Baseball fans have seen it time and again: a starting pitcher will twirl a masterpiece, but because his team doesn’t score, he’ll be tagged with a loss. Or a reliever will come into a game, pitch to one or two batters, and end up with the win.
The vagaries of assigning wins and losses to pitchers are a well-known irritant to serious baseball fans (though perhaps not to old-timers like Bob Costas or John Smoltz). Here is the pitching decision statistic explained:
The winning pitcher is defined as the pitcher who last pitched prior to the half-inning when the winning team took the lead for the last time.
The losing pitcher is the pitcher who allows the go-ahead run to reach base for a lead that the winning team never relinquishes.
Often timing — particularly the timing of a team’s offense — affects the statistic more than a pitcher’s actual contribution to his team’s win or loss. In other words, the decision frequently fails to reflect which pitcher made the biggest difference for the winning team (or was most detrimental for the losing team). In these cases, it simply tags the pitcher lucky or unlucky enough to pitch at a certain time in the game.
In an effort to create a more accurate stat to reflect a pitcher’s contribution to his team’s win or loss, I’d like to propose new stats, which I’ll call the “WPA-Win” and “WPA-Loss.”