FIRE JOE MORGAN: Wins Are For Losers, Part Eleven Million


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Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Wins Are For Losers, Part Eleven Million

Hi. We're still alive. So is Richard Griffin, but unlike us, Richard is using his life force to promulgate horrible misinformation about baseball.

We come upon Richard as he is about to answer a very reasonable question from a gentleman named Neil Shyminsky. Neil?

Q: Hi Richard,

Maybe you can explain this one to me. In the past couple weeks, I've been hearing all of this talk about A.J. Burnett's "career year", which will possibly lead him to opt out of his contract at year's end. Remembering that his ERA was well over 5.00 just a month ago, I double-checked his stats.

Sure enough, this season's ERA is more than half a run higher than his career ERA and his WHIP is also much higher than normal. His strikeout numbers are good, but they're only slightly better than his career K/9 (innings) ratio, and are actually lower than last year's K/9 numbers. In fact, his win-loss record and games started numbers are the only numbers that are noticeably better than what he's put up over the last 5 years. In contrast, Halladay's ERA, WHIP, and K/9 are shaping up to be the best he's ever compiled in a year where he's thrown at least 150 innings. But where's the love for his "career year"?

My question is this: when was it decided that a context-specific stat like wins is the determining factor in declaring a "career year", especially when Burnett's ERA and WHIP seem to suggest it's actually his worst? Or is it maybe that the "career year" stat is the number that we don't see - namely, A.J.'s usual 5-10 games lost to injury?

Neil Shyminsky, Toronto

Neil makes a lot of good points. That's why you didn't see me jumping in like an asshole and calling him a lot of profane names, even though that's what I was put on this earth to do. Neil probably got a 5 on his AP Physics exam. Then he majored in electrical engineering at McGill, married a nice French-Canadian girl named Ghyslaine, and settled down in Toronto, where he became a fan of the Blue Jays.

Richard Griffin, meanwhile, got a 2 on his AP Physics test (claimed to be sick that day), dropped out of Lakehead, cheated on an Inuit girl named Arnakua'gsak, and is about to say something stupid about baseball.

A: The reason that this is a career year for Burnett is that baseball is a team sport and the team goal is victories.

This is, presumably, the same reason that between the pitching Hernandezes, Livan (10-8, 5.48 ERA) is having a better season than Felix (8-8, 3.28 ERA). Don't you understand baseball is a team sport, Felix, you selfish prima donna?

The Twins enjoyed Livan Hernandez' winning ways so much, they decided to cut him from their baseball team. Guess they hate victories, which are the goal of sports.

Major League Baseball is not Fantasy Baseball where every ERA, WHIP, VORP or DORK stands on its own.

Dork is a slang term that means "dick," which is a slang term that means "penis."

Major League Baseball: Where no penis stands alone.®

(Slogan courtesy of Richard Griffin.)

No matter which way you slice it, Burnett has been more valuable to the Jays this year than in either of his previous two seasons in Blue Jays black.

I will slice it using Win Shares. It has the word "win" in it, and like you said, baseball is about winning.

2006 9.8
2007 12.1
2008 9.4

Burnett's biggest contribution this year compared to years past is that barring injury, he'll pitch more innings than he ever has as a Blue Jay. But come on: a lot of those innings have been horrendous. Guy had a 6.07 ERA in April and a 5.06 ERA in June. Heck, even though he's sort of turned things around, his ERA in August is 4.96.

In his best 22 starts this year, A.J. is 15-4 with a 2.97 ERA, while in his less than magnificent seven outings, he is 1-5, with a 10.30 ERA.

For a guy who thinks stats are penises, you just dropped a real shitty-smelling dick of a stat, sir. What is this arbitrary division of 22 "good" starts versus 7 "bad" supposed to convey? Burnett was awful in those seven bad outings, yes -- and yet he got a win in a game when he allowed seven (!) runs. He also gave up 8 runs twice, 6 runs twice, and 5 runs twice, and his team lost all six of those games. Because A.J. Burnett pitched really badly. These games count. They are bad. They hurt the team.

Of his 16 victories, 4 came when Burnett gave up 4 or more runs. They weren't laughers, either, where Burnett was "pitching to the score" or some such nonsense -- they were all decided by two or fewer runs. So in a world where Vernon Wells or Lyle Overbay or Alex Rios hits a little worse in those four games, Burnett could have very easily gone 12-9, or 12-11, or 12-13 -- making him a huge loser in Richard Griffin's book.

A better, more nuanced argument here would be that although Burnett's 4.58 ERA is unsightly, he has made 14 very strong starts where he allowed 2 or fewer runs. Whether through skill or through luck, he managed to cluster a lot of the runs he's allowed this year into three or four absolutely horrendous outings. And I guess that's more valuable than allowing 4 runs every time out.

(As an absurd example, consider a guy who pitches nine scoreless innings 34 times and then allows 1,000 runs in his last game. Bad ERA, but pretty solid year. Although also consider that wins alone still might not capture the season this Mr. Awesome Except For One Disaster delivers -- it's possible that his teammates let him down and don't ever score for him, leaving him with a season record of 0-1. Poor Mr. Awesome Except For One Disaster!)

In all of those seven starts, Burnett has allowed between 5-8 earned runs, while averaging 5-2/3 innings. To dismiss wins as a “context specific” stat is silly in a team sport that by definition is a “context specific” sport.

Anyway, you've heard it in this space so many times before, I'd have to express the number in scientific notation. Wins are a bad metric.

My new, fairly self-evident theory is that Diplodocus-intellected sportswriters elevate the importance of the statistic that is called a "win" for a pitcher simply because it's called a win. But it's still a statistic, guys, and a bad one at that -- one that depends on your offense and your bullpen.

My proposal: we give the win a new name. We call it the DORK. We call a loss a BLORK. Thus, pitchers now have DORK-BLORK records instead of win-loss records. Won't Richard Griffin feel manly when he extols Andy Sonnanstine's heroic 13-6 DORK-BLORK record? Sonnanstine knows how to DORK, yes he does! Derek Lowe is 10-11? Needs to put his team on his back and lead them to the DORK. I don't care how close some of his BLORKs are, because hey, the bottom line is: you play to DORK the game.

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posted by Junior  # 6:28 PM
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