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Weekly Mailbag: Wins, Showdown vs. the Red Sox, and Brett Gardner!



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In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk about Pitcher Wins, the weekend face-off with the Red Sox, and Brett Gardner! Let’s get at it:

Mark asks: Do you think it is time to update this rule [Mark prefaced the question with the definition of a pitcher “Win”]? Paxton would have been awarded the win on Tuesday if an opener was used. Just seems silly to require a starter to go 5 innings to get a win, when a starter with an opener can go only an inning and arbitrarily be awarded the win.

Just seems time to change the rule or get rid of it, since bullpens play such a large part of today’s games.

What you’ve highlighted is just how meaningless the Pitcher Win is in today’s game. Traditionalists cared about wins at a time where starting pitchers would regularly accumulate 250+ innings pitched in a season. To be fair to traditionalists, it is fair to argue that the Win may have had more meaning at that time, given that a single pitcher contributed significantly more to the outcome of the game. As much as I am a proponent of the modern statistics used to evaluate what is happening on the field, even I can acknowledge that the Win, even if it isn’t predictive or particularly useful in giving us details regarding pitcher performance, was at one time capable of conveying a pitcher’s ability to guide his team to victory.

However, Mark is spot on by saying that the rule is meaningless in today’s game, and despite the above acknowledgement, I don’t think it was ever that useful. For example, let’s take a look at the careers of Player A and Player B below:

Player A: 254 Wins, 18 Seasons

Player B: 190 Wins, 17 Seasons

Sure, Player B played 1 fewer season than Player A, but Player A had 64 more Wins! OK, so I’m assuming you still want more information. Here’s some other statistics:

Player A: 3,824 IP, 5.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 8.4 H/9, 1.78 K/BB, 1.296 WHIP, 43.5 bWAR

Player B: 2,898.2 IP, 8.3 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 7.8 H/9, 2.35 K/BB, 1.256 WHIP, 61.6 bWAR

Player B may have issued a few more walks per inning than Player A, but Player B is obviously superior in every other meaningful way. Player A is Jack Morris. Player B is David Cone. Traditionalists pounded the table for Jack Morris’s induction to the Hall of Fame, whereas they really didn’t make much noise in Cone’s favor. David Cone produced far batter statistics on a rate basis than Jack Morris in a more offensively charged era. Cone threw nearly 1000 fewer innings than Morris, and he still out-produced Morris by close to 18 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. Morris may have the win totals, but Cone was better in every way.

As Mark notes at the end of his question, maybe it’s time to eliminate the Win as a statistic. It really doesn’t tell us anything about what happens on the field. To be fair, I think most prominent observers have stopped paying attention to the Pitcher Win as anything more than a passing fancy. Baseball front offices stopped caring about the statistic long ago. It’s time for even casual fans to stop caring about the Pitcher Win when evaluating the modern game.

Jack asks: If the Yankees sweep the Red Sox this weekend, how likely is it that the Red Sox will stay out of the hunt for the AL East?

A 4-game sweep this weekend would be incredible, but highly unlikely. While the Sox have been treading water, going 5-5 in their last 10 games, they still have a very potent offense. Essentially, the Red Sox have the lineup the Yankees hoped to have when the season started. The only hitter in the Red Sox lineup who is not producing at at least an average rate is Jackie Bradley Jr. Even formerly light-hitting catcher, Christian Vasquez, has a 117 OPS+. Given the number of innings the bullpen has been forced to absorb lately, and the way the starting rotation lines up, I’d be leery of predicting a sweep.

That said, I do think that the Yankees have a far superior team right now, even with the number of guys the Yankees still have on the DL. The Red Sox have an average (at best) rotation that has been banged up, forcing them to use some pitchers who cannot be expected to perform at even replacement level. The bullpen has been better than expected, but if it were deeper, the Sox would be able to grind out more bullpen games (I wonder who’s available in the free agent market to fill that need…). In short, the offense really has to carry the Sox at the moment. I think the Yankees should be able to win the series given that situation.

Let’s say that the Yankees take 3 of 4 this weekend. That’ll put the Yankees up 5-1 in the season series. That’s a great start, but not enough to bury them. The Yankees play the Sox 20 times this year, so as Yogi would say, “It ain’t over until it’s over.”

More importantly, taking 3 of 4 this weekend would give the Yankees a 39-20 record without a healthy roster. These games all count, and jumping out to that kind of win percentage this early bodes well for the Yankees in their pursuit for an AL East title. The Yanks are getting healthier, and as we turn the page to June, I think that we can expect the “regulars” to pick up right where the replacements have left off.

Brian asks: Brett Gardner has been great lately – do you want to take back your comment that he is a 4th outfielder yet?

Gardner has certainly picked it up lately, particularly offensively. In his last 28 days, Gardner is hitting .290/.338/.551, and he’s been even hotter if you look at the last 7-14 days. Frankly, I have been shocked by the power that Gardner has displayed recently. According to Statcast, he really isn’t hitting the ball any harder, nor has his launch angle changed by any significant margin. That said, Gardner’s fly ball rate is up by 5% over last season, and his pull rate is up by almost 4% over last season. Gardner sure appears to be taking advantage of the short porch in RF.

I know it may seem like I’m beating up on Gardy when I call him a 4th outfielder, but that’s really not my intention. He has always been one of my personal favorites, and I love his intense, scrappy style of play. While Gardner is hot right now, if he keeps playing every day, we have multiple seasons of data that show that Gardner wears down. Once the outfield is completely healthy (or close to it), I think that it makes sense to manage his innings to keep him productive deep into a playoff run. I stand by that thought process.

I’m excited to see if Gardy’s performance can be maintained over the long haul. It will only make the Yankees deeper as they get healthier.

That’s all for this week. Let’s see if I’m wrong – maybe the Yankees can squeeze out a sweep this weekend. That would be pretty great. Have a great weekend, and see you next week!

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