It's Time To Abolish The Pitcher Win/Loss Record

Posted by Noah Wright on

By: Noah Wright


I’m going to give you 2 records from the 2010 season: Player A: 17-11; Player B: 13-11. If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll come back to it later. The pitcher win/loss record is one of the most outdated, and inaccurate “stats” (if you want to call it that) that’s currently still being recorded. For starters, it’s absolutely horrible, and for relievers, it’s even worse. W/L record doesn’t truly showcase a pitcher’s true ability.

I first want to point out what a win or loss is. A win for a starter is if a pitcher throws at least 5 innings, and leaves the game with a lead. A loss is if a pitcher leaves the game after losing the lead or tie. Though wins/losses can work differently for relief pitchers, which is something I’ll get into later.

What makes a win stupid is that a pitcher can give up 10 runs in an outing, but still earn a win. Wins are solely based on offense, and offense alone. It doesn’t matter how many runs you give up; 1, 3 or 20, as long as your offense backs you up, you’re good for a win. In 2015, Colin McHugh had 19 wins, despite having a 3.89 ERA. That’s 2 less wins than Giants ace, Madison Bumgarner who’s ERA was nearly an entire run lower than McHugh at 2.93. In 2010, Jered Weaver had 18 wins to Tanner Roark’s 15 wins. Weaver had a 3.59 ERA, and Roark had a 2.85 ERA, but Verlander had the same amount of wins as Roark, even though his ERA is 4.54.

Wins for relief pitchers are even worse. Now sure, a guy could come into a tied game, pitch a shutout inning of relief, their team takes the lead, and they get the win, but that’s one case where a win might actually mean something. However, a win for a relief pitcher can also be extremely stupid. Lets say that the Reds are winning 3-1 in the 8th. The Reds put in David Hernandez to set it up. Sonny Gray did absolutely amazing that day. He went 7 innings, struck out 6, gave up 2 walks, and let up just 1 unearned run. But Hernandez gives up 3 runs, and now the Reds are losing by 3-4. In the bottom of the 8th, Joey Votto comes up with a runner on second, and blasts a 2 run home run. The score is now 5-4, and they hold the lead for the rest of the game. David Hernandez gets the win for the game, after giving up 5 runs. Not Sonny Gray, who pitched lights out the entire day. This happened on Sunday with the Pirates. Jordan Lyles did great. He pitched 6 and two thirds innings, giving up only 3 walks, 5 hits, but gave up only one run, and left the game tied at 1. After that the bullpen went 5 and a third innings of shutout baseball. In the top of the 13th, Tyler Lyons was in his second inning of relief after a scoreless 12th. However, Lyons gives up 3 walks, and lets the Oakland A’s score 2 earned runs. The Pirates do come back and win 5-3 on a 3 run bomb by Starling Marte, but Tyler Lyons received the win for the game, despite the fact he basically blew it, and didn’t do his job.

Losses for starters also can be very, very inaccurate. One case I want to point out is 1968 Bob Gibson. 1968 may be considered one of the best pitching performance by any player, ever.  He had a 1.12 ERA, 1.77 FIP, gave up only 11 home runs, and 62 walks in 304 and two thirds innings. But the Hall Of Fame Cardinal fireballer still lost 9 games that year. The most earned runs he gave up in one of those 9 losses was 3. His ERA throughout the 9 losses was 2.14. Those are very undeserved losses. The largest deficit the Cardinals lost by in all of those 9 games was 4, and that was in only one of the games. This also happened may times last year to Jacob deGrom. deGrom had a season that almost rivaled Gibson, but in less innings. He recorded a 1.70 EA, 1.99 FIP, gave up only 10 home runs, and 46 walks in 217 innings. Despite the fact he gave up more than 3 runs only once the entire season, his record was 10-9. In those 9 losses, deGrom had a 2.71 ERA. He even had 13 no decisions, making his record look even worse.

In reality, pitcher win/loss record hasn’t meant anything since pitchers stopped pitching complete games 95% of the time. Plus, a better alternative to wins/losses already exists. It’s quality starts. In order to qualify for a quality start, you have to pitch 6 innings, and give up no more than 3 runs. The fact that we still use wins and losses in 2019 is stupid. It doesn’t truly reflect a pitcher’s skill. If anything, it’s more of a reflection of the pitcher’s offense and defense backing him. It also is more of a stat that shows longevity. With so many stats that range from ERA to FIP to SIERA, which all truly show how good a pitcher is, pitcher W/L record needs to fall the wayside. Oh yea, and those 2 records from 2006: player 1 is Randy Johnson who had a 5.00 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.239 WHIP, and 1.2 HR/9. Player 2 is John Lackey who had a 3.56 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 1.263 WHIP, and .6 HR/9.

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