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What the heck are "pressure starts?"

Oct 4, 2010, 1:30 PM EDT

I’m not going to re-re-re-rehash the AL Cy Young arguments here, but this thing from the Daily News’ Bill Madden — Spink Award-winning Bill Madden — begs to be highlighted:

The sabermetric guys are making the case for Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, who belies his 13-12 record with a league-leading 2.27 ERA, 249.2
innings, 30 quality starts and, in their jargon a plus-five in
“adjustable pitching wins.” If you simply asked who’s the best pitcher
in baseball? – it would have to be King Felix. But, for this award this
year, we would dare to inject another intangible – pressure starts –
which would then shift the focus to Tampa Bay’s David Price and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who can both make the case that every one of their starts was an important one.

I’ve not seen one sabermetric writer base the case for Hernandez on “adjustable pitching wins.” I’ve seen many make their case on oh-so-esoteric concepts like ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched. Run support is about as technical as it has gotten, and baseball fans have understood the concept of run support since, oh, the mid-19th century. To make this a thing about statheads and their “jargon” is ridiculous.

And it’s made even more ridiculous by the fact that Madden himself makes up a stat on the spot: “pressure starts.” What are those? No idea, because Madden doesn’t define them, even if he says that Hernandez is “the victim of having made zero” of them. I dare say that if the “sabermetric guys” just made up a stat like that and used to end the debate, QED, Madden would have a hissy fit. It’s OK when he does it, though.

But of course we know what he’s getting at here: Sabathia and Price play for teams that won a lot of games and they have a lot of wins themselves. Same old argument for wins, just dressed up with a different and — Madden probably hopes — less controversial title.  Which is fine. He’s the Hall of Fame-honored writer. Let him do what he wants in such matters.

I’d just feel better about it all if he could explain how Sabathia and Price’s starts were so pressure-filled, what with both of their teams being all but assured of spots in the playoffs for the past couple of months.

  1. YANKEES1996 - Oct 4, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    I believe that pitchers success is also measured in Wins, if I am not mistaken. My point is that these awards are not given for medocrity and 13 wins vs 12 losses is most certainly a mediocre performance.

  2. scatterbrian - Oct 4, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    You are mistaken. Pitchers have been awarded wins and losses forever, but that’s not necessarily a measurement of a pitcher’s success…that’s a measurement of team success. Otherwise you’re saying, for example, Gio Gonzalez is better than Felix or Cliff Lee….

  3. John_Michael - Oct 4, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Either protectthishouse54 just went all Jonathan Swift on us, or Paper Lions took the words out of my mouth.

  4. Jonny5 - Oct 5, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    You didn’t enjoy my satire??? Huh, and i worked so hard on that too….
    Yes he is an excellent pitcher, and I love the guy. I just don’t see how he deserves the Cy Young when this guy Felix is beating him in every category besides one. Wins and losses. So now because CC beats him with that one stat, which is meaningless in determining a pitchers worth( a team’s worth yes, not a pitcher’s worth) That is now the measuring stick for the CY Young? I can’t and won’t agree.

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