So, while my friend Brian Kenny rants daily on Twitter and MLB Network about “killing” the win and educating all of us half-wits in the Baseball Writers Association of America, he’s like a single-issue candidate fighting for a law that already has passed.
...But when I posed the win-loss question to a friend of mine, a sabermetrician who works in a major league front office, his response was considerably less strident than Kenny’s.
I’m granting my friend anonymity to protect him from the barbarians at the gate on both sides of the discussion and also to shield the identity of his club. The old-school/new-school debate over win-loss records, my friend said, is ongoing even within his own front office. And the old-school types, he conceded, “have a point.”
“They’re sophisticated enough to understand run support, defense, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) left-on-base percentage, luck, etc.,” my friend said. “All those things affect win-loss, but there is some variation in win-loss record that might be explained by experience, know-how, in-game strategy. Maybe the explanatory power is vanishingly small, but it probably is not zero.”
My friend went on to say that if a pitcher “knows how to win,” his savvy will show up in other advanced stats but “maybe not completely.” The larger question, he said, is whether certain pitchers “pitch to the score,” as Jack Morris says he did throughout his career. Morris says that he wasn’t worried about his ERA when he had a big lead; he pitched more to contact, and if his ERA and other statistics suffered, so be it.