Major League Baseball is an endless plethora of statistics within all components of the game, but there remains to be one statistic continuously debated, pitching wins. Depending on what type of baseball fan you are, odds are that you have some opinion on this stat. Wins for pitchers will remain an important stat when determining the best pitchers in each league, but too often wins are overvalued.
For an average baseball fan when they see 15-20 wins they automatically assume the pitcher is top 10 in their respected leagues, but that is so far from the truth. A prime example of this was 2019 Yankees pitcher Domingo German who finished tied for 4th in MLB with 18 wins. When digging deeper into the stats, it is easy to see German was heavily supported by the destructive 2019 Yankees offense. German finished the season with only 11 quality starts out of his 24 games started, as well as averaging 8 hits per 9 innings. On top of his other stats he finished with a 4.00+ ERA, which does not equivalate to a top 10 pitcher in MLB.
2017 Royals pitcher Jason Vargas is another perfect example who finished the season tied in the American League with 18 wins, but also finished with a 4.16 ERA and a below average FIP of 4.67. 2013 Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie fits that same mold finishing the season with a respectable 15 wins, but also finished with a 4.04 ERA, 30 home runs given up, and the worst FIP in MLB (4.79). Although all three listed pitchers finished with 15 or more wins on a season, they by no means had a good season. With those stats alone it should completely justify the over reliance of wins as an overall stat, but it is essential to look at the other side of the problem.
As of 2020 the best pitcher in baseball is Jacob deGrom and there is no debate about that, but if you were to base his past two seasons on his total wins he would be an average pitcher. Over the 2018 and 2019 season deGrom had a combined win total of 21, which is only 3 wins away from Domingo German’s 2019 season. How is it possible that the best pitcher in MLB over the past two season has won the Cy Young award twice with an almost .500-win percentage?
The answer was a lack of offense from the Mets, when deGrom was on the bump the bats went silent. During the 2019 season the Mets averaged 3.55 runs per game when Jacob was pitching. With little to no offensive support for deGrom, his win totals took a hit, but he still managed to finish the season with an NL leading 255 punchies, a 2.43 ERA, and a freakish 2.67 FIP.
What is even crazier was his 2018 season, in which the Mets continued to lack offensive support during his starts. In 2018 Jacob deGrom finished with an MLB best 1.70 ERA, 218 ERA+, and a 1.98 FIP! If those stats do not support the overvalue of wins, then nothing will! 2010 Felix Hernandez was another perfect example in which he won the Cy Young award while having a 13-12 pitching record. King Felix finished the 2010 campaign with an impressive 2.17 ERA, 232 punchies, and an AL leading 7.0 hits per 9.
By no means am I saying wins are an invaluable statistic, but when determining a pitcher’s overall season, it should not be a deciding factor. Wins will always be a part of the game, and for a majority of the time the pitcher with the most wins usually as an elite starter, but baseball does not always work that way. So before you decide if a pitcher is deemed good or bad, remember 2013 Jeremy Guthrie and 2018 Jacob deGrom!
Cover photo courtesy of Ted S. Warren/Associated Press
I am a college student at Grand Canyon University majoring in business administration and dual minoring in sports management and business analytics. Baseball is my passion and professional goal, so I really enjoy doing all things baseball. I currently work for the baseball analytics department for the GCU Baseball team!