Every MLB team has one starter who never gets the benefit of run support. However, the Chicago Cubs have taken this anomaly to another level in 2014. Through his first eight starts, Jeff Samardzija was second in the National League with a 1.45 ERA. In fact, Samardzija ranks in the top 10 of at least 18 NL pitching statistics. Despite his outstanding performance, Samardzija ranks dead last in another pitching statistic: wins.
The thought of a pitcher ranking second in the league in ERA, but not having any wins sounds like something only the Cubs could do. However, this is even rarer than you might think. In fact, Samardzija is only the second MLB pitcher since 1917 to start the season with no wins in his first seven starts while allowing fewer than three earned runs in at least five innings of work in each start. Through eight starts, Samardzija’s win-loss record is 0-3 for the Cubs.
Progressive baseball statisticians recognize how ridiculous of a statistic a pitcher’s win-loss record is. In theory, a pitcher could finish the season with an ERA of 0.00 and have no wins to show for it. In fact, he could even have a few losses because although runs scored via errors don’t count against his ERA, they do count towards his losses. The fact that pitchers even have a win-loss record is the height of hypocrisy in a team sport.
Meanwhile, another Cubs pitcher’s 2014 win-loss record is benefiting from surprisingly strong run support. Through his first seven starts of 2014, Jason Hammel’s ERA was a full run higher than Samardzija’s at 2.45. However, Hammel’s win-loss record was 4-1! I’m not saying a 2.45 ERA isn’t impressive. However, Samardzija has been much more effective than Hammel, yet Samardzija has four fewer wins through mid-May for the Cubs.
The watershed moment in the win-loss debate came in 2010. That was the year voters selected Seattle Mariners P Felix Hernandez as the AL Cy Young Award winner. Hernandez won the award despite posting a mediocre 13-12 win-loss record. Thankfully, voters recognized his outstanding 2.27 ERA and the fact that he played for a bad team. However, traditionalists continue to cling to the misguided notion that a pitcher’s win-loss record is important.
If Jeff Samardzija continues to pitch well for the Cubs, but his win-loss record is dismal, I’ll be curious to see if he is selected to the 2014 MLB All-Star game. Why anyone thinks a pitcher should be punished for not receiving run support is beyond me. If a batter goes 4-4, but his team loses, he doesn’t get a loss. Jeff Samardzija’s example highlights why MLB must take the bold step of abolishing a pitcher’s win-loss record as an official statistic.
Patrick Michael is a diehard Chicago Cubs fan who has followed the team since New Orleans added WGN to its cable lineup in 1980. Patrick has covered the Cubs since 2010. Patrick’s favorite Chicago Cubs’ season is 1984 when the Cubs were one win away from the World Series.
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