Wins in baseball matter more to teams than their pitchers

Finding the true value of a pitcher requires looking beyond their win-loss record

Randy Choate, right, of the St Louis Cardinals is congratulated by Yadier Molina after getting out of the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Busch Stadium on June 14, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. Jeff Curry / Getty Images
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Victories are ultimately what matter in baseball, but recent events seem to suggest they matter less than ever to pitchers.

Consider the case of Randy Choate. The St Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals put on a pitcher's duel on Saturday with Shelby Miller matching Washington's Stephen Strasburg into the top of the seventh inning.

Miller was exhausted after 101 pitches and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny called in Choate from the bullpen to get the final out of the inning.

Choate obliged, inducing a ground-ball out with his first pitch. In the bottom of the inning, the Cardinals scored three runs, making Choate the pitcher of record and, eventually, the winning pitcher, even though he only threw one pitch before being relieved by Pat Neshek in the eighth.

Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, the poster boy for the campaign against pitcher wins, provided more evidence last week. He threw seven scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, allowing four hits and one walk, but the victory went to reliever Yoervis Medina because he pitched the eighth inning before Seattle scored all five of their runs in the top of the ninth.

The alphabet soup and mathematical wizardry that come with baseball’s advanced statistical analysis can be off-putting and, undoubtedly, there are areas of baseball that cannot be measured empirically. That said, the game is awash in evidence that divining a pitcher’s true value requires going beyond his win-loss record.

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