mlb logoRounding out the week with a healthy dose of baseball stuff …

  • The Pirates are guaranteed their first non-losing season in 21 years (Dale Sveum tips his cap). It’s been a brutal half decade for Cubs fans, but, man, just imagine 21 straight seasons of sub-.500, completely non-competitive baseball.
  • Rob Neyer explores folks’ beef with expanded rosters in September. I follow this stuff pretty closely, and this is the first time I’ve heard such loud gripes about the inelegance – as Neyer puts it – of roster expansion, and how it can impact playoff races. The suggested rule change would have teams still able to call up anyone on the 40-man roster, but able to designate only 30 available players on any given game day. The other popular suggestion is to have roster expansion at the start of the season, rather than the end (what happens to the minor league season, then? shifted later?). I don’t really care either way on this one, so if one of those is the rule change, that’s fine with me. I do think it’s always been a bit bizarre to have youngsters determining races … and then not available the next week in the playoffs.
  • Ken Rosenthal writes about “killing the win,” a movement to stop – just stop, please God stop – leaning on a pitcher’s win-loss record as a meaningful stat. He generally agrees, but cites an anonymous big league exec who still believes there may be a little something to a pitcher’s ability to pitch to the game situation (i.e., pitching to the scoreboard), which is reflected in W/L record. The executive, to his credit, grants that the “something” might be “vanishingly small.” To my mind, the problem remains that not only does W/L record tell us “vanishingly” little about how a pitcher has performed, it is often affirmatively misleading about how well or poorly a pitcher has pitched. It’s a broken statistic that measures something I have absolutely no interest in knowing. Was a pitcher pitching when his team happened to score more runs than the other team (and the bullpen pitched well enough to keep his team in the lead for the remainder of the game)? I don’t care about that information. It tells me nothing about how the pitcher pitched. Better, more informative, more predictive stats are so widely and readily available that it drives me crazy to see anyone grant even a scintilla of weight to W/L record. Look no further than Clayton Kershaw, who is in the midst of an historically good year – 1.89 ERA, 0.919 WHIP, 4.28 K/BB – and has a 14-8 record. And he pitches for a team with a great offense, for crying out loud!
  • Jeff Passan on the long-standing problem of declining participation by African Americans in baseball.
  • Chris Heisey has gotten a lot of heat for a very public bunting gaffe in an extra inning game against the Cardinals, but it actually looks like the numbers and the defensive position were with him. His mistake probably seems magnified because the Reds – *cough* Dusty Baker *cough* – bunted or tried to bunt far too often in that game. Not for hits, mind you. For sacrifices (including by Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco, a guy who’s never bunted before in the bigs).
  • Bryce Harper doesn’t care what people think, and really, really wants you to know it. Generally speaking, if you have to tell the world five times in a 15 second quote that you don’t care what anyone else thinks … you probably care a little. Also, Bryce: it’s couldn’t care less. Clown sentence construction, bro.
  • Juan Lagares might be the best outfield thrower in history. Note that I’m not saying he has the best arm, because it’s a little more complicated than that.
  • Coop

    I enjoy the continual confirmation that Dusty sucks.

    • demz

      Yet another indication that W/L means jack shit.

  • MightyBear

    Whoa. Best outfield thrower in major league history. Bold statement. Did you ever see Clemente throw out runners? Simply the best.

    • Cubbie Blues

      The data used went back to 2002.

      • MightyBear

        Well then, lets just say best outfield thrower in the last decade.

        • Brett

          That’s why I only went as far as to say “might.” I just found the whole analysis impressive (and surprising).

  • Idaho Razorback

    Fall of 1992. The 1st year of freedom. Graduated high school in June 1992. Seems like yeaterday. I had a good liver back then. As a Steeler fan, good for the Pirates.

  • Luke

    Down With Wins (as a pitching stat)!

    No other stat I know of is so badly misused by otherwise intelligent people to accidentally mislead others into thinking complete nonsense so often.

    • MichiganGoat

      It is an almost sure bet that whenever a pitcher is discussed on a message board, party, or ESPN a causal fan (or ESPN “analyst”) will chime in to cite the W/L record as a measurement of the pitcher’s value. I honestly think its cited more than ERA among causal fans.

    • Rich H

      I think the backlash against wins has gotten a little over the top. There is a reason that 20 wins still means something. I know it is a context stat but W/L still has value.
      Most stats only tell part of the story even WAR and FIP stats need other stats with them to totally see the value of a pitcher.

      • MichiganGoat

        All a win says is that Pitcher X was pitching when his team scored more runs than an other team. It says nothing about the pitcher himself and is basically just complex and stupid way to assign the overall W/L record of a team to one specific player.

        So yes a WIN means something… it gets you to the playoffs, it wins you championships, but it means nothing as an evaluation tool for a pitcher. You could assign W/L record to any player based on where they were when team A scored more than team B and it would do nothing to explain how good Player X is at baseball.

        • hansman1982

          It’s like RBIs and BA…the great players will usually have a higher than average W/L record.

      • hansman1982

        “There is a reason that 20 wins still means something.”

        What does it mean and why can’t you use the stats that better tell you how good the pitcher was?

        “I know it is a context stat but W/L still has value.”

        So why don’t you just use the stats that provide the context for why the pitcher won so many games?

        “Most stats only tell part of the story even WAR and FIP stats need other stats with them to totally see the value of a pitcher.”

        Yup, each stat tells you a different thing. It’s just that some stats tell you a bigger story than others. (and some may not even tell you the actual story you are looking for, you’ve just been conditioned to believe that it tells you the story you are looking for)

      • Funn Dave

        It has perhaps gotten a little over the top, but not as much as the debate over batting average. To me, while it may not be the best performance evaluator, batting average tells you a ton about a player’s skill and is a pretty good predictor of success. Win/loss record is so based on external factors that it becomes almost useless as a means of measuring a pitcher’s skill/success. Most people point to the example of a pitcher having a great season pitching-wise but not getting enough run support (eg Dempster a few years back), but look at the opposite end of the spectrum: If I give up twenty earned runs — yes, only Sveum would keep me in long enough to give up that many — if I give up twenty earned runs, but my teammates score twenty-one, I come away with a win. Stuff like that can skew this stat to a ridiculous degree.

        • hansman1982

          “batting average tells you a ton about a player’s skill and is a pretty good predictor of success.”

          1. What skill does it tell you about
          2. Why, then, doesn’t this skill carry over very well year over year
          3. So why doesn’t a players batting average correlate well with itself year over year?

          • Funn Dave

            1. It tells you about a player’s skill to consistently get hits.
            2. It does. Players slump.
            3. Not sure how this is different from #2.

        • MichiganGoat

          Here’s my issue with BA… we have a much better stat that says that figues hits identically but actually gives value to those hits- its called Slugging Percentage (SLG). Both BA and SLG use AB vs PA to come to a figure, both count the same number of hits, but SLG actually shows who is hitting for power and driving the ball vs. who is just slapping singles around.

          So why do we even need BA? Because we’ve been conditioned to meausre success via BA. Its on the box scores, on our baseball cards, and still talked way to much by so called “analyst” on TV. It needs to go away, it no longer says anything the SLG doesn’t say better.

          • Funn Dave

            I agree. There are better stats. But that’s kind of my point. Both BA and W/L have better stats. The difference is that while SLG, etc. tell you more than BA does, BA is still useful; just not quite as much so. W/L is so luck-dependent that it’s really nearly useless compared to BA. Yes, things like BABIP add an element of luck to BA, but not nearly as much luck as in W/L.

        • MichiganGoat

          But at least BA measures what a player is doing to some degree vs. W/L for a pticher that measures nothing (except that his team scored less runs than the team he was facing) that a pitcher did.

          • Funn Dave

            Yep, that’s what I’m getting at. Both stats are less useful than their more modern counterparts, but W/A is a lot more useless than BA.

    • terencemann

      Down with wins and RBI. If I never see them on a scoreboard again, it will be too soon.

  • justinjabs

    Len made the same suggestion Neyer did about September “available players” a season or two ago.

    • Andrew

      Ya I remembered liking his idea a lot. Having “healthy scratches” like they do in football and hockey makes a lot of sense

  • Stinky Pete

    I have asked before, so I will ask again.

    Which is worse?

    Over 100 years of no championship with some success, excitement and near misses?


    21 years of straight losing total failure?

    • Edwin

      I think the Pirates is worse. At least the Cubs have had some great players, and some seasons worth watching.

      • Rich H

        Pittsburg had some great players and good teams during that stretch. They were always one injury away from being at the bottom of the heap because of lack of depth. Not because they did not have the talent.

      • http://BleacherNation Robert Neighbors

        I guess that depends on one’s perspective. I have been a Cub fan since 1957 (57 seasons), and have witnessed only 17 winning seasons. So, I have a pretty good idea of how the Priate fans feel.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      It depends on the age. It’s been worse to be a young (say, under 40) Pirates fan: those people have only 3 division titles (including a couple of devastating playoff defeats!), whereas Cubs fans of the same age have 6 post-season appearances.

      If you are 50 or older, then it is better to be a Pirates fan: yes, the memories are getting hazy, but they team was consistently good in the 1970’s, with a couple of WS titles and multiple division wins.

      • Stinky Pete

        I can go with that. I have noted to my parents that the Cubs have been in the post season the exact same amount of times for them as they have for me.

  • MichiganGoat

    I think the Win stat will and is slowly disolving. When King Felix won the Cy Young with a 13-12 record the complaint of many was that he only won 13 games and lost 12 OMG HE’S NOT AN ELITE PITCHER. That year C.C. won 21 games but had an ERA+ of 136 vs. Felix’s 174 but the casual fan still didn’t see how Felix was better than C.C. but the voters luckily saw the better stats.

    The other thing that is shifting in the HOF golden number of 300 wins, I’m not sure if we will ever see another 300 game winner. 20 win seasons were normally common but they are become less and less regular and sustainable. Now teams are happy if a pitcher has a .500 record if the measurable stats show success. So I think baseball is over the W stat (except for measuring HOF entrance) but the fans still look at W/L as the magical baseball card stat.

    For all the issues many of us have with BA being used THE measuring stick for offensive success it is not nearly as flawed as the useless W/L record.

  • aCubsFan

    We now know what sign is going in right field. It’s Budweiser. Based on the script test sign you had to think it would be them.

  • Funn Dave

    I love that “could / couldn’t care less” is getting so much attention here the last couple days. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves–and it always cracks me up when the people who use “could” insistently try to justify their usage.

    -BN Grammar Douche

    Also nice to see coverage of the expanded roster debate and the win/loss record’s inadequacies.

  • mjhurdle

    According to the the train of thought from many posts here, the best practice is to just get rid of all stats and rely 100% on the ‘eye-test’.
    “I dont care what the stats say, Player X sucks!!”

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    How can Kershaw have 8 loses with those numbers? Something is up. I can see a lot of no decisions, as the bullpen lets games get away, but as a starting pitcher, wins/losses tells me something. I think that it is stat that should be kept. Not as important for relief pitchers. Although I still like the “blown saves” stat for relieves, even though Brett is adamantly against that one as well.

    • MichiganGoat

      The fact that you are questioning how Kershaw has 8 losses SHOULD tell you that W/L is a meaningless stat for evaluating pitchers as 2010 Felix Hernandez should have told you the exact same thing.

    • hansman1982

      So what does it tell you if a SP goes 9 innings, gives up 1 run and gets the loss? What would it tell you if a pitcher does this a couple times in a season? What does it tell you when the SP gives up 5 runs in 5 innings and gets the W because his offense scored 6 in 5.

      • Pat

        It should tell you he had some bad luck, that over time would be likely to even out. I get that in a single season there is a lot of variance, as with most other stats, but over a several year career it’s going to give you a decent idea of the quality of pitcher. But I’m sure someone will point out all the crappy 300 win pitchers for me, or all those modern era seasons a guy managed 20 wins with a FIP over five. Or the multitude of guys with an era under two who didnt even win a third of their games. there may be isolated examples, but it sure isn’t the norm.

        Saying its a useless stat is just as stupid as saying its the most important stat.

        • Geech

          A stat that takes several years to give a decent idea of the quality of the pitcher is a terrible stat. You ought to stop defending it.

          • Pat

            I didn’t realize it always took several years to indicate the quality of a pitcher. It seems to me to take several years to weed out the exemptions to the rule. FIP is the best of the pitcher stats,right? How many years in a row did FIP tell us Javy Vazquez was a great pitcher? Turns out it just took that much time to even out to his true talent level. But since it was ineffective in one case, it must be useless, right?

            • Geech

              I’m responding directly to what you wrote, Pat:

              ” I get that in a single season there is a lot of variance, as with most other stats, but over a several year career it’s going to give you a decent idea of the quality of pitcher.”

              Wins are utter shit as a metric, but considering your posts on the rooftop debates I guess I should have reflected your other opinions to follow suit.

        • jt

          On the surface baseball seems a peaceful pastoral past time. George Carlin mentioned that it was played in a park while football with its aerial attacks was to be found in an stadium. The complexities of many other games are obvious. Not so with baseball. See the ball and hit it; or catch it; or throw it.
          Many of us learned arithmetic from the backs of bubble gum cards. We also learned a bit of logic when seeing a high win total of pitcher like Steve Carlton on a losing team like the Phillies.
          Recent usage of relief pitching has made the pitching win pretty much a useless stat. It now says more about the team than the pitcher. Still, there is that surface level of the game that meant so much to us when we were in grade school. There was the edge of the seat moments of a guy like Mays with his 54 HR season facing a guy like Spahn with his many 20 W seasons. OPS and FIP are wondrous tellers of tales. They give us deep insight into the players potential and provide a deeper meaning to the game. I’m just not sure that they translate as well to that edge of the seat moment for a 7 y/o.
          Oh well, all things must pass.

        • hansman1982

          You are right, the great pitchers will typically have high win totals and the crap pitchers won’t. You want to use it as a general statement as something that probably indicates a pitcher’s overall talent level at the end of their career, go for it.

          It just doesn’t give you any context, though. Otherwise, Cy Young is the greatest pitcher of all time by a giant margin. Great pitchers who spent their career on bad teams or had a couple years of injury or who played in the wrong era get screwed in you W/L analysis of their talent. Pedro Martinez was clearly a better pitcher than Jaime Moyer but has 60 fewer wins.

          Tim Keefe was a pitcher in the pre-1900 days of baseball. In 1886 he had 42 wins and an ERA+ of 125. Now tell me, which stat (obtained from the same page) tells you more about how good of a season he had.

          • Rebuilding

            We really should have a link to post that is a handy guide to why win totals, batting average and “clutch” hitting are fairly useless stats whenever it comes up over and over

            • cub2014

              ya you dont want guys on your team that hit
              well above the league average with RISP.

              • cub2014

                hitting with RISP and LOB are pretty important
                if you want to score runs.

                • Rebuilding

                  Completely random from year to year though. No way to predict it from one year to the next

          • jt

            and homerun baker had 96 dingers over 13 year
            detroit had lake Cobb in front of home plate to deaden his bunts.
            1954 Jackie Jensen beat out Jim Rivera and Minnie Minoso for the SB title with 22. The other 2 guys had a whopping 18.
            that is the point.
            The parks change. The rules change. The players change. The training of players change. Nutrition changes including PED’s.
            the logic of the game changes from era to era; from year to year; from team to team; from player to player.
            Discrimination is an awful thing when applied to race, religion and creed.
            Discrimination as applied to scientific study is essential.
            You guys compare the ability of Ted Williams, the quintessential rotational hitter with Tony Gwynn the quintessential lunge/slap hitter. Williams was concerned with generating torque from a solid base for power. Gwynn took his body and bat to the ball create guidance. Yet you include them both in a single study as if they are the same.
            Gibson was great. Maddux was great. Gibson tossed from a higher mound, a different K zone to less well trained athletes. Yeah, a lot of hitters were selling cars in the off season rather than working out.
            No, the baseball card stats do not tell you any of this. But when you boil things down to a single number it doesn’t reflect the changes either.
            As a fan matures from grammar school and his interest waxes or wanes the depth of understanding of the game either matures or not.
            Often I read on this site that a player did not perform to his peripherals. Too often do I read that. When that is said that often then the peripherals as a set of stats are not not performing to expectations and something is wrong. Yeah, the pitchers W/L stat is only meaningful in discriminating context. But perhaps you should also consider using some “advanced” stats with discrimination. It just depends upon the level of interest your mature understanding of the game evolves to.

      • Jason

        “So what does it tell you if a SP goes 9 innings, gives up 1 run and gets the loss? What would it tell you if a pitcher does this a couple times in a season?”

        It tells me the offense really hates that guy and he has a negative impact on everyone’s TWTW, a stat which tells us MUCH more than wOBA or WAR since it also takes Belly Fire into account.

        “What does it tell you when the SP gives up 5 runs in 5 innings and gets the W because his offense scored 6 in 5.”

        Positive TWTW contribution!

        • mjhurdle

          well played sir

        • jt

          A SP who goes 9 giving up one run gets a loss. He also sees his IP/game go up and his ERA go down.
          To look a bit further; how did that effect his next start. Did he again toss a high amount of IP and a low amount of ER’s or did he get bombed early. Even the most casual of fans can understand this. Perhaps the first grader can’t. But his brother in the 2nd grade probably can.
          Is it better that a GM use advanced stats? Yes! Is it best that a GM use advanced stats while placing them in context? Yes.
          Is it best that a 1st grader or a guy who watches 20 to 30 games a year at a bar use correlation coefficients? Probably not.

    • cubchymyst

      The offense failed to score enough runs before he left. His last start that he lost was against the Cubs and he only allowed 1 earned run. If you look at his numbers on baseball reference he has only given up 5 earned runs in a game once and the dodgers won that game.

    • bbmoney

      How about we just get rid of the save stat too? Then maybe mangers won’t be so dumb about how they use their best relief pitchers. Clearly they can only be used in the 9th inning when up by 1 to 3 runs or maybe…maybe when tied in the 9th, but only if you’re playing at home. There couldn’t possibly be a high leverage situation in the 6th-8th innings where it might be good to have your best reliever pitch?


      • justinjabs

        I totally agree. Down with Saves … hate ’em.

      • CGruegs45

        #KillTheSave Follow me bro @CGruegs45 #TeamFollowBack

  • PaducahCubFan

    “Clown sentence contruction, bro.” Lines like that are why BN is the best Cubs Blog going.

  • Patrick W.

    Had a suggestion a while ago about rosters. Essentially I’d have a 30 man roster, you only dress 24 for a game, 8 pitchers max.

    So you’d have more position players potentially, and starting pitchers would only dress every 5 days. I say do this all season.

    I’m always tinkering. Mr. Neyer not a fan.

    @BaseNarcissist Better, but so complicated. For me, personally. I suppose the fans would be okay with it.— robneyer (@robneyer) July 9, 2013

  • DocShock8

    Here is a situation I have never understood with regards to losses.

    Let’s say Pitcher A pitches 6 innings and gives up 4 runs, but his team only scores 3. The next inning a reliever gives up two more, but the offense also scores 2, so now the score is 6-5. The Sarter only gives up 4 runs but gets the loss; however had the team scored a 4th run before the reliever gives up anymore runs then he would get a no-decision. Isn’t it the fault of the reliever that the team lost and not Pitcher A (using current MLB definitions for assigning W/L-as I agree wins should be removed from pitchers). You could have both Starter A give up less runs than the other starter and lose. Makes no sense.

    Again I am for removing W/L as pitcher stats.