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OC Register: Hoornstra: How Jacob deGrom’s absurd Cy Young season finally killed The Win


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The Win expired as a valuable pitching statistic Wednesday. Time of death, 3:49 p.m. PT.

The Win is survived by its four children: earned-run average, innings pitched, walks, and strikeouts. All of its grandchildren are known by their initials: FIP, xFIP, DRA, WPA and WAR.

Some of its most devout fans continued to insist that The Win is still alive, echoing famous celebrity death denials of the past. Yet The Win’s family has already confirmed the death to the press. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Having exhumed the corpse Wednesday, the Chief Medical Examiner announced the cause of death as “severe and prolonged tension.” In layman’s terms, The Win was pulled so hard in opposite directions that it snapped.

Sixty-three years of Cy Young Award voting tradition pulled on one side. On the other, the curious case of the best pitcher in the National League, and his teammates’ shocking inability to score.

Jacob deGrom, who won the NL Cy Young Award on Wednesday, made 32 starts for the New York Mets. In 30 of those starts, deGrom pitched the minimum five innings required to be credited with a Win or a Loss. If the Mets had scored five runs before deGrom was removed from each start, he could have finished with a 30-0 record. With even four runs of support from his team, deGrom could be 29-1. With three runs, 21-1. With two runs – two! – deGrom could have finished 16-9.

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In actuality, DeGrom finished the season with a 10-9 record. The Mets averaged 4.17 runs per game overall, but only 3.53 when deGrom pitched. In his nine losses, deGrom’s ERA was 2.71, lower than all but two qualified NL pitchers. In his 13 no-decisions, deGrom’s ERA was 1.62 – lower than his overall ERA of 1.70. DeGrom pitched better in his no-decisions than in his wins.

Yet no starting pitcher had ever won a Cy Young Award with fewer than 13 wins in a season. To determine the best pitcher in the National League, BBWAA voters (myself included) faced a choice: acknowledge The Win as the primary measure of a pitcher’s worth and give the award to one of 21 men not named Jacob deGrom, or devalue The Win more than the Venezuelan bolivar.

The choice was almost unanimous. DeGrom was listed first on 29 of the 30 Cy Young ballots, including mine.

If this is to be a proper obituary, we must acknowledge the very different world into which The Win was born.

As baseball evolved into its present rules in the 19th century, it was common for pitchers to complete each game they started. In this regard, the pitcher was like any other defensive player. Yet, unlike his teammates, the pitcher touched the ball on every play. With such responsibility for the game’s outcome, it was at least modestly useful to note a team’s record with different pitchers on the mound. The Win mattered.

During the 20th century, the role of the pitcher changed. No longer was he expected to run an entire nine-inning marathon. By the dawn of the 21st century, pitching firmly resembled a relay race, with the starter and the anchor getting most of the glory for holding the baton. The nature of the job evolved dramatically, separating pitchers into camps of starters and relievers (and more recently, “openers.”). Only 42 complete games were thrown during the entire 2018 regular season. In 1892, 16 pitchers threw more complete games by themselves.

Against all logic, The Win and The Loss have survived as official statistics. As Keith Law wrote in his book Smart Baseball, “Yet they’re still there on the stat sheet, on sortable pages of pitching stats, and in just about any news coverage of a baseball game, where the winning and losing pitchers’ records will appear in parentheses after their names, or a trade or signing, where any pitcher involved is reduced to those two numbers, separated by the hyphen of ignorance.”

Ask anyone in charge of a major league team, and he will tell you The Win died years ago. It hasn’t been a useful tool for evaluating a pitcher’s worth for perhaps a century. Wins persisted in the public parlance among many fans, in large part because of their hold over Cy Young Award voting. But when the win is ignored even by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America – the body which still bears the primary responsibility for reporting the game – even the average fan cannot be expected to carry an extinguished torch.

In the end, the sheer absurdity of deGrom’s 2018 season killed the win more than any individual writer. DeGrom’s ERA-plus of 216 (indicating he was more than twice as good as the average NL pitcher) was the fifth-best mark by any qualified pitcher this century. No pitcher had won 10 games or fewer, threw 200 innings and finished with an ERA under 2.00 since Andy Coakley in 1908. No pitcher had ever allowed three runs or fewer in 24 consecutive starts. DeGrom’s won-loss record was ultimately easy to dismiss.

My ballot closely mimicked that of the rest of the electorate:

1. Jacob deGrom (who won)

2. Max Scherzer (who finished second)

3. Aaron Nola (third)

4. Patrick Corbin (fifth)

5. Kyle Freeland (fourth)

Wins and losses did not dictate the order of these choices. It appears my fellow voters agreed. May The Win rest in peace.

In lieu of flowers, please consider subscribing to a newspaper.

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2 minutes ago, Sean-Regan said:

Sarah Lang of ESPN tweeted:



This is a perfect example of why the pitcher win/loss record is absolute horse crap. It’s worse than meaningless - it’s misleading. Its probably even worse than the RBI. 

you just blew up Obi-Wan Troll Daddy's Alderaan.  He was watching cops and a million voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.  

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