Quickly On Pitching Wins

ESPN’s Sweet Spot Blog, which you won’t be surprised to learn is no longer run by Rob Neyer, has a story by Baseball Tonight host Steve Berthuaime crediting Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Kevin Correia for being they type of pitcher who goes out and wins games.

Yet, all the guy is doing is winning games. I’ll say that again: HE — WINS — GAMES.

Here’s a quick and concise reason as to why he is very, very wrong in his assessment of pitching wins.

While a starting pitcher is responsible for a larger percentage of the game than any other player who steps into the batter’s box or plays the field, he isn’t responsible for everything that happens in a game. He’s not even responsible for half of what happens.

Baseball is split up first between offense and defense. The offense is responsible for half an inning and then the defense is responsible for the other half. Already, there’s 50% of a game that a pitcher has nothing to do with. We take defense, and under this category falls pitching and fielding. Fielders are obviously responsible for fielding, further lessening a starting pitcher’s responsibility, leaving us with pitching, which also must account for relievers which brings down the amount for which a starting pitcher is responsible even further. And even within that percentile, there’s an entire element of luck (pitchers can’t control where balls are hit and no hitter is good enough to put balls precisely into play) for which we’re not accounting.

It’s great that Kevin Correia seems to be pitching well (I’d expect regression looking at his strikeout rate, walk rate and BABIP) and it’s great that it’s led to him having more pitching wins than anyone else in baseball, but wins alone are meaningless in any sense.

It’s neither a predictor of future or an indication of past success because,¬†as we’ve just established, there’s so much of the game, so many different elements, outside of a pitcher’s control that contribute to a team winning or losing a game. It also doesn’t help that there are seemingly arbitrary rules associated with getting a win (starters must pitch five innings, leave the game while winning, etc.).