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Jeff Gray and the absurdity of pitcher “wins”

Apr 12, 2012, 5:17 PM EDT


Twins reliever Jeff Gray is a 30-year-old journeyman who, as of yesterday afternoon, had one career victory as a big leaguer. Now he has three career victories and how he got there is hilarious.

Last night Gray entered the game with two outs in the seventh inning and the Twins down 5-3. He retired Peter Bourjos to end the frame and then Minnesota scored three runs in the next half-inning, making Gray the pitcher of record and giving him a win for throwing exactly one pitch.

This afternoon Gray entered the game with two outs in the eighth inning and the Twins down 7-6. He retired Howie Kendrick to end the frame and then Minnesota scored four runs in the next half-inning. Gray once again got the win, although this time he threw two pitches instead of one.

So, in the span of about 18 hours Gray went from one career win to three career wins, all while facing two hitters and throwing a grand total of three pitches. Obviously he just knows how to win.

  1. kopy - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:24 PM

    2-0 record this early? Looks like a Cy Young candidate to me!

    I’m not sure what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but they didn’t look so hot against the juggernaut Twins and Royals.

    • - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:33 PM

      Remember last year when they blew 25 saves and they didn’t add much bullpen depth….um yeah. Of course, I say this with the obligitory “It’s early but still” caveat. But some trends in a baseball team seem to occure from year to year.

      • kopy - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:43 PM

        Yeah, any observations for this season should be taken with a grain of salt. I just assume we all know this so I’ve gotten lazy about throwing out a “sample size” disclaimer. You’re right about that bullpen, though. From what I gathered from tracking the game during work, they really let the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim down, unless Haren was left in through all of it (which wouldn’t make sense at all).

    • proudlycanadian - Apr 12, 2012 at 6:28 PM

      Break up the Angels!

  2. missthedayswhenwedidnthavetologin - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    I like in Ball Four how Bouton touts his W-L record. He was like “Well why if the Yankees wanted a middle relief, knuckleballer why didn’t they just call me? This guy’s record is 1-1, mine’s 1-0! Etc, etc” Why’d it take so long for Dubya’s to lose their luster?

  3. normcash - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    No worse (maybe not as worse) as Opening Day in Detroit where Justin Verlander goes
    8 innings, shutting out Boston on 2 hits, Valverde blows the save in the ninth and the Tigers
    score in the bottom half to win.

    Valverde: 1 inning, 2 runs, 3 hits—he gets the win

    Verlander: 8 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits—he gets a no-decision

    Seems to me the scoring rules should give the official scorer some discretion…

    • paperlions - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:36 PM

      Or, better yet, it could be recognized that teams win games, not pitchers. If the concept of pitcher wins was abandoned it would do the baseball world some good.

      • stex52 - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:10 PM

        I have been thinking about doing away with wins for pitchers for a while. It’s obvious that a solid pitcher for the Yankees is going to stack up wins and burnish a possible HOF nomination (think Andy Pettitte). While a real ace for a poor or mediocre team (insert name here) will be lucky to get more than 12-15 wins in a season.

        Perhaps in the previous days they didn’t have enough tools to rate pitchers. But we can do better now.

      • dan1111 - Apr 13, 2012 at 5:26 AM

        I don’t think assigning wins to starters is so bad. A large part of how we watch a baseball game is as a duel between pitchers. There is nothing wrong with saying the better starter “won”; nor does this mean someone thinks no other players were involved in the result.
        The starter does have a greater influence on the outcome of the game than any other single player.

        The problem comes not from the statistic itself but its misunderstanding and misuse. It is not the best measure of a player’s talent or value, nor is it a good predictor of performance. It is a record of something that happened. What happened matters, because ultimately the baseball season is based on results. A mediocre team can make an exciting playoff run. A mediocre pitcher can get lucky and win 20 starts. Both are part of the story.

        Reliever wins, on the other hand, are garbage. They shouldn’t be tracked at all.

      • paperlions - Apr 13, 2012 at 7:43 AM

        Exactly Dan….what happened does matter….to the team, giving the pitcher credit for the “win” or “loss” typically gives that individual too much credit/blame for the event. As you said, it is a poor measure of the contribution of the individual….so giving the individual credit/blame is inappropriate and an inaccurate reflection of what happened vis-a-vis pitching performances.

        It is like evaluating QB records to evaluate QB performance. It gives the QB far too much credit for the team’s play. It skews the perspective on a player’s contribution to winning. Does anyone really think Mark Sanchez is a good NFL QB? Most years his team has won a lot of games and gone deep into the playoffs, but it has usually done so in spite of his “efforts” more than because of them…yet, referring to QB record has dramatically changed the narrative and given a false impression of his abilities/performances.

      • Jonny 5 - Apr 13, 2012 at 8:30 AM

        Dan, High fives! I think you hit the nail on the head. I have no issues with the win stat hung on pitchers. I have a problem with people using it to evaluate how good or bad a pitcher is. The pitcher only has control over runs scored against and hits. He has no control over an anemic offense and that should have no bearing on pitcher quality. This is pretty much common sense and doesn’t take a stat head to realize, yet many supposed “baseball experts” brandish it around for HOF and Cy Young considerations. Lame…

      • paperlions - Apr 13, 2012 at 8:42 AM

        Totally agree Johnny. The biggest problem isn’t the stat itself, but how people try to use it. Like the “save”, pitch wins doesn’t mean what people try to make it mean.

    • Jeremy Fox - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      Back in the early decades of baseball official scorers did have much more discretion in which pitcher to award the win. Basically, they’d award the win to whichever guy pitched ‘the best’ or pitched the bulk of the innings. I recall reading a very detailed article about this many, many years ago in the SABR journal, from a guy who’d been going back through old box scores to reconstruct the typical scoring practice (the ‘unwritten rules’, if you like) and how it changed over time.

    • ezthinking - Apr 12, 2012 at 7:29 PM

      Pretty easy really, lost the lead, no win.

  4. phrontiersman - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    If I’m Play Indexing right, this is only the second time a guy has gotten wins in 2 straight appearances while throwing 2 or fewer pitches in each. Willie Blair did it in 1990, also throwing three pitches.

  5. davidpom50 - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    It’s obvious to those of us who watch the game instead of just looking at “numbers” like “batters faced” and “pitch count” that Gray deserved the win. Liriano, Burnett, Burton, and Duensing clearly did not do enough to inspire the Twins’ offense.

  6. racksie - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    And the “Ace” Liriano did nothing.

  7. racksie - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    And yes, Gleeman, I will keep mocking you for calling Liriano the Twins ace.

    • racksie - Apr 12, 2012 at 7:14 PM

      Dang, Gleeman. How come you don’t have a limit on thumbs?

    • racksie - Apr 12, 2012 at 7:19 PM

      So are thumbs down for mocking Gleeman for saying something, ignorant, and patently untrue, or because you feel bad for him?

      • Kevin S. - Apr 12, 2012 at 9:36 PM

        Might be because you’re acting like a whiny little bitch.

      • racksie - Apr 16, 2012 at 1:07 PM

        And using the term whiny little bitch ,makes you sound like a whiny little bitch. It was a statement of fact. He tried to make Liriano the Twins ace. No where near that. and at his age he really shouldn’t be thought of as having potential. He’s underperformed almost his entire career. And his happy to bail after 6 innings rather sack up and go longer into the game.

  8. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    I think I’m going to do 5 minutes of work in May and claim myself employee of the month, using similar circumstance :)

    (I kid, I kid – this is flipping awesome.)

  9. Tim's Neighbor - Apr 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Steroids have ruined the game.

    • Cris E - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:50 PM

      Well, steroids, the wild card, the other wild card, Moneyball, the DH, artificial turf, night baseball, integration, home runs, overhand pitching and paid players. It’s all been downhill since they started getting paid…

  10. 18thstreet - Apr 12, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    Valverde got the win in the Tigers’ opener despite being the worst pitcher for either team that day.

  11. genericcommenter - Apr 12, 2012 at 7:40 PM

    Notable win-compiler Jamie Moyer didn’t have many more career wins going into his age 30 season.

  12. Chris K - Apr 12, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Somewhere, a lone tear rolls down Dave Stieb’s eye.

  13. cktai - Apr 13, 2012 at 5:56 AM

    I suggest we change “wins” to “TIWTTHTLWTPLTMPTTLINSRATITPITSPHPAL5I’s” (Times in which the team has the lead when the pitcher leaves the match, provided that this lead is not subsequently relinquished, and that if the pitcher is the starting pitcher, he pitched at least 5 innings) since that better reflects what it actually means to get this stat.

    • cktai - Apr 13, 2012 at 5:59 AM

      sorry, TIWTTHTLWTPLTMPTTLWAWTPWITLUATIINSRATITPITSPHPAL5I’s for Times in which the team has the lead when the pitcher leaves the match, provided that this lead was achieved while the pitcher was in the line up and that it is not subsequently relinquished, and that if the pitcher is the starting pitcher, he pitched at least 5 innings

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