By The Common Man
Berthiaume lays out the argument today that we should respect Kevin Correia’s win total for the Pittsburgh Pirates, saying “let's not do a sabermetric sidestep around one simple fact: There is still only ONE stat that counts in the division standings and that's wins. And no major league pitcher has more wins than Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia.” Which, while true, ignores the fact that pitcher wins and team wins are not the same thing. In fact they are completely different definitions. All Correia has to do to get a “win” is escape the 5th inning with a lead that his bullpen doesn’t relinquish. Teams have to be ahead at the end of 9 innings. So while Correia’s team has won in 8 of his 12 starts, Roy Halladay has started 9 games that his team has won, even though he’s only credited with 7 “wins.” Ditto with Cole Hamels. Isn’t that more impressive?
But that’s not even the real point.
In actuality, pitching wins is a terrible way to judge pitcher performance, because so much of a pitcher’s record is determined by his team’s offensive performance. Indeed, Correia has gotten good results in 2011. His walk rate is excellent and his ERA is a low 3.40 (112 ERA+). And he’s allowing just 0.8 homers per nine innings while posting the highest GB/FB ratio of his career (1.02). Correia has been far better than expected for the Pirates, especially considering a strikeout rate (4.0 per nine innings) that would be the lowest of his career. But the reason for his 8 wins is not that he’s been such a tremendous pitcher. It’s that in his eight wins, the Pirates have scored 47 runs, or just a shade under 6 runs per game. This in an offensive environment where teams have scored just 4.15 runs per game in the National League, and the Pirates themselves are scoring just 3.93.
Indeed, his teammate Paul Maholm, who has gotten similar results in 12 starts, allowing the exact same number of runs on the season as Correia in just one-third of an inning less, has a record of just 2-7. Is that because Maholm “doesn’t know how to win?” Of course not. We can look at the fact that the Pirates have scored just 18 runs in his seven losses, and just 8 runs in the first six that he was charged with the L.
Is that Maholm’s fault? Is Correia just that much better at rallying the troops and encouraging his offense? Does he play this video before every game?
No, of course not. It’s luck that his offense has had his back, while they’ve been almost entirely absent in Maholm’s starts. Not some magical ability to “win games.” Sorry Steve, this may be worse than the Astros pick. The Common Man still loves ya, though.