It’s Time To Change
For decades, baseball fans have been accustomed to awarding a “win” and a “loss” to a pitcher in each game. I’ll be frank here and admit that I don’t know when or why the practice began. Awarding decisions makes sense when (1) it’s clear that one pitcher (usually a starting pitcher) is primarily responsible for his team’s pitching performance; and (2) there are a large number of pitchers on a team. In the very early days of baseball, when each team had one primary pitcher, that one pitcher would have received all the decisions and assigning wins and losses to that pitcher would be redundant. When games were scheduled more frequently, more starting pitchers became necessary and it made sense to determine which pitchers pitched in games the team won and which pitchers pitched in games the team lost. Over time, the number of pitchers in a game increased and it became less and less relevant to assign the responsibility for a win or a loss to one pitcher.
The Tides – Indianapolis game of May 4 illustrates the ludicrous unfairness of the current practice. The Tides won, 10-5; the losing Indianapolis Indians used three pitchers. Starting pitcher Justin Wilson was ineffective. He was given a 5-0 lead by his teammates, but surrendered three runs in the third inning and two in the fourth, leaving with the scored tied. The third pitcher, Jose Diaz, was utterly ineffective, surrendering four runs on three hits and two walks in one inning.
That leaves the second pitcher, Daniel McCutchen. McCutchen was clearly the most effective Indians pitcher — he pitched three innings and gave up one unearned run. But, he happened to have entered the game with the score tied and he happened to have given up the specific run that gave the Tides the lead — a lead they never lost. Thus, even though he was the pitcher least responsible for the loss, he was charged with the loss. This is manifestly unfair.
There is a growing realization that wins and losses, as they apply to individual pitchers, are no longer as useful in evaluating a pitcher’s effectiveness. From time to time, I will be posting my ideas on how the scoring rules should be changed so that wins and losses can be more fairly and usefully assigned.