Welcome to the awards.
If you are a new reader, reference the week one column for category explanations.
This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop
Good luck division
Derek Holland had a good year. He was a three-win player by WAR (3.6 on FanGraphs, 2.7 on Baseball Reference) and throwing up a 113 ERA+ for the Rangers. He also went 16-5 with one of the best run support figures in baseball thanks to pitching for the boys from Arlington. He won two early season games where he allowed five runs in five innings. He also pulled seven no-decisions in starts where he allowed four or more runs. In one of those, he allowed seven. Contrast this with his losses, where in every single one of the five games in which he took the defeat, he allowed five or more runs. As long as he did not completely implode, he would at least get the no-decision. And sometimes even when he did implode, he still got the no-decision.
Jake Westbrook went 12-9 with a 78 ERA+ for the Cardinals. His last start of the season was one where he allowed five runs in two and a third. But what gets him here is a five-start stretch in late June and early July when he allowed opposing batters to hit .289/.325/.561 against him with seven home runs yielded in 27 and two thirds. And he went 1-0 with four no-decisions and a 5.53 ERA.
Max Scherzer’s first start of the season was one in which he won despite being pummeled for six runs in five frames as the Tigers tallied 10 runs. His final start was one where he won with four runs allowed in five and two thirds with his teammates scoring nine runs. In between those two victories, he had two more wins where he allowed five runs, a five-run no-decision, and a seven-run no-decision. Add it all up and you get a 15-9 record with an ERA+ of 92. He posted the best win-loss record of his career in the season when he had the worst ERA, ERA+, K/BB ratio, WHIP, and OPS against.
John Lackey was brutal this season and Red Sox fans have every right to complain loudly about the albatross that is hung around their team’s neck for the next three seasons. He makes $15.25 million each of the three years. If you want a piece of good news, you could point out that his FIP and xFIP were more than a run and a half lower than his actual ERA. Unfortunately that doesn’t get him to average this season as the ERA is 6.41 and the FIP/xFIP is 4.70/.4.71. The blow by blow details as follows: a win where he allowed six in five frames; a three-start stretch in June when he allowed three or four in each and went 3-0; two starts in 11 days in July when he went five and two thirds in each, allowing four runs in each with wins all around; a six-start stretch in July and August when he went 4-1 with a 5.26 ERA and a .308/.364/.519 line against and he allowed three, four, four, four, four, and five runs respectively in those starts; and two no-decisions in the middle of the Red Sox late-September collapse when he allowed four and eight runs. He finished the season at .500, 12-12
Bad luck division
Cole Hamels went 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA. He took the loss in two games where he went at least six and allowed two or fewer runs. He received no-decisions in games where he allowed two in seven, one in eight, two in six, three in seven, and one in seven. He came out of the season with the same record as Rick Porcello. And while Hamels’ ERA+ was 138, Porcello’s was 86. Opponents batted .214/.259/.337 against Hamels and .292/.339/.435 against Porcello.
Hiroki Kuroda went 13-16 with an ERA+ of 121, a career high. In his career he has an ERA+ of 114 and a 41-46 record. Even taking into account the flawed nature of ERA and the offense-depressing run environment of Dodger Stadium and the year 2011, his 3.07 is still very impressive. Kuroda only took three no-decisions all season and in those three starts combined, he allowed two runs in 20 frames. He also took the loss in four starts where he went at least five innings and allowed one or two runs.
Tim Lincecum is my wife’s favorite pitcher and she was disappointed when she learned that we had timed our vacation to San Francisco to miss any home starts for the Freak. More disappointing for Lincecum than not having my better half see him pitch in person is likely the fact that he threw up a 130 ERA+ with a .222/.302/.344 line against but still only managed a 13-14 record. He had three losses where he went seven innings and allowed only one run. He had two more losses where he went seven and allowed two runs and another where he went seven and allowed three. He added a pair of no-decisions where he went eight. In one of them, he allowed one run, in the other, he allowed none.
R.A. Dickey went 8-13 with a 113 ERA+. In his final eight starts, he was only 3-2 with an ERA under 2.00 and a .233/.286/.332 line against. He had six starts where he went at least seven innings and allowed two or fewer runs.
Doug Fister is our first AL contributor to the bad luck club. Most of his bad luck came as a member of the Mariners rotation. The lone exception is a seven-and-two-thirds, one-run-against performance at home against the Royals. With Seattle, he had a start where he went six, allowed one, no-decision; one where he went eight, allowed two, no-decision; one where he went eight, allowed one, no-decision; one where he went seven, allowed three, loss; two in a row where he allowed one in eight and got the no-decision; they were immediately followed by a loss where he allowed one in nine frames; and finally another one where he went seven and allowed three, only to get the loss. He ended the season with a 11-13 record and a 2.83 ERA. Taking only his time in the Pacific Northwest, he was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA.
Paul Maholm had more starts where he had zero, one, or two runs of support than those where he received three or more. He had a 2.65 ERA in his six no decisions. This gives you a picture of how he can go 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA.
An old favorite in the category, Felix Hernandez had 14 starts with zero, one, or two runs of support and despite allowing a .228/.278/.321 line against with a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio in those games, he went 3-9.
Matt Belisle had three games where he blew the save and got the win. He actually blew seven leads and only received the loss once.
Francisco Rodriguez also had three blown save/win combos and one of the most egregious you are likely to find this year as he was blasted for three runs to blow the save against his old team the Mets, only to watch his teammates come back and give him the win.
Wes Littleton Award
Jonathan Papelbon and John Axford each recorded seven saves where they allowed a run. But Leo Nuñez takes the title going away because he had three saves where he allowed two runs, six where he allowed one or more. Nunez saved 36 games, good for eighth in the NL, but he had an ERA+ of 97.
I would also submit Carlos Marmol, who saved 34 games, but gave Cub fans heart attacks in a very solid percentage of them and he blew 10.
Brian Wilson saved 36, but had a WHIP of 1.47 and again, gave his team regular scares.
Please hold the applause
Michael Stutes received holds in two games where he allowed two runs. He retired one and two batters in those two games respectively.
Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching
I really love Jeremy Hellickson, but he had an ERA of 2.95 and an xFIP of 4.72. The Tampa defense was spectacular this season, but not that good. And his K/9 was 5.6 but his H/9 was 7.0.
On the other side, Jonathon Niese posted an ERA of 4.40 and an xFIP of 3.28 thanks to a .333 BABIP.
Zack Greinke posted an ERA of 3.83 and an xFIP of 2.56. He struck out a career high 28.1 percent of the batters he faced and posted the highest swinging strike percentage of his career.
AL: Justin Verlander gets the top prize here, but not by as much as some people think. The win total is there and that will convince the BBWAA that it is a runaway for him, but CC Sabathia, or as I like to call him, Carsten Charles, is reasonably close and has caught up in some of the advanced metrics. But I feel like I am wasting a bit of your time and mine listing stats that everybody who reads The Hardball Times has no doubt already looked at 50 times on FanGraphs and Baseball Reference. So I will just mention that batters as a whole hit .192/.242/.313 against him this season. The lowest OPS of any batter who qualified was Alex Rios, who finished the year at .227/.265/.348. The much-discussed Adam Dunn went .159/.292/.277. So in other words, Justin Verlander turned the average batter into something roughly equal to or slightly worse than the worst batter in baseball this year.
NL: I’m going for Roy Halladay. As tempting as Clayton Kershaw might be, I think the differences in ballpark and competition make Halladay a better pitcher. You know how I listed Verlander’s triple slash line against? Since his breakout back in 2001, batters have hit .248/.284/.358 in 9288 regular season plate appearances against Halladay. Think about that for a moment and consider the run-scoring environment in Toronto during the first five or so years of that run.
This year in franchise milestones
For the past several years, one of my favorite items in these season wrap columns has been recounting the many milestone wins and losses passed by major league teams over the previous season and looking forward to some notable milestones that might fall in the season to come. This started when the Phillies made headlines by becoming the first franchise in major spots history to pass 10,000 losses. I don’t remember similar headlines when the Giants became the first over 10,000 wins.
The Atlanta/Milwaukee/Boston Braves became the fifth team over 10,000 wins this season, joining the Giants, Dodgers, and Cubs. They currently sit at 10,034. They also joined the 10,000 loss club as they are currently at 10,027. They are the closest team to .500 as a franchise. The closest competition is Toronto, who currently sits at 35 games below .500.
The Reds will join the club early next year as they currently reside at 9,994 wins.
Among other teams with milestone wins were the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, San Clemente, Bellflower, and Neenach, who sprinted past 4,000 wins. They also played their 8,000th game early in the season.
The Rays end the season with 1,013 wins.
The St Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles passed 9,000 losses and end the season at 9,052.
The Giants passed 9,000 losses, though they are still 1488 games over .500.
The Marlins and Rockies each played their 3,000th game. And after 19 years of action, they are separated by two games.
Looking forward to next year, I have already mentioned the Reds and their quest for 10,000 wins. Next after them are the Pirates and Yankees. The Pirates are 205 games away from the milestone while the Yankees are 233 games away.
Seattle is 44 away from 3,000 losses.
If the Twins have a bad season, they will find themselves north of 9,000 losses, though the majority of those were from the days where they were the first iteration of the Senators.
The Astros are 56 away from 4,000 wins.
The Yankees currently sit as the team furthest from .500 on the positive side. They could lose 101 games every year for 58 years and still be barely above .500. The only other team more than 1,000 games over is San Francisco, and they are almost 1,000 ahead of the Giants 1488.
The Phillies are still 1,055 under .500 and would take more than 26 years of 101 win baseball to get close to breaking even, though at .473 they are ahead of the winning percentages of the Rays, Mariners, and Padres.
We will see you back here next week for the hitters.