Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Friday, October 27, 2017

Jordan: The New (Old) Meaning of 20 Wins

Our own djordan exclaims: #MPWGA.

Since 2006, there have been exactly two dozen 20-game winners in the major leagues. All pitched to an ERA+ of over 130.

Although it’s a statistic that has gained awareness and respect over the years, ERA+ is not every baseball analyst’s primary measurement of dominance on the rubber. So why use it here? And why 130?

Do you know how many eligible starters possess a career ERA+ higher than 130 and are not in the Baseball Hall of Fame? Seven, and one of them is Roger Clemens, and one of them is Clayton Kershaw. Two are Roy Halladay and Johan Santana. Doc should make it to Cooperstown at some point and the former Minnesota Twins southpaw/two-time Cy Young Award winner is beginning to get some induction rumblings of his own (particularly from guys like Baseball-Reference founder Sean Forman, whose site provided the data for this piece.) I’m not going to comment on folks who don’t see much value in statistical “finish lines,” but to me, 130 is a strong benchmark of greatness for starters (the threshold being higher for relievers).

So here’s the thing – 19 starters have won 20 games in this decade and all of them possessed an ERA+ of 130 or higher. This has never happened before. So what, right? I believe that with the specialization of big league pitching staffs in today’s game, you will not see 20-win seasons without exceptional stats behind those totals ever again.

Stormy JE Posted: October 27, 2017 at 07:27 AM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, pitcher wins, primates

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. wjones Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:10 PM (#5563594)
Sounds sort of like an evolution from "You have to win 20 to be a good pitcher', to "20 wins isn't necessarily indicative of a good pitcher", to "you have to be a very good pitcher to win 20 games".
   2. Adam Starblind Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:27 PM (#5563615)
Or Rick Helling.
   3. Lest we forget Posted: October 27, 2017 at 01:32 PM (#5563625)
or, rather, you have to be a very good pitcher to be in a position to have accumulated 20 wins
   4. Batman Posted: October 27, 2017 at 02:55 PM (#5563749)
Kershaw, Halladay, and Santana haven't been on a HOF ballot yet, so that cuts it down to four non-Hall but eligible 130+ starters. It looks like the cutoff is something like 200 starts or 1500 innings, so the four are Clemens, Al Spalding, Harry Brecheen, and Noodles Hahn. If he stays healthy and effective next year, Chris Sale will join the non-Hall-eligible group.
   5. djordan Posted: October 27, 2017 at 03:13 PM (#5563760)
#4, Spalding is in already.I was counting Smoky Joe Wood,who pitched in parts of 11 seasons (although two of those years he only pitched one game.) John Hiller needs to get more appreciation for his career as well.

   6. shoewizard Posted: October 27, 2017 at 03:21 PM (#5563774)
For single seasons, From 1901 to 2017, (requiring IP<=220.0, W>=20 and ERA+<=110), sorted by greatest Wins


Rk          Player  W    IP ERAYear  Tm  G GS CG  L W-L%  ERA  FIP    K%   BBOPS+
1    Andy Pettitte 21 208.1  110 2003 NYY 33 33  1  8 .724 4.02 3.35 20.1%  5.6%   89
2     Rick Helling 20 216.1  109 1998 TEX 33 33  4  7 .741 4.41 4.34 17.8
%  8.5%   85
3      Ray Sadecki 20 220.0  104 1964 STL 37 32  9 11 .645 3.68 3.30 12.7
%  6.4%   94
4         Bob Grim 20 199.0  107 1954 NYY 37 20  8  6 .769 3.26 3.23 13.1
10.3%   88 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2017.


I used 220 IP because I figure that is the upper limit nowadays for IP by a SP. Chris sale just lead the league 214 and the only other guy to top 210 was Santana with 211

So already very rare to have a 20G winner with 220 or less IP and less than a 110 ERA+, and hadn't happened for 15 years. So I think if not totally extinct, this type of 20G winner is highly unlikely to be seen unless or until there is a trend reversal in Starting Pitcher IP.

I think part of the problem here though is with the arbitrary use of the number 20

Looking at 25 game winners since integration, only Whitey Ford got to 25 W with ERA+ less than 120, and another handful of guys below 130, but most over 130. Ironically the last two guys to top 25W , Bob Welch in 1990 and Steve Stone in 1980 each had 125 & 123 ERA+ respectively.

Rk           Player ERA+  W Year  Tm  G GS CG  L W-L%    IP  ERA  FIP OPS+
1       Whitey Ford  115 25 1961 NYY 39 39 11  4 .862 283.0 3.21 3.14   80
2       Steve Stone  123 25 1980 BAL 37 37  9  7 .781 250.2 3.23 3.98   87
3     Juan Marichal  123 26 1968 SFG 38 38 30  9 .743 325.2 2.43 2.36   81
4     Mickey Lolich  124 25 1971 DET 45 45 29 14 .641 376.0 2.92 2.85   84
5         Bob Welch  125 27 1990 OAK 35 35  2  6 .818 238.0 2.95 4.19   97
6    Fergie Jenkins  126 25 1974 TEX 41 41 29 12 .676 328.1 2.82 2.76   76
7      Don Drysdale  128 25 1962 LAD 43 41 19  9 .735 314.1 2.83 2.86   76
8      Don Newcombe  131 27 1956 BRO 38 36 18  7 .794 268.0 3.06 3.48   66
9          Jim Kaat  131 25 1966 MIN 41 41 19 13 .658 304.2 2.75 3.02   78
10    Juan Marichal  133 25 1963 SFG 41 40 18  8 .758 321.1 2.41 2.62   74
11   Catfish Hunter  134 25 1974 OAK 41 41 23 12 .676 318.1 2.49 3.17   76
12    Robin Roberts  141 28 1952 PHI 39 37 30  7 .800 330.0 2.59 2.82   68
13     Denny McLain  154 31 1968 DET 41 41 28  6 .838 336.0 1.96 2.53   72
14      Mel Parnell  158 25 1949 BOS 39 33 27  7 .781 295.1 2.77 3.45   64
15     Sandy Koufax  159 25 1963 LAD 40 40 20  5 .833 311.0 1.88 1.85   54
16     Sandy Koufax  160 26 1965 LAD 43 41 27  8 .765 335.2 2.04 1.93   52
17       Tom Seaver  165 25 1969 NYM 36 35 18  7 .781 273.1 2.21 3.11   72
18    Juan Marichal  167 25 1966 SFG 37 36 25  6 .806 307.1 2.23 2.86   51
19    Steve Carlton  182 27 1972 PHI 41 41 30 10 .730 346.1 1.97 2.01   60
20     Sandy Koufax  190 27 1966 LAD 41 41 27  9 .750 323.0 1.73 2.07   62
21       Ron Guidry  208 25 1978 NYY 35 35 16  3 .893 273.2 1.74 2.19   50 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/27/2017.


Of course ton of guys with 16 or more wins and less than 130 ERA+ over the last 5 years


Conclusion: While it wasn't that hard to win 20 games with only slightly above avg run prevention in years past, you were very unlikely to win 25 games unless you had very strong run prevention. No that has simply to shifted to 15 & 20. The scale is different but the principal is exactly the same.


   7. Walt Davis Posted: October 27, 2017 at 05:09 PM (#5563856)
I'm not sure what's "surprising" about anything here. Number of wins is a function of number of starts, quality of pitching, run support and (least important I'm pretty sure) innings per start. Meanwhile, the more you pitch, the less likely you are to sustain an ERA+ of 130+ over a season/career.

Only 14 post-1900 HoFers have a career ERA+ over 130+ (min 300 starts). Only 5 are post-war (OK, 5.5 with Newhouser); 5 had careers that finished before 1920. The 5 modern guys are Koufax (always a special case), Pedro (154 ERA+), Ford, RJohnson and Maddux (2 of the very inner circle). Ford (<3200 IP) and Koufax barely squeak over the 130 line and likely would not be there if they had pitched more (or maybe Koufax just keeps amazing).

If you look at HoFers with an ERA+ of 130+ through age 32 (min 200 starts) you get a very different list though. Among modern types, you add Palmer, Seaver, Marichal, Gibson but lose Johnson. Of course being outstanding pitchers that weren't hurt, they kept getting opportunities to pitch through their decline phase. You also add older pitchers Joss, Coveleski, Dean, and Hubbell -- Joss and Dean never made it to 300 starts. But sure, somewhere around 130 is what you need to get yourself into the conversation if you don't have the counting stats or is enough to establish yourself as "future HoFer" to ease you through your decline phase.

Similarly for within-season where the big blow to winning 20 games was the shift from the top starters getting 37-40 starts a year to getting only 32-34. There have been 198 starter-seasons with 20+ wins, <=34 starts and <=36 games (to remove relief wins from the old-timers). These seem reasonably evenly spread -- 86 pre-integration (a bit under 2 per year, many fewer teams), 57 from 1947-1992 (a bit over 1), 57 from 1993-2017 (more than 2). It's a perfectly common modern phenomenon -- this year was the first since 2009 not to have a 20-game winner; last year we had 3 including all-time greats Happ and Porcello.

Of those 198 seasons, 128 had an ERA+ of 130 or better. Another 56 were between 110 and 130; 3 were under 100. We of course have Jack Morris pitching perfectly to the score with 21 wins in 1992 with a 101 ERA+. Quite a few recent guys have done it with an ERA+ under 130 -- Pettitte, Lieber, Ortiz, Hudson, Moyer, Colon, Mulder, Clemens have all done it in the 21st century (8 out of 44).
   8. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: October 27, 2017 at 05:29 PM (#5563871)
Nice to see a good article from djordan. I always enjoy quirky trends like this and seeing if they continue as the game changes. I was glad to see Morris' 92 season mentioned as I immediately thought of it when I started to read the article.
   9. homerwannabee Posted: October 27, 2017 at 06:50 PM (#5563905)
Just a thought, but since 25 wins is the new 30 win season, shouldn't 250 wins be the new 300 win mark for the hall of fame.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: October 27, 2017 at 10:27 PM (#5564080)
Just a thought, but since 25 wins is the new 30 win season, shouldn't 250 wins be the new 300 win mark for the hall of fame.


30 win seasons have been rare since modern(1920) baseball. Since 1920 30 wins has only been achieved 4 times(Dean and Grove are in the hof, McLain and Bagby are not) Meanwhile since 1920 13 pitchers have put up a 300 win career. I'm not sure that 30 wins and 300 have anything to do with each other.
   11. cardsfanboy Posted: October 27, 2017 at 10:30 PM (#5564084)
As far as whether or not 250 wins should be the new 300, time will only tell with that. In theory more pitchers are having longer careers because of Tommy John Surgery, and we haven't really seen a shortage of new 300 game winners as the game has evolved, so it's hard to argue that 300 wins doesn't have the same cachet as it had in the past.

The 70's was the aberration for 300 wins, not the current era.
   12. AndrewJ Posted: October 29, 2017 at 09:26 AM (#5564786)
For me, Clemens and Maddux winning 350+ games in a five-man rotation era is more impressive than Walter Johnson's 410+ wins in the Deadball era.
   13. Chris Fluit Posted: October 29, 2017 at 11:23 AM (#5564800)
Just a thought, but since 25 wins is the new 30 win season, shouldn't 250 wins be the new 300 win mark for the hall of fame.

Jack "The Jack" Morris says "Yes!"
   14. Howie Menckel Posted: October 29, 2017 at 11:42 AM (#5564803)
10 AL starters won 20 games in 1971, and only Palmer and Hunter wound up in the HOF (and only Palmer is in the HOM). the others were Lolich, Blue, Wood, McNally, Dobson, Coleman, Cuellar, and Messersmith. 4 of them pitched for the Orioles, making 142 of the team's 158 starts. none of the Orioles had a 130 ERA+ (only Wood 189 and Blue 183 achieved that mark in the AL in 1971).

NL that year had HOFer/HOMers Jenkins, Seaver, and Carlton win 20+, as did Downing.

Seaver 194 and Jenkins 141 hit the threshold, as did non-20 G winners DRoberts 157, DWilson 138, and KForsch 133.


   15. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 29, 2017 at 12:08 PM (#5564807)
For me, Clemens and Maddux winning 350+ games in a five-man rotation era is more impressive than Walter Johnson's 410+ wins in the Deadball era.

On the surface, perhaps, but then you also have to factor in the teams they played for.

Record of Washington Senators, 1907-27: 1559-1609/.492. Without Johnson, 1142-1330/.462. Difference .030

Record of Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees and Houston Astros during the years Clemens pitched for them: 2067-1751/.541. Without Clemens, 1713-1567/.522. Difference .019

Record of Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres during the years and partial years Maddux pitched for them: 2009-1644/.550. Without Maddux, 1654-1417/.539. Difference .011

That said, I don't see how it's possible to say one of those pitchers is more impressive than the others. Different eras have different requirements and standards for transcendence.

   16. cardsfanboy Posted: October 29, 2017 at 12:36 PM (#5564815)
I know we have been talking about the death of 20 win seasons for a while now, it's dying, but it's not dead. And I'm in the camp that thinks that it's never going to die(at least not in the foreseeable future)


The last time that we have had multiple digit pitchers win 20 games in a season was 1975. We've gone from an average of 7 or so 20 game winners in a season (1976-1980)to 5(1982-2003)to 3 or so now. It's a drop of course, and it doesn't seem to be just a short term trend, 18 wins is now the new 20(and 20 is now the new 22) but 20 wins will still happen.
   17. BDC Posted: October 29, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5564819)
Re: Walter Johnson, remember that he won 40 games in relief. (B-Ref says 32, but that's a partial career; wins in relief is one of the last areas in which the old Macmillan is still more comprehensive.) I don't know whether that makes his overall 417 more or less impressive, but, as Andy says, it's at least a structural difference between his career and those of Clemens or Maddux.
   18. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 29, 2017 at 01:33 PM (#5564829)
Re: Walter Johnson, remember that he won 40 games in relief. (B-Ref says 32, but that's a partial career; wins in relief is one of the last areas in which the old Macmillan is still more comprehensive.) I don't know whether that makes his overall 417 more or less impressive, but, as Andy says, it's at least a structural difference between his career and those of Clemens or Maddux.

And I'm not making a claim for any of them over any of the others. Johnson pitched 998 more innings than Clemens and 906 more than Maddux, and had 531 complete games to their 118 and 109. Which also means nothing without noting the number of home runs hit in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the number of home run threats per roster, and the outfield dimensions of the parks they pitched in. Sabermetricians' conceits to the contrary, I don't think there's any way to put all these (and other) era factors into one big mixing bowl and come out with any definitive answer as to whose career was the most impressive out of the three. Not that the argument isn't fun to make, but IMO it way too often gets down to which factors you think are the most important, which is inherently a subjective call.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: October 29, 2017 at 03:41 PM (#5564896)
Re: Walter Johnson, remember that he won 40 games in relief. (B-Ref says 32, but that's a partial career; wins in relief is one of the last areas in which the old Macmillan is still more comprehensive.) I don't know whether that makes his overall 417 more or less impressive, but, as Andy says, it's at least a structural difference between his career and those of Clemens or Maddux.


I keep saying that sometime in the near future, that teams are going to start allowing their starters to relieve in about 10 games a year, it's going to be a way to increase the size of the bullpen going forward (especially if they ever set a roster limit on number of pitchers)
   20. Walt Davis Posted: October 29, 2017 at 05:23 PM (#5564982)
Walter Johnson is the pre-war pitcher I am most confident would still be a good pitcher today. I'm not sure my list goes farther than Lefty Grove in a distant 2nd. (Not that I've ever given much thought to it.)

Again, the big shift over recent history has been the shift from 37-40 starts to 32-34 ... and these days that might even be 30-32. By year, 20+ wins and GS<=1.7*wins (i.e. 20 wins in 34 or fewer starts ... or 22 wins in 37 or fweer, etc.)

1970 4
1971 3
1972 4
1973 2
1974 2
1975 3
1976 3
1977 4
1978 2
1979 1
1980 4
1981 --
1982 1
1983 3
1984 1
1985 3
1986 5 (leader)
1987 0
1988 4
1989 2
1990 5 (tied)
1991 3
1992 4
1993 4
1994 --
1995 0
1996 2
1997 3
1998 4
1999 3
2000 3
2001 7 (we have a winner!)
2002 6
2003 5
2004 2
2005 3
2006 0
2007 1
2008 4
2009 0
2010 3
2011 3
2012 4
2013 1
2014 3
2015 2
2016 3
2017 0

So we see more 0s and 1s these days but still lots of 3s and 4s and late sillyball was the top era. Having typed it all out I realize it was a bit "unfair" in that 36 starts, 21 wins and 38 starts, 22 wins a bit over 1.7 starts/win ... bump it up to 1.75 to cover that and you do add one in many of the 70s years that I checked but I'm not gonna re-count and re-type.

This latter search turns up 175 pitcher-seasons. Median ERA+ is 134 and 97 reach the 130 mark and the minimum is Morris's 101. The lowest for the 21st century is Lieber 2001 at 109. Fair enough, the lowest of the 2010s does look to be Happ at 134 ERA+. That might be the drop in BF/IP per start.
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 29, 2017 at 06:43 PM (#5565012)
Walter Johnson is the pre-war pitcher I am most confident would still be a good pitcher today. I'm not sure my list goes farther than Lefty Grove in a distant 2nd. (Not that I've ever given much thought to it.)

Out of curiosity, why not Alexander, who won 165 games in the lively ball era between the ages of 33 and 43? Between 1920 and 1925 he went 107-68/.611 for Cubs teams that were 451-471/.489

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

News

All News | Prime News

Old-School Newsstand


BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Andere Richtingen
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogMLB must fix glaring problem that ruined an all-time classic
(88 - 2:12am, Oct 21)
Last: Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle

NewsblogLEAGUE CHAMPION SERIES OMNICHATTER! for the 2018 Playoffs!
(2613 - 2:11am, Oct 21)
Last: Voodoo

NewsblogOTP 2018 October 15: The shift in focus from sport to politics
(1441 - 1:56am, Oct 21)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogOT - NBA Thread (2018-19 season kickoff edition)
(795 - 1:22am, Oct 21)
Last: maccoach57

NewsblogOT - October 2018 College Football thread
(156 - 11:42pm, Oct 20)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogWhy The Dodgers' WS Odds are So High
(27 - 11:28pm, Oct 20)
Last: Baldrick

NewsblogCatch-All Pop Culture Extravaganza (October 2018)
(544 - 10:57pm, Oct 20)
Last: Lassus

NewsblogThe Brewers are becoming more and more positionless on defense | SI.com
(22 - 8:50pm, Oct 20)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogBest 2018-19 Hot Stove value may be in trade
(2 - 6:44pm, Oct 20)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogAstros' Jose Altuve underwent surgery to repair right knee injury
(1 - 6:01pm, Oct 20)
Last: Count Vorror Rairol Mencoon (CoB)

NewsblogWhat It Took to Write About Baseball as a Woman
(25 - 5:36pm, Oct 20)
Last: jingoist

Sox TherapyAmerican League Champions!!!!
(32 - 5:17pm, Oct 20)
Last: What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face?

NewsblogOT: Soccer Thread (2018-19 season begins!)
(997 - 2:06pm, Oct 20)
Last: Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature

Hall of Merit2019 Hall of Merit Ballot Discussion
(173 - 1:33pm, Oct 20)
Last: Dr. Chaleeko

NewsblogBrewers win NLCS Game 6 vs. Dodgers
(2 - 12:21pm, Oct 20)
Last: perros

Page rendered in 0.3521 seconds
46 querie(s) executed