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homer at the chalkboard[What follows emerged out of a debate in the comments yesterday and Monday. Rather than offer an 800-word comment of my own that would explode the bottom of the page, I thought it better to offer an article.]

Since he emerged as a big story, one thing has terrified me about the Masahiro Tanaka posting. No, it isn’t the chance that he isn’t posted in the end, or even the chance that the Cubs come up second for his services.

It’s the 24-0.

When Tanaka completed the 2013 NPB season with a “perfect record,” I knew that, once his story got going, we were going to hear regularly about just how good he was in Japan, using the 24-0 thing as a justification for that good-ness. To be clear, Tanaka was very good this year in Japan – and in recent years, too, where heaven-forbid he actually lost a few games – but his win/loss record tells us almost nothing about just how good.

Indeed, win/loss record is perhaps the most pernicious statistical dud to be thrust upon the well-meaning baseball public since the invention of the sport.*

*(CERA – catcher ERA – and RBIs are up there, too.)

It’s the worst statistic not because it doesn’t do what it says it does, or because it’s meaningless. Instead, win/loss the worst statistic because what it does is very little, and it is held up to do a whole lot. It is incredibly misleading, and it has historically been offered up as the standard bearer of how well a pitcher pitched in a given season.

Consider that, over the course of their respective careers, Felix Hernandez has amassed a record of 110 and 86 during his time in Seattle (.561 winning percentage), while his predecessor with the Mariners, Freddy Garcia, who the left the team the year before Hernandez arrived, had a record of 76 and 50 (.603). Was Garcia simply a better pitcher with the Mariners than Hernandez? Of course not – Garcia’s average season WAR in that time was in the 3.5 range, dwarfed by Hernandez’s average mark around 5.0. Given the clear failure of W/L to tell us which pitcher was better – generally in the same ballpark, pitching for the same team – over a long stretch of time, we can conclude that there is obviously a fundamental flaw in the stat.

That flaw, as expressed in this example? Le duh: the Mariners team for which Garcia pitched was one of the best teams in baseball. Hernandez’s Mariners have been one of the worst.

I find that the last remaining, modestly credible argument anyone can make for wins and losses anymore is that, “well, it’s not a perfect stat, but it still gives you a rough idea of how well a pitcher has performed. It still tells you something about the pitcher’s performance.”

Sure, the win/loss statistic tells you something about the pitcher’s performance. But what it tells you is about as useful as a stat that tells you which starting pitcher in a given game gave up fewer homers. You can’t argue that giving up fewer homers than your opponent in a game isn’t desirable, and thus it tells you something about the pitcher’s performance. But you also can’t argue that the stat would be subject to a whole lot of noise that detracts from its utility – what if the starter lasted just an inning because he got blasted by doubles or walks? What if the pitcher’s team just went on a homer binge? The flaws in the stat are immediately apparent, and the value is minimal. (I’d argue this hypothetical homer stat is probably more useful than wins/losses in terms of correlation to future performance, but I have done no research to back that up, so it remains me just puffing my chest in a parenthetical.)

In the end, win/loss record for a pitcher answers a question that wasn’t worth asking: did the pitcher happen to leave the game when his team had the lead?

It does not tell us, in any meaningful way, how well the pitcher actually pitched. Do wins and losses tell us something? Sure. Do they tell us far less than ERA, FIP, BB/9, K/9, HR/9, BABIP, LOB%, HR/FB%, and on and on? Yes.

So why continue to use it? Why fight for its utility simply because it offers the teeniest, tiniest scrap of (frequently misleading) information about a pitcher’s performance? I just don’t get it.

Actually, I do get it: the reason win/loss record has gotten so much play over the years is because of the unfortunate pairing to the words “win” and “loss,” which, at the team level, are the most important numbers in any given season. Unfortunately, a team’s “win” is not the same thing as a pitcher’s statistical “win,” and the conflation of the two has led to decades of frustration for all of the reasons discussed herein.

  • jim

    +1

    • commander bob

      brett-you should actually talk to some pitchers that played the game if you really want to know the value of that stat.

      For example, when justin verlander pitches against chris sale and both pitch complete games and verlander wins 1-0 are you telling me that sale didn’t get outpitched that day and deserved the loss? And that verlander doesn”t earn that win? What you don’t factor in your thinking is match ups. Essentially what youre saying is that all the 300 game winners in the HOF werent great pitchers. Guess what. They were and they got there because they outpitched the other guy on a consistant basis. Thus the high win totals.

      there are flaws with every stat. To say that win/loss records are less meaningful than other pitching quantitative factors is silly. you can literally watch a guy pitch and tell whether he is going to be a good pitcher or not.

      BTW when Garcia was pitching for Seattle he was a great pitcher so youre analogy there is weak.

      Everybody and their mom know who the really good pitchers are over time. The W/L record, over the course of someones career is still a top indicator of quality

      • jh03

        “For example, when justin verlander pitches against chris sale and both pitch complete games and verlander wins 1-0 are you telling me that sale didn’t get outpitched that day and deserved the loss? And that verlander doesn”t earn that win?”

        No, Sale doesn’t deserve a loss for giving up one single run. Do we even know the run was his fault? I mean, shit, since it’s an AL game Sale can’t even hit for himself to try to produce a run.

        As for the rest of everything you said – lol

        • commander bob

          If you asked Sale if he deserved the loss he would say he got outpitched and deserved the loss.

          Did you really say that he didnt get a chance to bat and help to score a run in the DH league?

          That’s gold, Jerry. Real gold.

          • jh03

            It was sarcasm.

          • hansman

            “Did you really say that he didnt get a chance to bat and help to score a run in the DH league?

            That’s gold, Jerry. Real gold.”

            What does this even mean?

            • jh03

              I learned my name is Jerry. So there’s that.

              • jh03

                WAIT A SECOND

                DID JERRY HAIRSTON EVER WEAR #3?! MAYBE I’M HIM

                • hansman

                  Have you ever seen Jerry Hairston and yourself in the same place at the same time?

                  If not, then thanks for sucking last year, jackwagon.

                  • jh03

                    Holy shit. Guys, I’m Jerry Hairston. I never knew it until now.

                    I’m so sorry for 2005-2006 :( But, in fairness, I was 12.

                    • Stinky Pete

                      Ahhhhhh…. I always thought you were Jim Hendry…

                    • jh03

                      Well.. I’ve never been in the same place as him at the same time..

                      Maybe I’m some sort of double agent. Who knows. I’m just now figuring all of this out.

          • C. Steadman

            hey Travis Wood won a couple games for himself this year with the bat…

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Sale would say that because he’s supposed to say that. If he spoke the truth (“I did my job”), then he’d get berated for being selfish and too hung up on (get this) his own stats…..

            There is a myth that pitchers “pitch to the occasion”: the winners manage to give up one fewer run and the losers give up one more run. Of course, there is a whole chicken and egg issue: did Sale pitch really well, but because Verlander is a “winner,” he one-upped Sale? Or would Sale always have found a way to choke up one more run than Verlander because Sale is a “loser”?

            If this were true, then we’d find strong statistical support for the “rising/sinking to the competition” idea. Guess what: we don’t. How one starter performs is largely independent of how the other one performs.

            • hansman

              That’s only because you are a robot and don’t understand these guys’ emotions!

              Although, if Sale wasn’t such a loser he could get away with saying that his team let him down.

      • hansman

        I’d say only giving up 1 run to the Tigers offense is more impressive than shutting out the White Sox.

      • kgd

        The one run given up by Sale was because of defensive errors beyond his control. Beyond that he only allows 3 hits and fans 12.

        Verlander repeatedly loads the bases and is only saved by gold-glove caliber defense behind him including the robbing of a 3-run home run by an over-the-wall catch.

        I’d say Sale deserved the win, not a loss.

        • Danny Ballgame

          Exactly. Jack McDowell lost a game in which he threw a no-hitter. How the hell does he deserve a loss and how do you say that he was out-pitched?

        • hansman

          This is completely impossible. We are talking about the Tigers’ defense here, folks.

      • Stinky Pete

        What if Verlander gets pulled after five and the Tigers score in the fifth and the bullpen pitches lights out for four innings? Verlander gets a W for pitching five scoreless and Sale gives up 1 run over nine and gets the loss.

        What if they both pitch ten scoreless and Sale walks a guy and gets pulled and the relief pitcher gives up a HR on his first pitch? Sale gets a loss after pitching ten scoreless because someone else gave up a HR.

        What if five days later they pitch against each other again and pitch like crap and after five innings the score is 14-9? One of those pitchers is getting a W even though they pitched much worse than they did the previous start when they didn’t get a W.

        The point is getting a W/L is so dependent on many factors outside of the pitchers control.

      • hansman

        You have successfully trolled BN.

        Please do not come again.

      • http://bleachernation ortsaC13

        What if Chris Sale and Verlander faced each other every game and each won an equal share of 1-0 games. They would finish the season say 12-12. On record alone they would seem to be average pitchers, but every other stat would tell you they where the 2 best pitchers in the league.

      • Jason P

        What percentage of games feature 2 starting pitchers that go the distance? .01%? And of those that do, is one of those pitchers “losses” really equal to a loss where a pitcher gives up 7 runs in 4 innings? Clearly it’s not, and those types of inconsistencies are what make Wins a bad and unreliable stat.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        “you should actually talk to some pitchers that played the game if you really want to know the value of that stat.”

        K. Wood: “Wins… is a team stat.”

        “For example, when justin verlander pitches against chris sale and both pitch complete games and verlander wins 1-0 are you telling me that sale didn’t get outpitched that day and deserved the loss? And that verlander doesn”t earn that win?”

        There are literally a gabillion counter examples to this.

        ” What you don’t factor in your thinking is match ups.”

        No. That’s one of many factors us win haters ARE considering. Beating the Red Sox in Fenway means a lot more than beating the Astros at Fenway. Giving up 10 hits to the Ref Sox is far more impressice than giving up 7 to the Astros.

        ” Essentially what youre saying is that all the 300 game winners in the HOF werent great pitchers. Guess what. They were and they got there because they outpitched the other guy on a consistant basis. Thus the high win totals.”

        They got there because they had great skill and stayed healthy. Therefore they kept getting signed and given starts. Skill + more starts = more wins. Highly skilled players will give their team more chances to wins which… in the long run = more pitcher wins. But Greg Maddux would have been just as impressive of he had stayed with the Cubs and so only managed 290 career wins. Same guy. Same performance. Crappier teams.

        “you can literally watch a guy pitch and tell whether he is going to be a good pitcher or not.”

        That’s a good point: even the eye test is more reliable than wins.

        • cub2014

          maddux averaged 17.4 wins in has last 5 years
          in chicago on a 79.8 win average team.

          maddux averaged 18.1 wins in his 1st full 5 years
          in atlanta on a 99.4 win average team.

          so maddux is a bad example of players getting
          robbed of wins on a bad team.

          but as with all baseball stats you have to look at
          them completely and judge from there. yes that
          includes clutch hitting. (I mean if you want
          winners).

          • ClevelandCubsFan

            Kinda a good point. BUT… It was specific to the Cubs. We had a rough go of it after Maddux left. Some pretty dismal teams. There were some decent teams in the time before he left.

            Also, numbers are skewed because 1994 was strike shortened..

  • Jon

    What about TWTW?

    • Polar Bear

      I was having a conversation the other night (at a bar with a guy who had a few too many drinks) about the three people in the world that you would punch without suffering any consequences. Harrelson was at the top of my list! Followed closely by McCarver.

      • commander bob

        thats really a great story. any others?

        • C. Steadman

          you must not have got the reference commander bob…

  • C. Steadman

    preach it!

  • CubbieBubba

    Normally I’d say it has next to nothing to do with actual value, but specifically with Tanaka and the fact that he has 24 – he clearly put his team in a position to win every single time, which is all you can ask. Maybe he has that intangible quality that fires up his teammates every time he starts, how would you measure that? Maybe he’ll take subsequent failures in the majors too hard, turning into a head-case, how would you measure that?

    It’d be impossible to determine what that would translate to in the majors, and not really worth doing the math on. But it certainly deserves an honorable mention. At the very least it is a red flag, that something awesome is going on deserving further investigation.

    • kgd

      Wouldn’t his other excellent stats be a better indicator that he consistently put his team in a position to win? He could have pitched like Jason Marquis and still gone 24-0 if his team was an offensive powerhouse.

      • commander bob

        you used every stat available to measure the pitchers success which includes w/l

        • The Ghost of Brett Jackson

          Use it all you want but know what it really is worth….not much.

      • CubbieBubba

        totally, though if Marquis had gone 24-0 he’s obviously still doing something amazing regardless of the team, because who does that aside from great pitchers? You’d want to put him on the shortlist of top pitchers that year, and then go look at specifically why – especially when comparing to other players on other teams.

        I’m not saying the stat means anything on its own, but it is easy to identify standout candidates. I wouldn’t want to pay Marquis any more money having gotten 24 wins on the Dodgers, vs 10 on the Padres with the exact same stats, but that is the same reason a lot of great pitching goes unsung on crappier teams.

        • C. Steadman

          the team knows to dial up the runs bc they’re like “oh crap Marquis is on the hill today…its up to the bats today” :P

        • jt

          2006 Jason Marquis gave up 7 HR’s and 25 ER’s in 2 games while completing 10 IP of the 194.3 he completed that year. That is about 31% of the ER’s he gave up and 20 % of the dingers off of him that year. How did that skew his ERA and FIP?

  • cubsin

    The only won-loss record that ever impressed me was Steve Carlton’s 27-10 record with the 1972 Phillies, The other pitchers on that staff went 42-87, and the Phils finished last in the NL East. Of course, his 1.97 ERA was also impressive.

    • Fishin Phil

      That is a great example of where it can be useful when you look at W-L in context and in conjunction with other stats.

  • http://c Bluz Cluz

    I agree, wins don’t tell us anything about how the pitcher pitched. For some reason, they do the same for QB’s in football. Stating a record for pitchers pretty much discounts anything, good or bad, that the other 16 total players on the field have done. Same in football, with the other 4 players that play consistently. I don’t have a problem with getting rid of, however, if used correctly, like for pitchers on the same team, it can slightly be a useful stat.

    • http://c Bluz Cluz

      other 42 players in football, I meant.

  • http://mccarronlegal.com jmc

    only a Cubs fan would say that a statistic that tracks wins is skewed. to the rest of the world wins are what counts. but hey we have the Ivy…

    • Coop

      Reading comprehension… TEAM wins mean something, the pitcher statistic “win” is far less meaningful… As the article clearly and effectively articulated.

  • EQ76

    Brett – I was one of the several in that argument.. I’ll say this, 24-0 is impressive, no matter how meaningless anyone feels that the Win stat really is or isn’t. The argument I made yesterday was that a 24-0 record, coupled with a 1.27 ERA, is very impressive and that I don’t really need any additional stats to tell me that Tanaka would be a welcome addition to our pitching staff.

    • jh03

      Saying 24-0 is impressive and saying it means something are two entirely different things.

      24-0 is impressive as hell. Especially when you consider all the things that *could* happen that would ruin that.

      It still doesn’t mean a whole lot.

      • EQ76

        I’m not sure if anyone really reads the comments. I didn’t say 24-0 by itself is the whole story, I said 24-0 WITH a 1.27 ERA is impressive!

        • Fishin Phil

          This is true.

        • JulioZuleta

          Both of those, individually and together, are very impressive. You still need to know a bit more to have an idea how he’ll do in the major leagues. For example, a guy can cruise through college, the minors, or in a foreign league with nothing but a 99 mph fastball, because a ton of people can’t catch up to it. But, in the major leagues, that’s not enough. I agree that 24-0 with a 1.27 is a very, very impressive, and makes a guy very, very interesting, but without more it doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of major league projection

        • jh03

          Oh, I understood that. I was just commenting that 24-0 is actually impressive as hell. Keeping a winning streak like that going takes a lot of luck in your favor. Hence why it’s impressive.

          I know Tanaka’s a good pitcher, and thought that was established, which is why I kind of ignored the second part. Sorry.

  • Fishin Phil

    While the W-L stat is only slightly useful for starting pitchers, it is almost completely worthless for relievers. And yet, I saw someone point to that very stat in the comments this morning.

  • Ballgame

    +1 CubbaBubba. While there are plenty other, more revealing statistics for pitchers, I believe there’s something immeasurable in players today. We’re all so enamored by sabermetrics, but what about being a positive influence in the clubhouse and making everyone around you better on the days you start. I know I’m gonna get pounced on, but anyone who has played sports knows there are teammates who pick up others while they’re down and others who are really talented but are total jags and no one wants to be teammates with. For that reason, I still think W-L has some relevance.

    **I figured there may be an article along these lines after Luke’s write-up on Pierce Johnson yesterday didn’t include his W-L.

    **I’m really hoping for a Tanaka signing and the addition of a solid veteran OF (Kemp). Wishful thinking I know but man that’d give us at least a little hope for this season..

  • Jono

    Just a general observation about the way people argue, which I do, too

    Straw man arguments seem to dominate any discussion. People tend to agree more than they think. It’s just that some people prefer to highlight one aspect of the idea while other prefer to focus on the oppose aspect, even though they share the same idea.

    Just an observation. I do this, too, so I’m not trying to sound all high and mighty

  • Kevin

    I get the chills when I think back to 1991 when Bill Gullickson won 20 games. A magical season where he posted a near 4 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP……….goosebumps.

  • Kurt

    Fergie Jenkins (Cubs) 1972 20 wins 12 losses 3.20 ERA

    Burt Hooton (Cubs) 1972 11 wins 14 losses 2.80 ERA

    Had this same argument about over valuing “pitcher wins in 72/73 before saber metrics was a twinkle in most of your eyes (I’m betting most of you weren’t even around.)

    Fans are mostly a young man’s playground and in today’s XBOX generation, but they haven’t changed over 50 years, they want the pretty new toy (wins/losses over actual production).

    Use to watch Fergie give up 7 0r 8 runs but the Cubs kept coming back for him. Burt would lose 1-0, 2-1, etc… and the pitchforks would come out.

    There are amazing similarities today in the Cutler McCown debate. McCown’s stats are overvalued. The McCown “honey bunnies” don’t want to compare the defenses he’s gone against vs. Cutler’s. They want to rule out the “luck factor” of 6 easy INT’s in the last 2 games for Josh that were either dropped (4) or called back (2).

    Something tells me that Trestman knew Josh’s luck would run out against the 7th ranked defense and 4th ranked pass defense (at the time)… on the road… in the cold.

    I know this is a baseball site but these two examples show I believe that typical meathead fans are nothing more than American Idol watchers, in a sport sense.

    Kurt

    • Stinky Pete

      Seems to me Maddux and Moyer were similarly snakebit in 1988. Seems like they would pitch well every outing and get no support. Someday I’ll look that up.

      • Stinky Pete

        I looked it up and Maddux was certainly not snakebit. Moyer was though. 9 – 15 with a 3.4 WAR and 105 ERA+.

    • JulioZuleta

      My dad was 6 that year.

      • Kurt

        My dad was 48…young fella!

    • Eternal pessemist

      Kurt,

      First of all, qb performance is so highly dependent on protection, strategy, routtes, receiver performance that it is very disimilar to pitcher whip, so:bb, so/9 etc… I think mccownn’s stats tell you two things. He is having a great year, plus, surround a decent qb with great players and solid coaching(generally) and his stats will be great. It tells you that cutler , while probably significantly better, is likely not worth the diferential it will cost. His mental lapses over the year have kept the bears from moving up from good to great.

      As to the dropped INT’s, Cutler had many, MANY, INT’s dropped over the years. The difference seems to be that his Seem to hit the opponent in the chest, not off the fingertips. They are more often a longer distance from the intended target so the receiver has no opportunity to stop the int and is just easier to pick-off. Also, how do people continue to include called back plays like he one the defense practically threw the bears receiver out of the way to get to the ball. It was a perfect pass that only the Bears receiver would have a chance at without the penalty.

      • Kurt

        McCown is not a decent QB, look at his CAREER stats, not the small sample size with the Bears. This year is an anomaly because of Trestman’s scheme.

        http://www.nfl.com/player/joshmccown/2505076/careerstats

        Now look at Cutler’s stats with Denver and a good offense that made him a pro bowler in 2008.

        http://www.nfl.com/player/jaycutler/2495824/careerstats

        McCown will come down to earth, awesome scheme notwithstanding, when he has to play quality defenses, especially in the playoffs. In his nice little run he was 3-2 against teams that AVERAGED 24th defensively. His worst game was against the 14th ranked Ravens at home. You think Trestman doesn’t know that.

        The QB whisperer knew he had a better chance with a rusty Jay against the 7th ranked Brown defense (4th against the pass) on the road, over Josh. Josh’s house money would have probably run out horribly against that ball hawking defense.

        I totally agree with you on Jay’s forcing the ball issues. It drives me crazyyyyy. He shows me way too much Favre, for my liking. BUT, if Trestman can bring those numbers down to a 2:1 intercept rate, which he’s making progress with, we may have one of the most feared offenses for years to come. That won’t happen with Josh or any other “developmental” QB as you spend 3-4 years bringing them up to speed wasting this offense in the mean time.

        And it ‘s also apples to oranges when you compare Jay’s career as a Bear to Josh’s.

        For the first 3 years Jay had NO wide receivers (Knox graded out as the worst rcvr in the league with ints against, because he wouldn’t fight for the ball. Unless it was on the numbers he gave up his route). I mean for goodness sake at one time Hester was considered a primary receiver. During those 3 years the Bears O-line graded out 30th to 32nd in the league. It’s no wonder Jay locked on Marshall when he got him. His int’s those years were more attributable to no o-line or WR’s.

        Josh was average (3-2) against some pretty bad (historically in Dallas’ case) defenses. That won’t cut it in the playoffs against the best teams’ week in week out.

        I highly doubt that Josh wins on the road against the Browns, Philly, or even at against a healthy Rodgers. He just can’t make the throws in the red zone and he needs receivers bailing him out. With Jay, at least, we have a chance.

        By the way, your moniker fits you.

        Kurt

        • Eternal pessemist

          I agree on my moniker. jay was surrounded by talent in Denver and had pretty good results (but ultimately dropped the ball). trestman’s scheme is good, but requires discipline that jay still won’t show. He is what he is. McCown ‘s results will cintinue to be good with this offensive talent and scheme. Two more years of mccown, draft a qb, spend the savings on the D! Apologies to Cubs fans for all the bears talk.

          • Kurt

            Uh, not really.

            That year Denver’s defense was horrible. In their 8 losses they gave up an average of 33.4 points PER game; and 34.35 points per game per year, that’s not on the QB.

            That Denver defense was strikingly similar to this year’s Bear defense.

            • Eternal pessemist

              I was more referring to Jay’s personal stats being helped by good offensive help (especially Marshall), though a choking, gunslinging qb that turns over the ball a lot gives the other team more (and better) scoring chances. Not sure how much he played a role in Denver’s defensive woes, but get a qb with a great td:int ratio and see what happens (Manning). The opponent gets fewer and tougher chances

              • Kurt

                Choking?

                Are you talking about his perfect QB rating on third down (11/12, 152 yard, 2 TD’s) or his 142 rating in the 4th QB?

                Or how he has the top 4th quarter rating in the NFL?

                Or are you talking about how after he threw a pick 6 and red zone int, that he choked the team back to a win, on the road, against the 4th best pass defense?

                Choking is not a fact, it’s an opinion.

                You don’t like the man, got it.

                Sadly, too many Bears fans would rather see the Bears lose with Josh than win with Cutler.

                It’s a shame that east coast TV like the NFL network, Fox, or ESPN can lead people through the nose on who to like or dislike.

                “Like” Brady (goes to pieces when things go bad), Vick (dog killer), Favre (_enis picks to married women), Kobe (rapist), yet “hate” Cutler(coz, you know, he scowls, not very photogenic).

                Tried to do the same thing to Steve Carlton in the day coz he’d tell the media to take a flying leap.

                Arnold, once said, when he was winning Mr. Olympia titles, that he wanted to be a politician because 95& of people were waiting for someone to tell them what to do and what to think…boy was he right.

                • Eternal Pessimist

                  “Are you talking about his perfect QB rating on third down (11/12, 152 yard, 2 TD’s) or his 142 rating in the 4th QB?”

                  Funny, someone was just mentioning the straw man argument…and didn’t you just complain about McCown’s small sample size this year. I never said Cutler choked in the 4th quarter specifically…if he chokes badly early in the game he can take the team out of the game just as easily. He may be the right guy to put in a game in the 4th quarter when you’re down by 21 and you need a lot of fast points, regardless of risks of making mistakes. On the other hand his style may just lose you the game in the first, second or third. If his 4th quarter stats are so good, his 1st – 3rd must be pretty pedestrian.

                  “yet “hate” Cutler(coz, you know, he scowls, not very photogenic)”

                  No…but I don’t like Cutler because he is a dick. I’m not one of those whose dislike makes me change my opinion about his team effort/performance (I sure didn’t complain when he had to come out of the game with a partially torn MCL…it was the no-brainer right move).

                  “Arnold, once said, when he was winning Mr. Olympia titles, that he wanted to be a politician because 95& of people were waiting for someone to tell them what to do and what to think…boy was he right.”

                  Then you should resist letting Arnold tell you what to think in the future. You may be better off.

                  • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

                    You guys realize there is a BN Bears page? This discussion would be perfect for there.

                    • hansman

                      And itd be prerred if for no otger reason than to move that site up the page rankings

  • Soda Popinski

    I cannot believe this thread. People are still not seeing that wins isn’t that great of an indicator to how well a pitcher pitched. Unbelievable. Kudos for your attempted educational post, Brett. To be fair, I’m sure some people changed their minds but didn’t post about it.

    • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

      It’s hard to accept when something you’ve spent a whole life believing was important to a sport you love is actually a horrible stat, the normal response is to rebel and say “Nuh uh my stat is not stupid your stat is stupid.” Eventually everyone will see the errors and embrace the obvious but it takes time.

      • Soda Popinski

        The allegory of the cave comes to mind…

  • Fishin Phil

    We can only hope.

    • oswego chris

      When it comes to baseball statistics, it seems like we have something akin to a political spectrum now. On the far right(Old time stats) would be Hawk (TWTW) Harrelson and on the far left would be Billy Beane I suppose. Bill James would be like the transformative figure that started the whole thing….I definitely lean to the left(newer stats) but being a middle-aged guy I still have a bit of love for some of the old stats

      • Fishin Phil

        I hear you on that. Being older than dirt, I still look at the Old Stats, I just don’t put as much stock in them as I used to.

        • DarthHater

          Exactly.

          • JulioZuleta

            I know that the W is essentially useless, but I’m not quite the Brian Kenney “Kill the Win” type. I still think it’s cool when a pitcher gets 20 Wins and I’ll always remember being at Wrigley when Glavine won his 300th. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the romantic nature of some of the “counting” stats (RBI, Wins, Saves…), I just know that they aren’t worth a whole lot in terms of evaluating a player or predicting future performance.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          Yeah it tough for dirty wooden puppets to change you need a belt sander to get all that old grime and varnish to come off.

      • Eternal pessemist

        Hmmm old time dumb stats are right wing and new smarter stats off the Beaner are left-wing? Oswego Chris approves of this (political) message!

  • http://thenewenthusiast.com dw8

    “Actually, I do get it: the reason win/loss record has gotten so much play over the years is because of the unfortunate pairing to the words “win” and “loss,” which, at the team level, are the most important numbers in any given season.”

    One could argue that as a predictive or evaluative measure, team “Wins” and “Losses” are too, less helpful than they seem.

    • Ken

      That maybe the case but Pythagorean record doesn’t get you into the playoffs.

  • Ken

    I agree that the W-L record isn’t a great stat but the stridency of which Brett and others (I’m looking at you Brian Kenney) rail against it is ridiculous. Pitcher A having a better record than pitcher B certainly isn’t an indication that pitcher A is superior and the # of baseball fans that argue that fact is so miniscule there is no use wasting breath on them. However you have to pitch very well to go 24-0, plain and simple. No bad pitcher will go 24-0. 24-0 is not predictive to be certain but it is, to some degree, an indicator to how well he pitched. There are certainly ptichers in individual seasons that didn’t pitch well and had a winning record (Storm Davis 1989) and pitchers that did pitch well that had a losing record (Nolan Ryan 1987) but over the course of one’s career good pitchers will have a winning record (maybe not representative of how well he pitched but…) and vice versa. The only starting pitcher that had a significant # of starts (300+) that was a good pitcher and had a losing record that I can think of is Jack Powell http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/powelja01.shtml and his record turned to losing in the last years of his career.

    • DarthHater

      “24-0 is not predictive to be certain but it is, to some degree, an indicator to how well he pitched.”

      True. But if you are trying to decide whether a pitcher is worth keeping or acquiring, you want stats that are more predictive and that indicate, to a greater degree, how well the guy has pitched. There are stats other than W-L that meet those criteria and hence are more useful.

      • Ken

        Absolutely agree!

        • DarthHater

          :-D

          • DarthHater

            I actually had a civil exchange with someone, resulting in agreement. It’s a Christmas miracle! ;-)

            • Fishin Phil

              Next up: Feats of Strength

              • DarthHater

                Okay, okay. It’s a Festivus miracle.

                • DarthHater

                  Now for the Airing of Grievances…

                  • Jono

                    Let’s start with this:

                    Going by Darth Bane’s rule of two, you must have an apprentice.

                    Since I don’t see one around, can I become Darth Burger?

                    • hansman

                      “Since I don’t see one around, can I become Darth Burger?”

                      Most certainly NOT.

                    • Jono

                      haha, I figured you might have a problem with that.

                  • Jono

                    wait a second. You wouldn’t call youself Darth Hater if you’re not familiar with the rules, would you?

                    Rule of Two, bro.

      • Ken

        I guess my greater point is that if someone came to you as a GM of a team and said, “Hey, there’s this guy in Japan that went 24-0 last year. Would in be interested in finding out more about him?” If I were to be a card carrying fundamentalist member of the #killthewin evangelical church I would have to say, “That means nothing! How do I know if that guy just didn’t get lucky 24 times!” Where as any free thinking individual would say, “HELL YES!”

        • Eternal pessemist

          Sure, and if the guys ops+ was .600 i would hope to sign him before anyone else figured out how good he was. If his ops+ was .900 i would completely dismiss his record as extreme good luck.

          Wins are good for pedicting team quality and fairly bad at predicting individual player quality. Pretty soon thay will start identifying the worse player on championship teams and telling us how much the win-loss record reflects on them as players…what nonsense.

          • Ken

            The chances of a 24-0 pitcher having an OPS+ of .900 is exactly zero.

            • hansman

              Actually, that is incredibly possible no matter how you look at it.

              If the pitchers OPS+ against was .9 that means the leauge hit terribly against him. Most pitchers are so terrible with the bat that he could easily have an OPS+ of .9, but that would have such a small impact on his W/L record so as to be non-existant.

              (BTW, league average OPS+ is 100. So saying that his OPS+ Against was .9 means that the league average OPS was amazingly better than the OPS of the hitters that faced him. A 110 OPS+ indicates the league average was 10% worse than you.)

              • Ken

                I’ll repeat. Zero chance he goes 24-0

                • Patrick W.

                  Close to zero, but not zero.

                • hansman

                  Then you’re not understanding OPS+.

                  A .9 OPS+ plus is such an incredibilly small number that we are talking about a season that would feature multiple no hitters, a couple perfect games and an ERA somewhere south of 0.50

                  Now, if his OPS against was 0.900, then yes, there is an incredibly small chance he goes 24-0.

                  However, this discussion highlights the flaw of W-L. We have no idea how he performed just that it, probably, was good. Did he perform better or worse than the guy who went 20-4? Is it likely that he will be really good next year? Will he be better than the guy who went 20-4?

                  For the casual fan who doesn’t really follow the sport too closely, sure, use W-L. Since you are posting on a website dedicated to the Cubs, I am guessing you follow baseball a little more closely than that.

                  • Eternal Pessimist

                    Thank you for the correction…I was in a trance while writing that.

        • Patrick W.

          Hang on… there is a logical fallacy in your post:

          “Hey, there’s this guy in Japan that went 24-0 last year. Would in be interested in finding out more about him?” If I were to be a card carrying fundamentalist member of the #killthewin evangelical church I would have to say, “That means nothing! How do I know if that guy just didn’t get lucky 24 times!”

          See the problem? If you were a card carrying fundamentalist member of said church, you would simply answer “Of course I do, because I don’t have enough information if all you’re giving me is his win loss record”

          Now if you came to GM me and said “Hey, there’s this guy in Japan that went 24-0 last year. Would you like to sign him without any more information?” then I might respond more similarly to what you suggest.

          • Ken

            No I don’t see the problem. Because a fundamentalist has NO tolerance for anything that does not sit within their belief set (i.e. #killthewin). So, therefore they would not acknowledge the 24-0 record as evidence worth investigating.

    • Nick

      Yes, but why have it at all then? Why not just provide quality starts – non-quality starts? Or some other, much more indicative stat that tells you how good that pitcher was?

      The reason people rail against it, is not solely based on its limited value, more so on the ultimate value ‘some’ people place on it. It becomes increasingly annoying having to explain why Johan Santana was better than Bartolo Colon in 2005 even though he won 5! fewer games (in my example below).

      I personally fall somewhere in between. I use it as defined – as in – how many wins was this pitcher assigned in a given year, knowing I need to look at defense, bullpen, run support and general luck factors to gauge that W/L total. I would not miss it for a second if it disappeared from baseball, but I don’t go out of my way to ‘rail against’ it either.

    • JulioZuleta

      Sure, no bad pitcher is going to go 24-0. But 24-0 alone does not necessarily mean a pitcher is as dominant as his record seems to show.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Ultimately, this is a lot like RBI in that people will resort to the old “if wins are meaningless, then why did the original scorekeepers devise the stat?”

    This is no different from saying: “if phlogiston does not cause fires, then why did the original chemists think so?” Just like nature, we now understand baseball much, much better than people did 100 years ago. (Indeed, we probably are putting words in the mouths of people who tallied Wins, Loses and RBI: noting outcomes and claiming that they are predictive or meaningful are two different things.) We know what performance traits by pitchers predict next year’s performance, and we know which ones really improve a pitcher’s chances of minimizing runs allowed. GM’s that pay attention to those do much better at improving their staffs than those that pay attention to W-L records. (There probably are only about 3 of those left, anyway.)

    • jh03

      Jack Z, Ruben, annnnnnddddddd ??

      I’m blanking.

    • Stinky Pete

      I read a book about a dude that goes back in time and plays baseball with the 1869 Reds. He talks about AJ Reach being obsessed with leading the league in Runs and tries to communicate current day (Which is to say 1990ish) lineup construction theory and they all call him nuts. When I read it, I thought, “That’s odd. No one is obsessed with racking up run totals now. Now everyone wants RBIs.”

      Point being, Theory changes over time. I wonder if someday, my children or grandchildren will scoff at wOBA or FIP.

      • jh03

        “I wonder if someday, my children or grandchildren will scoff at wOBA or FIP.”

        I hope my children do. That means we, as a sport, have improved upon ourselves and came even closer to perfecting stats. If there ever comes a time, short of perfecting *everything*, where people stop trying to reduce the margin of error in stats, then I’m going to guess that baseball is dying or is dead.

    • http://c Bluz Cluz

      RBI’s are not useless. They may not be a very important stat, compared to others, but useless it is not. It tells us a lot more than W/L does about pitchers.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        What RBI tell us is the OBP of the two guys in front of a batter and his slugging.

        • http://www.michigangoat.blogspot.com MichiganGoat

          After demolishing pitcher wins from the box score we need to demolish the RBI stat.

          • commander bob

            Let’s just put the final scores only. No box score.

            Make it just like it was in the 1890s. That would be so cool. Pud Galvin would think that’s really neat.

            • Patrick W.

              Because that’s the alternative to having a few crappy stats disappeared, having all stats disappeared.

              • TWC

                aka Reductio ad commanderbobum

  • Nick

    The biggest W/L travesty in my recent memory was 2005 AL Cy Young award going to a 21-8 Bartolo Colon over 16-7 Johan Santana. Here were the other stats:

    ERA / FIP / K/9 BB/9 WAR
    Colon 3.48 / 3.75 / 6.35 / 1.74 / 4.3
    Santana 2.87 / 2.80 / 9.25 / 1.75 / 7.6

    Think maybe Colon’s 5 extra wins had anything to do with the Twins being the lowest scoring team in the AL that year?

    Stepping back, I really don’t see the need to assign a W to a pitcher. What’s the point of having a single pitcher be awarded the stat? We now have a plethora of stats available to see who provided the most value, performed the best, was the luckiest, etc – why do we further need the W?

    • Stinky Pete

      Why not give a W to every played on the field?

      • Nick

        I predict there will be, if there isn’t already, a Win attribution formula, similar to financial portfolio performance. Each player in a game will receive a portion of a W (summing to 1 for all players) based on WPA or similar. That would hopefully also take into account defense. So for the Verlander / Sale example, Verlander would get something like 0.9 wins, the Tigers offensive players would split 0.1 wins for not doing much, Sale would get 0.1 losses and the White Sox offensive players would total 0.9 loses to indicate who was actually more responsible for the win/loss as a team. Could also expand it to negative numbers if you get the math right. I know there are lots of people here smarter than me, so please go ahead and figure this out for me, thanks…

        • Stinky Pete

          Is that like if you hit 4 hrs and your team loses, you get negative losses?

        • Bwa

          I really like this idea. My suggestion would be to make it more of a plus minus system where each game has a total of zero (1 win + 1 loss=0) If you contribute greatly on the winning team you will be be highly positive, closer to 1, and if you suck on the losing team you will be highly negative, closer to -1. However if you hit 4 home runs on the losing team you may still be positive for that game while the winning teams starter might be negative. The actual formula would be brutally difficult to configure I’d imagine.

          • Nick

            That’s right, akin to portfolio performance attribution – you could be up 5% in financials sector, but have a drag of -15% in industrials, therefore negative for the period, but financials still outperformed. The same thing if you hit 4 HRs, you might have a big + W number, but your teammates (likely pitchers) would have larger negative numbers.

    • Eternal pessemist

      Great example Nick.

  • http://BN Sacko

    And then eventually HOF inductees will have no use for W and L’s. Right?

    • Eternal pessemist

      Hopefully:!

  • Caleb

    Good article, and a point that needed making!

    But I’ve always wondered if there was some slight reverse-effect. Like, if it was SEEN as an important indicator by pitchers, players, etc. (and the dudes who write the checks to free agent pitchers) does a pitcher give extra effort or skill to get a win? To push through that last batter to get through 5 innings? I dunno. But some FOs still value the stat (and more used to) so, if you’re a pitcher looking for a payday, do you change your approach at all?

    Always wondered. Anyway. Back to boozing.

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    Wins/Losses come from the era when pitchers threw complete games. Fergie Jenkins was cited earlier. He pitched complete games and lost many times (sorry, I don’t have the stats – just a bad memory). In this sense, it was no doubt thought that the pitcher had much more to do with the outcome of the game, as he often threw eight or nine innings.

    Today’s pitchers are often pulled after five or six innings. For that reason alone wins/losses are not the same stats as they were 30 or more years ago. I agree that it might be time for a change. I would like to see the wins/losses of HOF pitchers 20 years from now. They won’t even have 200 wins!! You can’t compare different eras. It’s a fun exercise, but it can’t be done!

    • Drew

      I’d have to disagree that pitchers years from now won’t have 200 wins… In this era of power pitching and the surplus of arms coming through the minors, international, college, high school and the drug programs in place to reduce players from cheating. Pitching is becoming the dominating factor in games. The debate about the value of wins/loses can go on and on but to eliminate the stat would be useless. No matter how many sabremetrics are used and stats outside of wins accounted for, the average fan (ones who don’t look heavy into that stuff) will still look at wins/era/K/BB for a pitcher. Teams will sell this stuff to fans and justify their contract. Your average fan does not look at perpherals like many of us here do.

      Going back to pitchers not exceeding 200 wins in the future, I would argue there are more opportunities with the young players in today’s game to winn 200+.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Ascribing the shift in favor of pitching to PEDs greatly over-simplifies things. For one thing, pitchers also benefit from PEDs. For another, it disregards:
        1) pitchers having access to heat-zone data;
        2) the realization the getting ground balls are a repeatable skill;
        3) the re-expanded strike zone;
        4) the switch back to a less bouncy ball.

        Even given these things, 200 win pitchers will still be rare for one very good reason: the basic tactics of starting pitching have changed. We have more pitchers than ever routinely throwing 90+, and three times as many as we had just 10 years ago. Sure, PEDs probably account for some of this, but the other thing is that starters pace themselves less than ever before. This means that they often are done after 6 innings: and that in turn means a lot of no-decisions.

    • Kurt
  • bobk

    A dumpy pitcher will not collect many wins.
    A good pitcher will.

    Ofcoarse there outside factors that effect this but over time a good pitcher more than likely collect more wins.

    I don’t think the stat is bad or insignificant. Its just that it is that simple. It gains more value as the sample size increases. So the stat is pretty specific to that player and it cant be used to compare two pitchers.

    Many of the more complex statistics can be misleading as well. The key to evaluating talent is combining multiple stats and ofcoarse the eye test.

    If you have any experience with data collection and stats you know that most stats can be manipulated to look the way you want. Eye of the beholder type stuff.

    • Chad

      Pitchers that had more wins that Felix Hernandez (WAR= 6.0) last year:
      Jeremy Guthrie (1.1)
      AJ Griffin (1.4)
      Rick Porcello (3.2)

  • Jon

    What’s it with guys named “bob” and “meatball opinions” On the Boers and Bernstein show in Chicago , they avoid taking calls specifically by guys named bob..lol

  • RoscoeVillageFan

    I read BN everyday and occasionally comment. I was definitely an apparent, although unintentionally, an instigator in the 24-0 statements praising Tanaka. I’ve long agreed with Brett and the many of the advanced descriptive stats for baseball on looking for mlb talent. I think that instead of talking about this stuff in terms which side of the fence you fall on (old school TWTW vs advanced stats) we all need to take one collective deep breath before we go crazy on a statement that 24-0 is impressive. We already know the guy is good but will he be darvish or dice-k? I didn’t think W-L fully described him as a pitcher but I thought it was sure interesting that he didn’t have a single LOSS that year, luck or not. High school or college pitcher that do that get drafted and a Japanese pitcher that do that get PAID.
    It’s delusional to think you’ll get tanaka for anything less than a boatload of money. These 6yr 17mil/yr proposals are about as lame or ridiculous as this whole W-L debate. Moreover, W-L cannot be meaningless by definition but the debate should be (and really is this whole time) what stat or combo of stats is both sensitive and specific for predicting future success. And how much is that potential success worth? I think we can put wins or losses squarely out of the conversation. Still, maybe consider not jumping all over someone’s observation of a statistical anomaly on a zero loss season, or even letting people consider that that zero loss season just might be slightly meaningful in assessing Tanaka’s talent level. The other stats help build a far better case for why the cubs are gonna need to shell out money to get him but it’s still impressive on a personal level that every time he went out, he never lost. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Jono

    Brett- Will it be possible to change our usernames after we register?

  • ClevelandCubsFan

    1993 – Anthony Young or Ben Rivers?

    Young: 1-16
    Rivera: 13-9

    Huge difference right!?!!?

    Nope:
    Young: -.4 WAR
    Rivera: -.1 WAR

    They were both about average. That’s Baseball-Reference’s numbers. You can look at other stats, too.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    very interesting. Buster Olney thinks Tanaka will only get between$60-100million. quite the range. He doesn’t he breaks $100mil

    • Jono

      how many years?

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        Olney does an interview. Video is at the bottom of the page.
        http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/yankees/post/_/id/67987/tanaka-or-bust

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          Its interesting how the New York Yankees media is build Tanaka up to be Tanaka or bust for them…. Doesn’t make me feel good about our chances

        • Jono

          nice video. I’d be disappointed if another team gets him for the lower end of the range. 25 year old? I could see him accepting a 5 year deal with the thinking that he can get another one while still being effective. If he went 7 years, he might be on the decline by the time the contract was up, which would hurt his second deal. I think others have discussed that idea of accepting a shorter contract in order to get the second one at the players’ prime value

    • Jon

      That would be an absolute steal, (assuming Tananka just doesn’t fall on his face in the States)

  • JulioZuleta

    Here’s a partial list of the 15 losingest (most losses, not winning percentage) of the last 8 years: Wandy Rodriguez, Ervin Santana, James Shields, AJ Burnett, Felix Hernandez, Aaron Harang, Edwin Jackson, Matt Cain, Mark Buerhle, Dan Haren, Paul Maholm.

    Top 5 Pitchers (in losses) all time: Cy Young, Bud Galvin, Nolan Ryan, Walter Johnson, Phil Niekro. I know this isn’t exactly on point with the rest of the argument (it takes a good pitcher to be around long enough to lose that many games), but still, I thought it was interesting.

    • Kurt

      “Top 5 Pitchers (in losses) all time” Awesome stat!

      You can close this thread now as this should end the argument though sadly, it won’t.

  • JoeyCollins

    KillTheWin

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