There’s a Petition to Ban the Use of Wins as a Stat in Baseball

UPDATE: The petition has been removed from the White House’s petition page… Here’s the statement from the site explaining the decision:

Thanks for your interest in We the People, a new tool on WhiteHouse.gov that allows all Americans to ask the Obama Administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country.

The petition you are trying to access has been removed from the site under our Moderation Policy because it is in violation of our Terms of Participation.

While you can’t sign this petition, there may be other petitions on We the People on a similar issue that you’d like to add your name to. Or, you can create your own petition.

The never has been and never will be another petition like this on the We the People page, so for them to remove it and then suggest that there might be is shameful. Another instance of the Obama administration sidestepping important issues this country is facing… Sad day…

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The White House public petition page has seen it all. Thanks to a relatively low response-inducing signature threshold (which has since been raised) President Obama has issued official statements on the possibility of the U.S. government funding the construction of a Death Star to the recipe for the White House’s fresh brewed beer, with some serious matters sprinkled in between.

Well, a new petition has been started, and it’s aimed at America’s pastime. Simply put, it’s asking the president to issue an executive order banning the use of the Win as an official statistic in baseball.

Here’s the expanded description:

The win is an ineffective tool in pitcher evaluation, far outliving its usefulness as pitchers no longer pitch complete games. Focusing on wins as a method of pitcher effectiveness gives a distorted and inaccurate picture:

1. Pitchers can perform well and receive a loss or no decision through lack of run support or poor team defense

2. Pitchers can perform at a subpar level and receive a win if their team has excellent offense

3. Relief pitchers can record just one out and receive credit for a win.

Eliminate the win and develop more effective statistics to measure pitcher performance.

On the surface this petition seems a bit ridiculous. There has to be winners and losers in baseball, right? Someone is responsible for the runners that get on base and score, and the obvious suspect is the pitcher—the guy hurling the ball towards the plate that opposing players are trying to crush. But let’s think through this a little bit. Some excellent points are made in the description of this petition.

A classic example of the first point made above—that pitchers can perform exceptionally well but still be given the loss—was on display the entire 1987 season in Houston. Nolan Ryan finished fifth that year in the Cy Young voting, but was by all means robbed of the title because his W-L record that year was just 8-16 (thanks in no small part to an Astros offense that scored the second fewest runs that season). Of starting pitchers that year with at least 150 innings pitched, Ryan led the majors in K’s per 9 (11.48—the next closest was Mark Langston’s 8.67), ERA (2.76—he was tied with Jimmy Key for that mark), strikeouts (270), and allowed the fifth fewest hits. Despite all of that, he only managed a 10 percent share of the voting points.

A current-day example is given by Beyond The Scorecard, with this year’s AL Cy Young favorite, Max Scherzer and another, lesser-known dominant force in the AL, Chris Sale.

Take a look at these numbers:

sale scherzer numbers espn

Practically indistinguishable. But take a stab at who’s belong to each guy. Scherzer, who currently has an absolutely ridiculous 19-1 record (good for a .950 win percentage, the best in baseball), is the second stat line above. His numbers are slightly better than Sale’s, but Sale won’t be finishing second in the Cy Young voting this year thanks to his 10-12 record with the A’s. And it all comes down to run support. Scherzer gets the most help in baseball from his offense, 5.96 runs per outing, while Sale ranks 78th with just 3.16 runs per outing.

Outside of their win percentages and run support averages, Scherzer and Sale both rank in the top 10 in baseball in K/BB ratio, WHIP, K/9, and WAR—Sale’s ERA is just .04 points from cracking the top 10. He also leads the majors in “tough losses” with 7 (he’s tied with  Cole Hamels for that honor…)—had those 7 tough losses ended up as W’s, he’d be looking at a 17-5 record and would probably be in the thick of the AL Cy Young conversation.

Then there’s this graph (again courtesy of BTS):

cheap wins

This, according to BTS is “a stacked-bar graph showing how many of three variants of bad wins there are on a given day this year. That’s why giving undue (and almost complete) influence on this one stat, one that in 2013 has NOT accurately reflected pitching performance in 33.7% (545 Ripoffs, 184 Cheap Wins and 626 Vulture Wins) of games, OVER ONE-THIRD is ridiculous and has to be reigned in.”

The win was most certainly a better barometer of how good a pitcher was years ago, when starting pitchers more often than not pitched an entire game. In baseball today, there are far too many specialty relievers and closers, guys who get paid just to go in and pitch against lefties, the away-game-seventh-inning-2-out-runners-on-first-and-third-on-the-third-thursday-in-July-when-the-air-temp-is-above-85-degrees-but-humidity-is-no-higher-than-75-percent-and-theres-a-40-percent-chance-of-rain guys who only throw two pitches and record one out but then have the offense step it up in the top half of the next inning, so then they’re the pitcher of record and get the W.

Does that seem fair? No, absolutely not, which is why this petition ought to catch some steam and make it to the president’s desk. So get your name on there people! Do something meaningful on this Labor Day! You only have until the end of September to meet the 100,000 signature goal.

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