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Jim Leyland asserts the supremacy of the pitcher win at the All-Star press conference

Jul 15, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT

Apple Citi Field

I just got back from the All-Star Game press conference in which Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy announced their starting pitchers and lineups.  As Aaron noted, we get Scherzer vs. Harvey and a couple of lineups with which you could quibble, I suppose, if you wanted to, but what’s the point, really? Go outside and play. Do something productive.

Things of random interest to me during the press conference:

  • Brian Kenny of MLB Network emceed it. When we learned it would be Max Scherzer starting, I was hoping Kenny — who has built a cottage industry of dismissing the pitcher win as a useful statistic — would go to great lengths to avoid mentioning that the most talked-about thing with Scherzer this year has been his wins. Kenny didn’t mention it.
  • Jim Leyland did, though. A couple of times. And not just Scherzer’s wins, but when he was asked about why Hiroki Kuroda wasn’t named to the team despite his great ERA, Leyland said it’s be impossible for him to have left Chris Tillman off given that he’s won 11 games. I think Kenny had to sit down for that.
  • Phillies Chairman Bill Giles is the honorary NL President. Jackie Autry is the honorary AL President. Each of them — along with Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland — gave considerable lip service to the notion of the All-Star Game determining home field advantage in the World Series. They all love it.  I had to sit down for that.
  • Bochy had the line of the presser. When asked if Matt Harvey‘s blister is going to be a problem for the All-Star Game, Bochy said he spoke with Terry Collins about it and assured him that Harvey is “gonna be limited to 100-120 pitches tomorrow night.”
  • Someone asked both managers about the “cloud” the Biogenesis scandal has cast over the All-Star Game. Know what? I’ve been here two days. Basically no one is talking about Biogenesis. There’s enough going on. I sorta wish Bochy or Leyland had said “well, son, it wasn’t casting any cloud until your question,” but they were more diplomatic than I am.

So that was the presser. On to some player interviews. Gonna ask some guys what kind of tree they’d be, were they a tree. Hoping someone says “shagbark.”

  1. cohnjusack - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Enough with pitcher wins.

    What a win is = When your team scores more runs than the other team in a game

    What a pitcher win is = (for starter) Throwing 5 or more innings, exiting the game with the lead that is subsequently not lost at any point. (for reliever) Entering a game that is either tied or with your team losing, in which your team then gains the lead before you exit and it doesn’t get relinquished. Is possible for reliever to come in with lead, lose the lead and still get the win if the offense retakes the lead.

    See how those are two very different things and how one of them is a terrible way to judge a pitcher’s ability, not to mention needlessly convoluted?

    • blacksables - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:21 PM

      Any statistic by itself is only a number. It takes another statistic to put into perspective.

      For example, if a guy hits 20 home runs, that doesn’t mean anything. If he hit them in 1 month, 1 season, or 1 career, that puts the numbers together to give a better picture of what the players power hitting ability was. If, due to injuries, the season was 100 games for that player, instead of 162, that gives even more information. If the player got into 200 games in his career, instead of 2000, that gives even more.

      Wins are a number. Put together with other numbers, be it traditional or sabermetric, they can provide a more detailed picture of what the pitcher did in week, season, or career. They are not the only number, and no one in baseball has ever pretended they were. They are one of many numbers used to make up an overall picture.

      So, yeah, some of can use wins to evaluate a pitcher, and can be just as correct as those who only discount them. There are many ways to look at the game, and no one way is entirely right.

      As always, actual knowledge of the game trumps rote memorization of statistics.

      • eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:24 PM

        Why would you ever look at pitcher wins though? And who is this strawman that memorizes stats but doesn’t understand the game?

      • cohnjusack - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        Yeah, but wins serve *zero* purpose. Any single way to wish to evaluate a pitcher can be done entirely without wins. In fact, the muck things up. They should absolutely be discounted, because they can be entirely dependent on your bullpen and offense.

        Here’s an example:

        This is a great season, right? Probably a Cy Young caliber season:
        1.87 ERA, 211 IP, 1.01 WHIP, 11 HR, 185 K’s, 226 ERA+,

        Well, Roger Clemens didn’t win it because he went 13-8, pitching in front of one of the worst offenses in baseball. What exactly does the 13-8 tell us about Clemens’ pitching ability? All it told me was that the Astros offense sucks (it did, they ranked 11th in runs scored). Everything about Clemens as a pitcher, I got from other numbers.

        The result was Clemens absurdly finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting that years…because the Astros offense sucked.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:10 PM

        As always, actual knowledge of the game trumps rote memorization of statistics.

        …and anyone with “actual knowledge of the game” is fully aware that wins tell you nothing that can’t be gleaned far more accurately from other statistics.

      • blacksables - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:17 PM

        Every statistic tell you exactly nothing.

        If a pitcher strikes out every batter, his numbers will look great.

        If catcher has a passed ball on every third strike, what purpose has it served except racking up numbers?

      • eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:31 PM

        Explain to me how wRC+ or ERA- tell me “exactly nothing”. Those are just two examples.

      • blacksables - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:39 PM

        How are those numbers determined?

        By a combination of other numbers. Go back and read my original post and try to follow along.

        Again, knowledge of the game trumps rote memorization of statistics.

      • cohnjusack - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:04 PM

        Are you being deliberately obtuse?

        Even given context, pitcher wins still tell you basically nothing. A lot of pitchers have 300 wins, with a wide variety of skills attached to them.

        On the other hand, say…strikeouts tell you that the pitcher struck out a low or few batters. Walks, ditto. Wins…well, they tell you how often OTHER people did things, like score runs or cough up leads while that pitcher was pitching.

        The point is, you could completely eliminate pitcher wins and make better assessments of a pitcher’s ability and how well they did.

        Now please, since you keep saying it, share with all of us how pitcher wins fits in with your “knowledge of the game”. Because, as a stats nerd, I still manage to watch 50 games in their entirety every year, and parts of about 50 others, either a few inning or while doing other tasks. And my “knowledge of the game” tells me that a guy going 5 innings, giving up 5 runs while his team scores 8 means wins is a bullshit statistic.

      • eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:07 PM

        Oh I read the original post, and asked questions that were dodged. You are confusing counting integers with statistics.

      • blacksables - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        It doesn’t matter how pitchers wins figure in to my evaluation of a pitcher. It’s my way. Not yours.

        I choose to look at pitchers wins for my purposes. You choose not to.

        I’m not telling you to use them if you dont want to. Why do you feel you have the right to continually tell other people not to use them?

        You don’t know what my methods are, so don’t tell me what metrics are important or aren’t.

        There are no absolutes in this, and no particular method has been proven to be the definitive answer. It’s still all guess work and interpretation. Insisting your way is the only does’t make you right. It only means you look at the game a different way.

        We all have the right to look at the game how we chose to without interference from others who choose to limit themselves.

      • eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:00 PM

        I can chose to believe the world is flat. I’d be wrong of course. And I’d be making claims against logic, reason, and science.

        I’d wager that “your method” does not feature consistent application.

        Can you share one example where looking at pitcher wins would be beneficial?

      • Reflex - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:36 PM

        No, he can’t because he has no such method. By refusing to disclose even a single scenario where pitcher wins tells us anything about pitching performance he can continue to make nebulous claims and imply that pitcher wins have in some alternate universe an actual value when in the real world they do not.

        So don’t expect him to reply with any sort of reasonable direct answer to the query. He has none.

    • Anoesis - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      Although I’ve made this very argument for years, I’m a bit taken aback that there now seems to be a rising number of people thinking this way. I’d rather not follow the crowd, but I do get somewhat nervous when I look over my shoulder and find that I’m near the front of something. When the hell did that happen? Where did all those people come from? Where can I turn off? Being ahead of the curve just means you’ll eventually get run over.

    • indaburg - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:35 PM

      There you go with your “logic” and “reason” and “facts”, cohnjusack. IF that’s your real name.

  2. sarcasticks - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    I am growing tired of the Calcaterragance: the denigration of all things and thinking created prior to the development of the advanced metrics we now know to be correct. I have no idea how Jim Leyland luck boxed an extremely successful managerial career with his outdated and incorrect thinking.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Leyland knows that the pitcher win isn’t the end all and be all of pitching performance metrics. I think he also may realize that it’s still a largely followed statistic, and when choosing the All Stars, it factors in largely because many fans want it to. So using it as a primary criterion because the fans desire to be, isn’t all that bad. This is all for the fans, no?

    • Kevin S. - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      And what, fans wouldn’t have wanted or recognized the second-best ERA in the league (in a bandbox at that) as being ASG worthy?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      I have no idea how Jim Leyland luck boxed an extremely successful managerial career with his outdated and incorrect thinking.

      Jim Leyland Career – thru 5/30/13
      1705-1682
      0.503 win %

      3400 games, 23 over .500

      This is extremely successful?

      • weaselpuppy - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:31 PM

        not every coach is a Torre/ZenMaster/DocRvers/Scotty Bowman frontrunner…

      • dtownmytown - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:44 PM

        Leyland is a good manager (average in game, but good) and you are only as good as the talent you coach. Look at the teams he has coached, Pirates, Marlins, Rockies. Now tell me what manager out there would have done better with the same talent and ownership that Leyland had to deal with? No one as the results would have been the same if not worse. The one big thing in Leyland’s favor is he knows how to manage the ego’s in the game which is why you never hear about locker room issues with his club. Even Francona, who is probably a better manager, has had divisive cancerous locker rooms. If not he would still be with Boston.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:12 PM

        Look at the teams he has coached, Pirates, Marlins, Rockies. Now tell me what manager out there would have done better with the same talent and ownership that Leyland had to deal with?

        1990 Pirates – 95-67, first place in NL, 4 game ahead of the Mets/Reds
        1991 Pirates – 98-64, first place in the NL, 4 games ahead of the Braves
        1992 Pirates – 96-66, first in NL E, 2 GB Atlanta for best record in NL
        1993 Pirates – 75-87 (note a certain player left this offseason, wonder if that helped this man?)

        1997 Marlins – Won the WS

        Looks to me like he had plenty of talented teams/players.

      • abaird2012 - Jul 16, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Manager Wins are probably less meaningful than Pitcher Wins.

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM

        I am totally down with the Pitcher ‘W’ not being truly indicative to how the pitcher pitched.
        But run that RBI thing by me a gain…

    • moogro - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      Luck boxed is right. You can do that when your team has pocket aces.

    • dtownmytown - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      Even Max Scherzer agrees – “Everybody else seems like they want to just (use) the wins stat, when it’s probably the most fluky stat of all pitching stats,” says Scherzer, the Detroit Tigers star.

      • km9000 - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:24 PM

        And I’m sure there’s no GM out there who says “Sure, a lot of his numbers look nice, but look at that record. No need to re-sign him.”

        Agents have to know this, so why don’t more of their clients feel that way?

    • Anoesis - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:50 PM

      Attempting to apply your handle to your post was unsuccessful. Apparently you are being forced to read Craig’s stuff at gunpoint. Try inserting a plea for help into your next snarky post and we’ll call the wambulance for you.

    • indaburg - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:45 PM

      I’m also a bit tired of Leylandworship. I do admire the man, and I greatly respect what he has meant to the game. I want to drink whiskey with him and have him tell me stories, and croon some tunes. I hear he has a sweet voice. But I also think he’s a dinosaur, a relic of a bygone era. He needs to retire. His ideas are ancient. I think he holds the Tigers back. A team of that talent and caliber should have a dynasty. Instead, they barely squeak into the post season against a weak division and he does things like select a pitcher to start the All Star game on one of the most meaningless of pitcher statistics–the pitcher win.

      The pitcher win is an indicator greatly of how lucky a pitcher has gotten in terms of run support. While I will not argue that there is no correlation between pitcher wins and caliber of pitcher–of course, there can be. The fewer runs a pitcher gives up, the more likely he is to win since his team is likelier to outscore the other team, common sense, duh–HOWEVER, there are hundreds upon hundreds of cases where this is not the case. Where great pitchers ended up on shitty teams, and if they didn’t pitch shut outs or close to it, they were not getting the win. Look at Cliff Lee last year. Talk about your hard luck pitchers.

      • Reflex - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:43 PM

        I’ve never really understood the Leyland worship. His lifetime record as a manager is only .504, and he has been terrible with several teams. The Tigers, in fact, are the only team he has a winning record with, and even then it was due more to the ownership’s willingness to spend on expensive free agents than due to Leyland’s ‘managing’. The team wins in spite of him, not because of him, and it would be scary to see what someone like Maddon could do with that team and its budget.

  3. Jason - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Leyland’s an old-school guy, of course he’d use rationale like that.

    • bolweevils2 - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      In his defense, the pitcher win isn’t the most direct measure of how good a pitcher is, but certainly there is a correlation in that good pitchers tend to win a lot more than bad pitchers.

      It’s like measuring the days high temperature by the sales of ice cream cones. It’s not too scientific, but it’s probably going to be at least reasonably accurate.

      • moogro - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:42 PM

        Sure. But why choose correlation when you can discuss causation? Discussing ice cream cones is nice, and so is swimsuits and air conditioning power consumption. I personally would rather discuss temperature first.

      • Anoesis - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:43 PM

        For a sport with as many statistics (and at least as many ways to express them) as baseball, you just made an excellent argument against pitcher-wins.

      • blacksables - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:57 PM

        Why? Again, temperature is just a number.

        90 degrees in the midwest is hot, and normal.

        90 degrees in northern Europe kills a lot of people.

        90 degrees in sub-Saharan Africa is spring.

        The number of ice cream colds sold, or bathing suit worn, in relation to the temperature gives much better indication of how people deal with the heat than just a notch on a tube of mercury.

      • moogro - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:11 PM

        I not sure what you are trying to state. If you are trying to state that context is important for numbers, I would agree that pitcher wins are among the least helpful numbers available to provide context to evaluate pitching performance.

  4. dwrek5 - Jul 15, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    I thought we had moved on to advanced stats such as Will To Win (WTW). 1 step forward, 2 steps back…

  5. joshuas82 - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    Chris Tillman hasn’t even been the o’s best pitcher this year. Bizarre choice.

  6. evanwins - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I like the advanced metrics. They are useful.

    Bryan Kenney as the spokesperson for those advanced metrics though I can do without. He seems to have shoe-horned himself into that role and he just couldn’t get through that press conference without mentioning the word.

    The whole advanced metrics community takes a hit with that super-nerd out there making an idiot of himself shouting about it from the rooftops. Dude needs to chill, seriously.

    He’s embarrassing and he makes me embarrassed to be a fan of sabremetrics.

    • eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      Super-nerd? Brian Kenny is hardly a nerd. He is not a sabremetrician, just a fan who is capable of and has a forum to speak on the benefits of advanced metrics. Part of his job is to entertain.

      • evanwins - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:37 PM

        Yeah? So boys want to grow up to be like him? Guys want to hang out with him? Chicks want to sleep with him? Little girls dream of growing up and marrying him?

        You’re right, he’s not a nerd, he’s a regular James Bond.

      • moogro - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        Yer right. My idols when I was young were fat loudmouths on sportz tawk radio. They are so sexy and you can just say whatever you want without thinking. It’s way cooler than being an analyst on MLB network.

      • Reflex - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:46 PM

        By that standard you are a nerd as well, evan….

  7. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    I TOTALLY called this yesterday as to why Tillman got the nod!

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/07/14/all-star-roster-fun-mccann-melancon-romo-balfour-holland-tillman-added/

  8. eightyraw - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    Scherzer is second in the AL in fWAR (behind King Felix, who has an extra start to his name). The player immediately following Scherzer, Derek Holland, was not named to the team.

  9. Walk - Jul 15, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Baseball is a team sport that lends itself to a large number of individual awards and stats. I enjoy the conversations about the advanced metrics versus the more traditional stats such as pitcher wins. Quality starts holds more water with me than wins. I also strongly suspect that most of us have a strong underlying love of math having one right answer to a question and when we see a stat being used to justify differing sides to an argument it bothers us even if we don’t realize it. This tends to lead us to debate, and in my book that is not a bad thing.

    • km9000 - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:17 PM

      Advanced stats boils down to wanting to give the proper credit to the right player, for things they have control over.

      Writers and ex-players who insist on the sacredness of wins and RBI sound like middle managers who take the credit for ideas that their project teams do all the work on.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 15, 2013 at 6:55 PM

        Writers and ex-players who insist on the sacredness of wins and RBI sound like middle managers who take the credit for ideas that their project teams do all the work on.

        Blatantly stealing this whenever RBI arguments show up. I’d give you credit, but I’m probably going to forget your nick. Apologies in advance!

  10. ctony1216 - Jul 15, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    If wins are so important to Leyland, why did he pick Chris Sale (6-8)?

    Obviously, Leyland considers other factors. Sale’s ERA (2.85) and WHIP are among the best in the league, but Sale’s ERA is higher thank Hiroki Kuroda’s (2.65, which is second-best in the A.L.) and Kuroda has 2 more wins (8-6). I would have picked Kuroda over Tillman.

    • ctony1216 - Jul 15, 2013 at 5:59 PM

      correction: should read: “… Sales’ ERA is NOT higher than Hiroki Kuroda’s …” wow – 3 typos in less than one sentence. Anyone see my glasses? Oh, they’re on my head. Thanks.

    • scatterbrian - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:15 PM

      Are we sure he did? After the fans pick the starters, the players choose eight position players, five starters, and three relievers. I’m not sure which pitchers Leyland choose, but the only position players he selected were Casrto, Kipnis, and Zobrist.

      • ctony1216 - Jul 15, 2013 at 7:53 PM

        Yes, Leyland picked Sales. I looked it up.

        From MLB.com: “[Jesse} Crain was voted in by the players and will be joined by teammate Chris Sale … whose second straight All-Star appearance came via a selection by American League and Detroit manager Jim Leyland.”

        http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130706&content_id=52910786&vkey=news_cws&c_id=cws

      • eightyraw - Jul 16, 2013 at 2:26 AM

        Players’s voting results (selections only) were released this year
        http://bizofbaseball.com/docs/2013mlballstargamerosters.pdf

  11. grumpyoleman - Jul 16, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    Pitchers should strive to lose more games apparently

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