Sabermetrically-challenged

May 14, 2011 (pregame)

I am surprised by the continuing presence of Jo Jo Reyes in the starting rotation. The Jays were patient with Brandon Morrow, and that has paid off, but when a pitcher goes 25 straight starts without a victory, shouldn’t some sort of cut off date be established? If he fails to secure a win by the end of the month, wouldn’t it then be time to give someone else a go? My vote would go to for Brad Mills, although Brett Cecil has turned things around in Las Vegas since a disastrous first start there.

Jays 9, Twins 3 

May 14, 2011 (post-game)

While it’s true, he didn’t pitch badly tonight, and he’s pitched well enough to win on at least two occasions this year, the fact is that Jo Jo Reyes has not held his leads. What does it say about your mettle as a pitcher when your team stakes you a 1-0 lead, and you go out and immediately give up two runs in the 1st inning? He allowed five earned runs his last start.

How long do the Jays allow the winless streak to go on, 26 now and counting?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Granted, it’s not so cut and dry when considering pitcher’s W-L record as a measure of his contribution. The example of Felix Hernandez: 9-11, 3.45 ERA (2008) and 13-12, 2.27 (2010) springs to mind, as an example of the this statistic’s limitation. But to dismiss it completely is impractical. For example,  W-L can suggest and confirm, in some cases, a pitcher’s ability to hold on to a lead. The Hernandez example is more of an exception than a rule. One sees on every pitching staff how solid ERA and W-L record so often correlate.

As for Felix Hernandez, he is a great pitcher, as is Ricky Romero, and peripheral stats quantify that. A pitcher needs his team to show up to notch a win, and a team needs its pitcher to show up to notch a win. Pitchers, and as a result their teams, often lose when they don’t pitch well. That simple fact of the game, imperfect statistically though it is, has a lot to do with how many losses a pitcher accumulates.

While Reyes contributes more than winless in 26 games would suggest, the streak does reflect, to some extent, an inability to contribute enough. Baseball includes both tangibles and intangibles, perfect and imperfect measurements. To say that Wins have no bearing on the nature of a pitcher’s contribution dismisses the importance of those games, especially when the season is on the line, where he is called upon to pitch with a lead, sometimes a slight one, and hold on to it. Peripheral stats be damned.

This by no means pretends to be an argument against sabermetrics, nor to trumpet the W-L stat above all others, far from it.

I would not argue that the Wins stat is more important than ERA. Those seasons when Nolan Ryan (1987) and Felix Hernandez posted excellent ERAs and weak .500 W-L records show us a limitation in measuring pitcher’s contribution by Wins alone, but they don’t disprove all relevance of the Wins stat. How could they?

Deeming the Wins stat relevant does not mean ignore everything else (ERA, IP, WHIP, SO and others). A number of stats should be taken as a whole to measure a pitcher’s contribution, wins included.

But back to Reyes: what is an acceptable point at which to remove a winless pitcher from a MLB starting rotation? Every general manager must have one. Even when he may not be completely responsible for every loss, the Reyes extreme does show an inability to contribute enough. 

And his peripheral stats reflect this losing record, like they do with so many other pitchers with losing records. More to come.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Starting rotation sweepstakes « 1977 redux

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