Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Better Win-Loss Record

The popularity of #killthewin was easy to understand and support. For too long, win-loss records have been cited as some kind of reflection of a pitcher's abilities. In 2010, Phil Hughes, the shining example of mediocre, finished 18-8 while Felix Hernandez, while posting a 2.27 ERA, finished 13-12. Hughes' New York Yankees finished with 95 wins while King Felix's Mariners won 61. Interestingly, at least to me, Hughes got the win in 19% of the Yankees' victories while Felix got the win in 21% of the Mariners' wins.

Last July, I wrote about this odd thing called "Gaz-Wall," or GSWL, or more specifically...Game Score Win-Loss record. I proposed this number as a replacement for the "win," something Brian Kenny was railing against daily on MLB Network.The basic idea was that using Game Score, a relatively simple statistic, you could get a better idea of how that pitcher actually pitched. Game Score is a readily available metric, often provided in boxscores with information on how many batters the pitcher faced and number of pitches. For a refresher on the subject, click here. Jeff Angus of SABR took Game Score, developed by Bill James, and turned it into a win-loss record.

It's not a perfect statistic. Like the traditional win, it can't be a direct correlation between pitching performance and what the number says. Defense and ballpark factors won't be neutralized. Nevertheless, I think the number does a good job of what numbers like FIP and wOBA attempt to do. Provide an easy-to-understand number that looks just like the flawed one it seeks to replace.

The Braves have used seven starters to this point and I would like to revisit Gaz-Wall with each of them to see where things are going so far.

Player GSWL # Tweeners Avg GS Tough L's Cheap W's Act W-L
Julio Teheran 8-2 1 64.2 2 0 3-3
Aaron Harang 8-1 1 57.7 2 0 4-4
Ervin Santana 5-3 2 56.2 0 1 4-2
Alex Wood 6-1 1 58.0 4 0 3-5
Mike Minor 3-1 1 51.5 1 0 2-2
David Hale 3-1 1 56.0 0 0 1-0
Gavin Floyd 2-1 2 54.0 1 0 0-1
As you might expect, the Braves have been blessed with starting pitching. To be in first place with such a troublesome offense that is second from the bottom, you need great starting pitching (and poor play from your divisional rivals). With that in mind, the Braves have managed just one cheap win, classified as a starter getting a victory with a Game Score of a 49 or less, compared to <b>ten</b> cheap loses (taking the L with a GS of 50 or better).  For the record, Baseball-Reference refers to cheap wins as a game where the pitcher gets the win despite pitching less than six innings and/or surrendering more than 3 ER. I think that's pretty broad myself and by the Game Score component instead.

Because of the poor offense, unlike teams that are front-runners despite average starting pitching because of a great offense, the Braves' starting rotation has a record of 16-17 with 12 no-decisions. However, they have a GSWL of 35-10. Now, clearly, that would be ridiculous and GSWL does not replace the actual team win-loss. It just attempts to attach a traditional win-loss record to the starters.

It should be noted that the team has experienced its fair share of weak starts lately, including yesterday's game where Santana gave up a small village of runs. Clearly, the Braves can't continue to experience such a high level of performance all season long. I mean, these guys aren't exactly Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz (though a few are pretty damn good). Fortunately, the offense had showed signs of production because I imagine if we look at these numbers later this season, things will have reverted back for the mean, especially for a guy like Harang.

I don't expect GSWL to catch on. With its flaws and need for an explanation, most will glossy over it. However, I do think it has some value when used in connection with other numbers (FIP, K/9, K/BB to name a few).

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