ARGENTINA-TANGO-WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Down with the pitchers win, up with the Tango

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So Tom Tango is over at his site doing the Lord’s work. He is doing his best to rid America and the world of the scourge that is pitcher victories (and losses). Now, I’ve written many, many, many, too many words bashing the logic of the pitcher’s victory as a statistic. Pitchers do not win games. Pitchers do not lose games. The pitcher’s win-loss statistic has done more to promote that dumb myth than Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and all the Cy Young votes combined.

But let’s just concede: A lot of people like the pitcher’s victory as a statistic. It’s simple. It’s explicit. It’s unabashed. And it’s also true that while pitchers do not win or lose games, the starting pitcher generally has more to do with winning and losing than any other individual player. Pitching is the most important part of run prevention. And if a pitcher and defense can keep an opponent from scoring three runs, the team will win 85 or so percent of the time.

Here are those winning percentages since 1900, in case you are interested:

Runs allowed:

0 runs — 1.000
1 run — .889
2 runs — .739
3 runs — .600
4 runs — .464
5 runs — .359
6-plus runs — .170

Two runs or fewer usually means victory.

Pitchers — particularly starting pitchers — have a lot to say about runs allowed. So, while the pitcher’s win-loss record is hopelessly flawed, it is not without value. I think that’s why Tango has moved beyond complaining about the pitcher’s win as a concept and on to a more noble pursuit: Trying to make pitchers’ wins make sense for the 21st Century.

Wait, am I saying it does not make sense? Do I have any proof? Well, you might not know this, but the official rule to determine the winning and losing pitcher — Rule 10.17 in your rulebook — is 711 words. That would be 711 words. Or, to be precise: SEVEN HUNDRED AND ELEVEN BLEEPING WORDS.

If you are scoring at home:

Al Michael’s famous 1980 Olympics hockey call: 6 words.

What Crash Davis believes in: 86 words

Freebird: 172 words.

I Got You (I Feel Good): 220 words

Gettysburg Address: 278 words (depending on version)

Stairway to Heaven: 341 words*

Hamlet’s Soliloquy: 341 words*

**Coincidence? I think not.*

Howard Beale’s “Mad as Hell” speech: 446 words

Entire creation story in bible: 655 words.

Bill of Rights (original form): 678 words

The rule to determine if a pitcher wins or loses: 711 words.

Coffee is for closers monologue: 782 words.

Rapper’s Delight: 2,879 words.

As you can see, nothing in the history of mankind has wasted more words than the pitcher win-loss rule. The rule made sense at one point — and was barely needed at all — because starters mostly pitched nine innings. But these days, starters almost never finish games. There are often three or four relievers pitching.

My simple response to this has been: Just credit the starting pitcher with a win or loss every single time. At least those numbers would make some sense. But I admit this is a pretty clumsy way of doing things.

Enter Tom Tango, who has come up with a simple “Assigned Wins and Losses” formula that I am now calling the Tango Won-Loss System. Is is easy and fun and mathematically sound and doesn’t require 711 words to explain. His formula is a points system.

Every pitcher on the winning team gets 1 point for every out recorded and loses 4 points for every run allowed. The pitcher with the most points gets the win.

On the losing team, each pitcher get 6 points per run allowed and you subtract 1 point for every out recorded. The pitcher with the most points gets the loss.

There will be ties and the tiebreakers are also easy — the pitcher with the most outs gets the win, the pitcher with the fewest outs gets the loss. If there’s still a tie, then the Tango win/loss simply goes to the pitcher who entered the game earliest.

That is a total of 108 words, and I repeated some words unnecessarily. The Tango rule is quite simple.

Baseball Musings has put up a chart to show how assigned wins and losses are going. As you can see, the Tango wins and losses are similar to regular wins and losses most of the time. There can be some pretty severe differences, however.

Let’s take the case of Oakland’s Jesse Chavez. He’s currently 4-1 by the absurd seven-eleven rules of baseball (we call them seven-eleven rules because, as mentioned, it takes 711 words to explain them). Chavez’s Tango record is 7-0.

That’s a pretty significant difference. Which won-loss record makes more sense? Which one speaks to us?

Well, let’s look at Chavez game by game.

April 3: Chavez pitched six innings, gave up two runs (one of them earned) and Oakland won the game 3-2. But the game went to 12 innings, and the win was given to Drew Pomeranz, who pitched one scoreless inning.

Who contributed more to Oakland’s victory – Chavez or Pomeranz?

Baseball says Pomeranz.

Tango says Chavez.

I’m with Tango.

Won-loss: 0-0
Tango Won-loss: 1-0

April 9: Chavez pitched seven innings and gave up 1 run in Oakland’s 7-4 victory over Minnesota. But, again, he did not get the victory. The Twins scored three runs in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game. The winning pitcher was Dan Otero, who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings but also gave up the sacrifice fly that tied the game. Tango gives the victory to Chavez.

Won Loss: 0-0
Tango W-L: 2-0

April 14: Chavez pitched seven innings again, gave up two runs (one earned) in a 3-2 victory over the Angels. And, yep, one more time he did not get the win. The A’s scored late to take the victory and the win went to Jim Johnson, who pitched one scoreless inning.

Tango, again, gave the victory to Chavez. Who deserved it.

Won-Loss: 0-0
Tango W-L: 3-0

April 20: Chavez pitched six innings, gave up one run, and in this case he got both the win and the Tango.

Won Loss: 1-0
Tango W-L: 4-0

April 25: Chavez did not pitch very well – five innings, five runs, four earned. But Oakland won the game 12-5 by scoring seven runs in the ninth inning against Houston. The win was randomly given to Luke Gregerson, who pitched one scoreless inning. In this case, the Tango W-L does not give the victory to Chavez either. In fact, the Tango struggles to find a winner here. This is one of those games, I think, where NO pitcher deserves a victory.

Chavez: 15 outs recorded, 5 runs scored, minus-5 points.
Dan Otero: 3 outs recorded, 3 points.
Sean Doolittle: 3 outs recorded, 3 points
Luke Gregerson: 3 outs recorded, 3 points.
Fernando Abed: 3 outs recorded, 3 points.

The Tango, if I understand it right, gives the victory to Otero since he was in the game earliest. That’s not a particularly fulfilling decision, but it’s better than giving the victory Gregerson, who just happened to be in the game at the right time. I personally would just want to give the victory to the starter, but there’s no ideal answer here.

April 30: Chavez pitched seven shutout innings in a 12-1 victory and got both the victory and the Tango.

Won-loss: 2-0
Tango W-L: 5-0

May 6: Chavez pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up four earned runs in an 8-3 loss to Seattle. He took the loss by seven-eleven rules, but does not take the Tango W-L. Why not? Because someone else pitched worse.

Chavez: 17 outs recorded, 4 runs allowed, minus-7 points (remember it’s six points per run when figuring losses)
Jim Johnson: 2 outs recorded, 4 runs allowed, minus-22 points.

Johnson pitched WAY worse than Chavez and escaped the loss only because his team happened to be down 4-3 when he entered the game. But if you think about it: That makes NO SENSE. His team had a chance to win the game before he came in. His team had almost no chance after he pitched. Tango says he deserves the loss more than Chavez, and I concur.

Won loss: 2-1
Tango W-L: 5-0

May 12: Chavez went eight innings and gave up two runs and got both victories.

Won loss: 3-1
Tango W-L: 6-0

May 18: Chavez went five innings, allowed two runs, and got both victories.

Won-loss: 4-1
Tango W-L: 7-0

So, there you can see the difference. It seems very clear to me that the Tango W-L better represents the contribution that Jesse Chavez has made this year than the regular old won-loss stat.

This is a lot to take in, of course. People are so reluctant to change in baseball. More than that, people are reluctant to consider change. I read my good friend Bob Ryan’s piece on baseball statistics; it was, in a way, a homage to the flawed statistics of the past. We grew up with them. Feel comfortable with them. I have a friend who takes a route to work that is five-to-10 minutes longer than the best way. But he doesn’t KNOW the short way, doesn’t really want to know the best way, it uses new roads that weren’t around when he was growing up. He’s used to the long way. It’s comfortable for him.

So, OK, use the pitcher win. But, it seems obvious to me: The current win statistic simply does not work for the 21st Century. They could add another 711 words, and it still wouldn’t work. This new way is SO easy and it’s so much smarter. Let’s switch. It only takes two to tango.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.