “Listen here, buddy, all those stats are cool and everything, but have you seen his Win-Loss record lately? It’s not very good.”

Then he started blabbing away telling me wins and losses don’t mean anything. That’s when I knew I won the argument. He has 14,000 different stats to tell me how amazing this Yu Darvish guy is, and me, all I need is one stat: 12 wins, 8 losses. Discussion over.

Only, it wasn’t over.

This guy then said to me, “Eric, don’t you know why pitchers get their W-L records? It’s due to how much run support they receive. If the offense provides a lot of runs, the pitcher will have a better record.”

But this got me thinking… if a pitcher’s record is dependent on how many runs the offense gives them, then why doesn’t the offense have a Win-Loss record? This guy I was talking to — who surely must think of himself as some genius at baseball — didn’t have a response. Instead, he told me this:

“Look, Yu Darvish has a bad record because the Rangers don’t score for him. Just look at some of the games he’s had; on July 27th against Cleveland, Texas lost 1-0; on May 21st against Oakland, Texas lost 1-0. Darvish game up only 1 run in 6.0 innings both times, but he got the loss. Does that seem fair to you?”

Yes, yes it does, actually.

He continued:

“Listen, man, Yu Darvish has had 28 starts in 2013, and 7 times the offense has produced runs for him, 4 times only runs, once they scored run, and now times they’ve failed to put any on the board. That’s 15 out of 28 starts — more than 50% of the time — where the lineup has given him 3 or less runs. How do you expect even an “ace” to rack up wins with so little run support? As good as Yu has been, it says something that he’s even managed 12.”

I heard what he was saying, but I wasn’t impressed. If Yu Darvish was the “ace” everyone said he was, he would have found a way to get the job done. Surely if I knew when I was 5 that pitcher wins and losses are the only thing that matters, Darvish knows that, too. If he can’t find a way to do it, maybe the Rangers should have thought long and hard about who they gave so much money to. Because 12 wins isn’t that many.

What good is a 2.84 ERA if the guy can’t even win?

I mean, look at all the guys who have ever won the Cy Young Award. Baseball writers are way smarter than number-crunchers; numbers don’t mean anything, but W-L tallies do. Remember when Felix Hernandez won a Cy Young with only 12 or 13 wins? What were those writers thinking? If I had my way, anyone who voted for a pitcher with so few wins should be banished from voting on postseason awards for the rest of their lives. Clearly they have no idea what they are talking about.

Like I always say, if you wanna know how good a pitcher is, look no further than his W-L record. That, like my Little League coach told me almost 20 years ago, is the only thing that matters.

 

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  • Brandon Land

    It’d actually be kind of comical if someone read this and took it literally.

    Good read though. Good work.

    • Eric Reining

      Funny thing is, LOTS of people took it literally. America!

  • Matt Schultz

    Nolan Ryan’s 1976 – 7 shutouts, 284 1/3 innings, 327 K’s (lead the league), 39 games started, 21 completed. Went 17-18 though. Clearly not an ace.

    • Eric Reining

      I was hoping you’d pick up on the sarcasm.

      Maybe next time.

      • Matt Schultz

        Was hoping you’d get mine. To be honest at first I did not, but after reading you’re other articles and seeing you on twitter I deduced this was a bit. Good job. And yes please next time use the sarcasm font.

    • Andy

      Not sure if serious

  • Andy

    *slow clap*

    One of your best articles yet.

  • http://nhprogressives.wordpress.com John Ranta

    You say these things with certainty, but that doesn’t mean you are right. Walks are valuable, to the team. Pitchers only control a certain part of the game, which does not include their own offense. The best pitchers have low ERAs, not the best won-lost record. If you doubt this, play this little thought experiment. As GM of your own team who would you rather have as your ace, King Felix, or Scherzer? Or, to put it another way, imagine that Scherzer was pitching for Seattle, and Felix pitching for Detroit. Your arguments about W-L are bogus…

    • Eric Reining

      This was a satirical article, and you didn’t pick up on that fact.

      • http://nhprogressives.wordpress.com John Ranta

        No, I didn’t. If this was supposed to be satire, it did a lousy job of it…

        • Eric Reining

          I’m sorry you had a hard time with it.

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