Matt Harvey and ditching pitcher wins

In case you haven’t been watching a lot of ESPN lately, and I don’t blame you if you haven’t, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer is 13-1, before the All Star Break, one of the best pre-break records in years.

Meanwhile in Queens, Matt Harvey is 7-2.

Harvey’s ERA is 2.35.  Scherzer’s is 3.19.

Harvey’s FIP is 2.17. Scherzer’s is 2.68.

Their strikeout rates, walk rates, and opponent’s BABIP are all strikingly similar as well.  Harvey’s superior GB% accounts for the difference in FIP and likely for the difference in ERA.  Other than that, they are largely the same kind of pitcher and have seen similar results on the mound.

Yet someone who hasn’t seen either pitcher pitch yet this season may say that Scherzer has clearly been the better pitcher because he has won more games.

While it may seem laughable that someone could base their judgment on such archaic standards, it unfortunately does happen because the idea of a good pitcher gets a lot of wins is so deeply engrained in baseball culture.

Those who would make that argument also cite Steve Carlton’s 1972 season as if it was the rule rather than the exception.

What gets ignored is the fact of the matter: baseball is a team sport, and a single player cannot win a game by himself.

To prove my point, I’d like to direct everyone’s attention towards the game played between the Mets and White Sox on May 7th, 2013.  Harvey’s line from that game: nine innings pitched, one hit, no runs, no walks, 12 strikeouts.[1]  He got a no decision.

If this was an isolated occurrence, it would not be a big deal, but in Harvey’s nine no decisions this season, he’s given up 17 runs.  For comparison’s sake, over his last nine starts, Scherzer has given up 16 runs and is 8-0.

With a better offense behind him, there is no doubt that Harvey could have 15 wins by now, but obviously his performance wouldn’t be any better.  He’d be the exact same pitcher whether he was 7-2 or 15-0.  Imagine that.

The moral of the story is that it is time to outright ditch the win when it comes to evaluating a pitcher’s performance.

Whether or not a pitcher earns a win or loss is so dependent on run support that it is simply not fair to the pitcher to judge them based on their record.

While the tide is turning to a certain extent, even amongst traditionalists (see 2010 AL CY Young Award), not enough people recognize that a pitcher’s record isn’t always indicative of his true performance.

 Joe Vasile is a play-by-play announcer and radio host.  Follow him on Twitter and check out his website.

 


[1] This game is also far more impressive than Homer Bailey or Tim Lincecum’s no hitters, but that’s for another article.

7 comments for “Matt Harvey and ditching pitcher wins

  1. July 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    A minor nitpick – GB% is not one of the inputs for FIP. Harvey has the edge in FIP thanks to allowing 7 HR to Scherzer’s 12.

    They are almost identical in SIERA, with Harvey 1st with a 2.71 and Scherzer 3rd with a 2.74 mark. Darvish is 2nd with a 2.73

  2. Name
    July 15, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    2 points i would like to comment on.

    1. “With a better offense behind him”

    Mets are currently 6th in the NL with 4.13 runs per game.

    2. It’s easier to win the AL because you don’t have to worry about the pitcher batting and therefore you can go longer which means you have a better shot of winning the game.

    • za
      July 16, 2013 at 12:35 pm

      What’s the Mets’ offense like specifically in Harvey starts? That would be a more relevant statistic than their run support across the board.

  3. July 16, 2013 at 12:05 am

    But a single player can win a game! Bailey and Lincecum just proved your theory about one player not being able to win the game by themselves. And yes baseball is a team sport but salaries are based on individual performances regardless of how the team does.
    To Name. I don’t believe it’s easier to win in the American League because you pitchers face 9 decent hitters. Few teams have automatic outs and their DH is going to be a slugger.

    • za
      July 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      You clearly didn’t read what you are replying to. In order to clarify, Vasile clearly refers to this start. Please look over the numbers:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/wins.aspx?date=2013-05-07&team=Mets&dh=0
      http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/topperformers/_/type/pitching

      Matt Harvey pitched the 2nd best game of the year (better than Lincecum and Bailey’s no hitters due to fewer walks) and got the no-decision. Second best pitched game of the year out of something like 2400-2500 games started this year. Had the Giants or the Reds not scored, their guys wouldn’t have gotten the decision. So a) you’re wrong and b) you don’t look all that intelligent right now.

      • NormE
        July 16, 2013 at 2:58 pm

        You can disagree without taking a personal swipe.

  4. za
    July 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    HEAR, HEAR!

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