Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Thursday, June 10, 2004

The Pitchers of "Record"

It's been well-chronicled how wins are largely a matter of chance. Need proof that wins are pretty fickle? Just ask Jason Schmidt, Bronson Arroyo, or Freddy Garcia about their performances tonight. All pitched well enough to seemingly assure their team of victory - but none received the win.

"Wins" is an awful statistic mainly due to its reliance on the pitcher's offense. For those that are unfamiliar with how wins are assigned, take a gander at the official scorer's guidelines (10.19, toward the bottom). Wins depend quite heavily on how the pitcher's offense performs - something very much out of their hands. A great offense will put a hurler in a position to win, even if he has pitched poorly. Conversely, a terrible offense can subtract precious wins from a pitcher's resume. This means that no matter how well a pitcher pitches (Ben Sheets, two nights ago), he can only receive a "win" if his offense scores him enough runs. Thus, a pitcher only carries, at most, half the responsibility of the win. The way the media assigns Cy Young awards would have you believe that a pitcher can will his offense to perform (Exhibit A: Roger Clemens in 2001)

While there is much griping about how wins are assigned and how they should be interpreted, there is generally very little discussion about losses. Basically, a loss is given to the pitcher who puts his team behind. If the team remains behind, then the pitcher that put the team behind gets the loss. If that's not clear, check out the official scorer's book again here. Very few times is this definition a problem. Generally, the pitcher that gives away the equality of the game deserves the loss. While there is some discretion regarding how wins should be assigned (especially in odd games with many relievers), there is none regarding how losses should be given. The scorer must give it to the hurler that negatively disturbs equality.

Normally, I wouldn't have a problem with the limitations of assigning losses, but a particular box-score irked me today. With the rest of the game ahead of them, the Braves removed John Thomson from the contest in their game against the Tigers. He had only allowed one run and I can only assume that there was a rain-delay in the middle of the second as Jeremy Bonderman was forced from the game after only two innings. Sadly, Thomson's "relief," T. Smith (that's the best I can do - ESPN.com apparently doesn't recognize him as a pitcher - maybe because he doesn't do his job very well) gave up three runs in four innings. The Braves rallied to score two runs, but Thomson was still the pitcher of record. The former Rocky put his team at a deficit and they never recovered. Thus, by the book, he deserves the loss.

Similar to pitchers that receive a win after giving up three earned runs, this simply bothers me. The Braves offense, meager as it is, had nine innings to recover one run for John Thomson. And they did, eventually, score two runs. But Mr. T. Smith (it's actually Travis Smith, a former Cardinal) gave up too many runs first. It doesn't seem like Thomson should get the loss when he only gave up a run and nearly the entire game was left - especially when his relief allowed 3/4 of the runs that were eventually scored. Sure, there have been situations in which losses were given more unjustly. But this is a recent case, one that reinforces the need for flexibility for the assignment of losses similar to that of its statistical counterpart, wins.

I Can't Resist...the Irony Is...Too Strong!

I gravitated to a recent article written by Joe Morgan entitled: "Is Gagne's Save Streak Overrated" This was remarkable mostly because it showed that Joe Morgan was taking an intelligent stance on something baseball-related. If you're unaware, Joe Morgan has developed a following of whipping boys because of his idiotic comments (check out some authors' distaste here and here). Later in the article I became informed that Joe Morgan is penning a book entitled "Baseball for Dummies." I'm sorry, that's just too funny.

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