Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 9/29/13
Max Scherzer has had quite the season with the Detroit Tigers. Amongst pitchers, he ranks within the top 10 in several categories, including: WAR (4th), ERA (10th), walks and hits per innings pitched (3rd), hits per 9 innings pitched (4th), strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (2nd), innings pitched (8th), and strikeouts (2nd).  On Sept. 25, the Detroit Tigers clinched the American League Central Division again behind, you guessed it, Max Scherzer's arm. He pitched 7 innings, only allowed 2 hits, struck out 10, but ended up walking 6 en route to his major league-leading 21st win. Here's the thing, though: sure Scherzer pitched well, he's pitched well all season long. Did he win the game all by himself? No. Did he knock in the deciding run, giving the Tigers a 1-0 victory? No. Does he deserve a lot of credit? Absolutely. Does he deserve all of the credit? Absolutely not. That's the problem with the pesky 'W' in baseball – there's only one name next to that “Win” statistic, and it's been about time for said statistic to ride off into the sunset. The win in baseball is a terrible way to indicate how well or poorly a pitcher has pitched throughout the season. There's no disputing the stellar season Scherzer has produced, but it's worth nothing that his run support per start (5.59) ranks 3rd in all of baseball. In fact, 3 other Detroit Tigers rank within the top 12 of pitchers with the highest run support per start: Anibal Sanchez (5.46, 4th), Rick Porcello (5.10, 7th), and Justin Verlander (4.79, 12th).  While the statistic is obscene, it's not surprising considering the Detroit Tigers lead all of baseball in batting average (.285) and on-base percentage (.348), while ranking 2nd in slugging percentage (.438). With a potent offense like that, any pitcher could pile up wins. It becomes unfortunate and cheapens the seasons Scherzer, Sanchez and Verlander have had.  An example of how the win is inaccurate is Rick Porcello. His record stands at what would be considered respectable: 13-8. Yet, he holds an ERA of 4.38 with a WHIP of 1.29; hardly numbers to rant and rave about. Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays has a record of 12-9 this season. Pretty solid, right? Well, his ERA is an outrageous 5.16, his WHIP is 1.34 and opponents are batting .272 off of him. Hardly the statistics of a “winner," yet his offense has been able to carry him more often than not. Two more examples of those with winning records who haven't exactly pitched like winners include C.C. Sabathia (14-13, 4.78 ERA, 1.37 WHIP) and Jeremy Guthrie (14-12, 4.09 ERA, 1.42 WHIP). Enter Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals and Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. Although both men pitch for non-playoff teams, they have pitched very well, all things considered. Strasburg cracks the top 10 in walks and hits per inning pitched (8th), hits per 9 innings pitched (6th), and strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (6th). He holds an ERA of 3.02, a WHIP of 1.05, and opponents have hit just .206 off of him.  An example of how the win is inaccurate is Rick Porcello. His record stands at what would be considered respectable: 13-8. Yet, he holds an ERA of 4.38 with a WHIP of 1.29; hardly numbers to rant and rave about. Yet, his record sits at 7-9, a losing record. Why is that? Strasburg has received the 7th-worst run support per start at 3.31 per game. Yet, he gets that 'L' next to his name because the Washington offense, who ranks below the league average in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS has been consistently weak all season. Another prime example of why the win is irrelevant is Chris Sale, the ace and workhorse of the Chicago White Sox. Amongst pitchers, Sale ranks within the top 10 in WAR (2nd), walks and hit per inning pitched (9th), strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (9th), strikeouts (4th), and complete games (2nd). He holds and ERA of 2.97, a WHIP of 1.05, and opponents are hitting .225 off of him.  The problem begins and ultimately ends with the offense of the White Sox, or lack thereof. They have given him the 6th-worst run support per start at 3.28 runs per game, they rank below the Nationals in all four statistics listed above, which is a good start to explaining their current team record of 62-97. Chris Sale deserves better. Clayton Kershaw, whose WAR is a staggering 7.2 to go along with an ERA/WHIP of 1.88/.92 holds a record of 15-9. Oh, and opponents are hitting just .195 off of him. With numbers like that, it's tough to figure out just how Kershaw has been credited with 9 losses.  In his last 3 losses, Kershaw has pitched 18.2 innings, struck out 20, walked 5, and given up only 5 earned runs (no more than 2 ER per start). The explosive Dodgers offense hasn't always been there to help, averaging just 3.56 runs per game when Kershaw starts. Clayton Kershaw will be the Cy Young winner of the 2013 season -- why do we care how many wins he has? Travis Wood of the Chicago Cubs has an ERA/WHIP of 2.98/1.12, yet holds a losing record of 9-11. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has an ERA/WHIP of 2.99/1.13. It would appear he deserves better than his 12-9 record suggests. Make it stop, baseball. Will the individual win ever go away in Major League Baseball? Probably not. We love our statistics; even ones that are strongly considered to be irrelevant. Would we miss it if it were to disappear? There will always be a few, sure. But please, let's not give pitchers all of the credit. Let their numbers on the mound speak for themselves. Baseball is a team game, after all.

This article first appeared on The Sports Post and was syndicated with permission.

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