View Count: 101 |  Publish Date: July 16, 2013
On pitchers, stats and run support
Sam Donnellon, Daily News Sports Columnist Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013, 12:18 AM
NEW YORK - The starting pitchers in tonights All-Star Game possess two of the three highest swinging strike percentages. This, MLB Networks Brian Kenney said during an All-Star Game press conference yesterday, was a victory for sabermetrics.
Minutes later, 68-year-old American League manager Jim Leyland tied the score, explaining that he selected Baltimores Chris Tillman over New Yorks Hiroki Kuroda to replace Justin Verlander because Id almost be embarrassed not to take a guy who is 11-3 to the All-Star Game . . . You get 11 wins by the All-Star break. I think thats pretty hard to keep a guy off.
Kuroda has won eight games for the Yankees, but holds a huge edge in numerous other categories over Tillman and other pitchers Leyland had considered. Kuroda is second in the American League in earned run average and holds an edge as well in many of those polarizing sabermetrics - WHIP, WAR, and of course DIPs.
OK, so I just threw in DIPs (Defense-Independent ERA) because it looks funny. More coveragePoll: How will the Phillies fare in second half?Follow the Phillies: Download our FREE Pro Baseball app!Poll: Which Phillie is due for a strong finish?Forum: Will the Phillies make the playoffs?Latest Phillies videos Special section: Top 25 Phillies prospects
But you get my drift.
So does Cliff Lee, just a year removed from a season in which he pitched well enough to win and didnt. So, too, does Cole Hamels, an All-Star in 2012 and this year as much a statistical anomaly as Lee was last.
Lee had one win and six losses at this time a year ago despite pitching at least seven innings in nine of his 14 starts. He hit this years All-Star break with 10 wins, the same number that earned Hamels an All-Star nod last season. Meanwhile, Hamels has four wins and 11 losses this year, despite pitching at least seven innings in nine of his 20 starts.
Certainly, Hamels pitched better last year and Lee has pitched better this year. Just not to the disparity their won-lost records suggests. It is the big reason those who dissect statistics dis a pitchers won-lost record as a misleading measure of their worth. Citing cases like Lee last year and Hamels this year, some have even called it useless as a measuring tool.
From a pure statistical vantage point, its hard to dispute that.
Even for some of tonights pitchers.
Sometimes it can be misleading, I know that, Lee was saying before yesterdays All-Star Game workout at Citi Field. But I wouldnt say its overrated because theres value to guys who can go out there and just get wins. It dont matter if you give up four runs or no runs. Just so long as you dont let a team score more runs than your team scores. Theres definitely something to be said about that.
There it is again, run support, the slippery elm of the won-lost argument. Lee began 2012 looking like a Cy Young candidate, rolling up 23 innings over his first three starts, including a 10-inning performance on April 18 against San Francisco in which he did not allow a run - and still did not get the win.
At the time his earned run average was 1.96. Two months later it was nearly three runs higher. Clearly he was not the pitcher then that he is 12 months later, or even was later in the season when the Phillies made their late run last season.
So did that early lack of run support eventually take a psychological toll? And if you believe so, doesnt that add to the relevance, even importance, of a won-lost record?
It does feel good to get wins as a starting pitcher, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said yesterday. Like Kuroda, his former teammate, Kershaw has an impressive 1.98 earned run average this season and a modest 8-6 record. Unlike Kuroda, his manager, Bruce Bochy, named him to the team.
I think I lean more towards the stat guys, Bochy said with a grin. But there are some intangibles you cant really translate into stats. I get that, too. Whatever the reason, when you see your record up there and its 10-2 as opposed to 5-5 or something, it does feel better.
I think you just have a ton of confidence when youre getting wins. Like when you give up three runs in the first and the team comes back and gets you a bunch of runs right back, I think you pitch differently. You know you have a chance to win every single night. And I think thats huge.
But does it really matter? No. Theres a lot more stats that will tell you how a pitchers doing.
For Kershaw and San Francisco All-Star Madison Bumgarner, its innings pitched. For Lee, its walks allowed, which probably equates to the same thing. If Im walking a ton of guys thats going to contribute to a lot of negative stats everywhere else, Lee said. Thats the one thing I can control. A lot of the other things you cant control. But walks . . . you should at least be able to throw the ball over the plate.
On Twitter: @samdonnellon
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