Bringing Back the Pitcher’s Win

Most baseball fans know that the pitcher’s W doesn’t mean as much these days (as opposed to the team W, which means everything). At least, logically, we all understand that a pitcher getting a W is dependent on too many things outside of his control to be a good indicator of his ability. But there is something ingrained in our psyche, perhaps, that makes us appreciate the numbers. Yes, most people were ok with Felix Hernandez winning the Cy Young in 2010 with a paltry 13-12 record. But the W still holds a special place in our hearts, and Nats fans get to appreciate them, despite their obsolescence, this year more than ever.

Yes the pitcher’s W is a dated measurement, but it’s not completely useless. You can glean some very important information by looking at it. It does give you at least a general idea of the health and productivity of your starting pitching staff. Take a look at the list of Nats pitchers with 10 Ws or more since they’ve been in town:

2011: John Lannan (10-13)
2010: Livan Hernandez (10-12)
2009: Tim Redding (10-11)
2006: Ramon Ortiz (11-16)
2005: Livan Hernandez (15-10)
2005: Esteban Loaiza (12-10)

That’s it for double digit winners. The only year where any of those guys had winning records was back in 2005. In 2007 and 2008, not a single pitcher on the staff could muster 10 wins. It is a telling display, because we all know how bad the pitching staff has been over the last few years, and it’s remarkable how much better it is now.

With 67 games left in the 2012 season, the team already has two double digit winners. Gio Gonzalez is 12-5, and Stephen Strasburg is 10-4. And they could get more than that. Jordan Zimmermann, the personification of why pitcher’s Ws aren’t that useful, is sitting at 7-6 while having the 4th best ERA in the NL.

Edwin Jackson (5-6) and Ross Detwiler (5-3) are probably more longshots to also join the 10 win club this year. But Detwiler has pitched great so far with a 3.01 ERA and has managed those wins in only 14 starts, compared to Jackson’s 18, so I’d give him the edge.

Sure, the pitcher’s W doesn’t hold the kind of insight some other metrics do. But it gives us a glimpse into how strong a pitching staff and a team might be. We didn’t need this stat to know the Nats pitching staff is better than it’s ever been, but as fans, it’s nice to see it manifest in hitting some old school numbers that has eluded this team for a half a decade.

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