Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Inscrutable Zombie Logic: When Is a Win Not a Win?

My fantasy football team is named The Inscrutable Zombie Logics. I coined the term "zombie logic" in the late 80's, then used it as the name of my Independent Literary Press in the early 90's. Just today I had the impulse to start a column or new page title Inscrutable Zombie Logic to discuss those things that seemed paradoxical, or just plain foolish. With Illinois becoming the last state to allow the concealed carrying of weapons today, I sure picked a doozie to start. But I'm not going to write about that. Instead I'm going to write a short bit about the current opinion that wins are a useless stat for Major League Pitchers.

The current prevailing opinion that wins are useless stat for major league pictures came to the fore when King Felix Hernandez won the 2010 American league Cy Young Award despite a record of only 13-12. Not a very impressive record. Probably the worst record that ever won a Cy Young Award. But wins don't matter. It's a team stat, right? A pitcher can't be held responsible for the performance of an entire team.. So the argument begins.

Not so fast, says Zombie Logic. The action in baseball doesn't begin until a pitcher throws the ball. That's how every play in major league baseball be gins. It's a lot of responsibility to vest in one player. I think it's fair to therefore say a great deal of the outcome of the game is dependent upon the quality of the pitches thrown by the pitcher. But there's more than this that goes into how effective a pitcher is.  It makes no sense to say winning pitchers don't win games, but it makes less sense, in my opinion, to say unwinning pitchers don't lose games.

There are starting pitchers who have compiled losing records on bad teams, then went to good teams and compiled more losses. This can happen for many reason. One of the primary ones is taking too damn long between pitches. When a pitcher lolligags his fielders start getting bored, tired, and losing concentration. The defense suffers, and even though the pitcher may be throwing great pitches, when the ball is hit the defense isn't fully prepared to field their position. That's one example of how losing pitchers lose.

Pitchers also are defenders, and in the National League, batsmen. Losing pitchers don't defend their position well. They can also do many other things to hurt the team, including handle the bat poorly when they do get plate appearances, run the bases foolishly, or generally be bad teammates.

That's not to say a pitcher might not do all of these things skillfully on a bad team and still have a losing record, but if a pitcher does these things badly on a consistent basis, even being on a good team might not save them. Wins matter. And it's fair to evaluate a pitcher over the course of a career on the basis of that statistics. 

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