No Wins, No Errors

My pal Brian Kenny is trying to start a movement to kill the pitcher win, and the general theme is something I heartily endorse. I don’t actually believe n KILLING the win -- it has a lot of history -- but I do believe that every time someone puts a little bit less stock in the win, an angel gets its wings.See it isn’t that the win is meaningless. It’s not meaningless. Defective stats are not meaningless. RBIs are not meaningless. Hit by pitches are not meaningless. Checked-swing strikes are not meaningless. Infield singles are not meaningless. But there’s a huge canyon, a large canyon, a big canyon, a (what’s the word I’m looking for) mammoth canyon between “meaningless” and “meaningful.” If someone told me they like Bruce Springsteen, there’s probably a better chance that I would like them than if they told me they despised Bruce Springsteen. But I wouldn’t want to build my friendship base around that.Yes: In the grand sense (there’s that word!), good pitchers get more wins than bad pitchers. If you are told you have to choose one of two pitchers and the only information you are given is how many wins each had, sure, you would always take the pitcher with the higher win total.It’s just that if you were given almost any other piece of pitching information -- like runs per nine, home runs allowed, strikeout-to-walk, ERA+, some version of FIP, WAR, numerous other cool pitching stats -- you would have a better shot at picking the better pitcher.Give you an example. Take two pitchers -- Pitcher A, Pitcher B.PItcher A wins: 12Pitcher B wins: 9OK, obviously you know this is a trick and that Pitcher B is the better pitcher -- otherwise why would I bring it up? But I’m not asking you to pick one pitcher or another. I’m trying to make the point that wins (and losses) are pretty much the only statistics out there that do not show CLEARLY that Pitcher B is the better pitcher. Let’s look at those losses:Pitcher A losses: 10Pitcher B losses: 12OK, so Pitcher A is 12-10, pitcher B is 9-12. If that’s the only information you have, you choose Pitcher A.Then, let’s say, you ask for ERA.Pitcher A: 4.27Pitcher B: 3.09OK, whoa, you chose poorly. It’s obvious now that Pitcher B is actually better. But is he? Maybe Pitcher A is pitching in Colorado and Pitcher B is in San Francisco? How about we look now at strikeouts to walks.Pitcher A: 90-to-50Pitcher B: 181-to-37Yikes. Pitcher B is suddenly looking A LOT better than Pitcher A. How about home runs per nine?Pitcher A: 1.4Pitcher B: 0.9Pitcher A is now looking like the booby prize on Let’s Make A Deal. What about that WAR statistic many people hate so much?Pitcher A: 0.1Pitcher B: 5.7Oh boy. How would you like to get stuck with Pitcher A now? And simple FIP -- that is, their ERA as figured only by home runs allowed, strikeouts and walks?Pitcher A: 4.93Pitcher B: 3.14Yeah, pitcher B is WAY, WAY, WAY, WAY better than Pitcher A. But you guessed that already. My point is that the ONLY statistics that don’t show this huge divide clearly is wins and losses. Pitcher A is Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie. Player B is Chicago’s Chris Sale. Pitcher A is a 34-year-old veteran pitching worse than league average who has won four games this year when giving up four-plus runs. Pitcher B is a 24-year-old superstar who has lost six games when he gave up two earned runs or fewer.No, the win is not meaningless. It’s a piece of baseball Americana that has been a part of the game for more than a century. I don’t think the win should go away. I like it the win the same way I like that gas stations still have mini-stores. I NEVER go into one of those stores, unless I need to use the restroom or have to buy some windshield washer fluid or something. I always pay at the pump. But that’s OK, I still like those stores being there. And it’s kind of cool to see Max Scherzer is 19-1.But as a statistic to assess a player’s value? Uh, no.Anyway, the pitcher’s win have moved way behind on my “Man do I loathe that statistic” chart … as mentioned, the error is what drives me crazy these days. I have written at length about

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