Wednesday I introduced a page comparing traditional wins and losses with those assigned by a points system proposed by Tom Tango. Tom agreed with my modification of run values, using -5 in win points and 10 in loss points.
Today I’d like to highlight some of the biggest changes in record using this proposal would have produced in recent years.
In 2013, Tyson Ross had an official record of 3-8, but his Tango record improves 8 games to 8-5, the biggest improvement in the majors in 2013. Ross was pulled from the rotation early in the year, but rejoined it in late July, giving up 3.67 runs/9 innings over 125 innings (16 starts and 19 relief appearances).
Ubaldo Jimenez (3.70 R/9) improved by 7 games, from 13-9 to 18-7, which seems reasonable given that his team won so many of his starts. Phil Hughes also improved 7 games, but from an awful 4-14 to a simply bad 7-10, which I suppose somewhat better reflects his poor, but not hideous, 5.62 R/9. Chris Sale reversed his actual 11-14 record to 14-11, a 6 game improvement, but still suffered from rather poor run support, as he had a 3.40 R/9 and an excellent 1.068 WHIP.
The two pitchers hurt the most in 2013 were both relievers. Bryan Shaw officially went 7-3, and his rate stats were still good (3.72 R/9, 1.173 WHIP), but his Tango record dropped 7 games to 2-5. Luke Gregerson had even better rate stats (3.26 R/9 and 1.010 WHIP), but his record also dropped 7 games, from 6-8 to 1-10.
Four pitchers saw their record drop 6 games, with C.J. Wilson the only starter in the bunch. Wilson officially was 17-7, and his ERA, 3.39 seems rather good. But his WHIP was a more pedestrian 1.342, and he gave up 13 unearned runs on the season, so his R/9 was 3.94. His Tango record worked out to a still good 12-8, which I think much better reflects his effectiveness.
Starters gained the most in 2012 also, with Kris Medlen improving 9 games from 10-1 to 18-0. Medlen actually started the year in relief, not joining the rotation until late July. He won 9 of 12 starts under the official rules, but under the Tango proposal, he’d be credited with wins in all 12 of his starts, as well as an extra 5 relief appearances. His sole loss, in relief on May 26th, would now go to starter Mike Minor, who gave up the first 4 runs in an 8-4 loss. Medlen allowed just 1.70 R/9 and 0.913 WHIP in his 138 IP.
Jordan Zimmermann also improves by 9 games, from 12-8 to 19-6, for a year when gave up 3.17 R/9. Interestingly, in 2013, Zimmerman actually won 19 games under the official rules despite his R/9 rising to 3.42.
On the negative side, relievers again fall the most, with Rex Brothers dropping from 8-2 to 1-7, a 12 game swing. Brothers allowed 4.39 R/9 with a 1.478 WHIP. James Russell fell 10 games, from 7-1 to 2-6 in a year where he gave up 3.63 R/9 with a 1.298 WHIP. The biggest drop for a starter in 2012, 6 games belongs to Wandy Rodriguez, who went 12-13 splitting time between the Astros and Pirates, but has a Tango record of 8-15. Rodriguez gave up 4.33 R/9 and 1.269 WHIP on the year.
2011 saw a bit of a reversal, with two relievers improving the most. Daniel Bard‘s actual record was 2-9, but he went 7-5 under the Tango rule, a 9 game improvement. Bard gave up 3.58 R/9, and just 0.959 WHIP in 70 relief appearances that year. Jim Johnson didn’t become the Orioles’ closer until September, but he saw his actual 6-5 record improve 8 games to 11-2, in a season where he gave up 2.97 R/9 and 1.110 WHIP while throwing 91 innings.
The two biggest drops in record belonged to starters. Derek Holland fell 9 games, from a stellar 16-5 to 12-10, with the latter record much better reflecting his effectiveness (4.41 R/9 and 1.354 WHIP). John Lackey had awful percentage numbers, 6.69 R/9 and a 1.641 WHIP, yet somehow had a 12-12 official record, which falls to 4-16 under the Tango method, again a better reflection of his actual performance.
Amusingly Daniel Bard also topped the 2010 list of biggest improvement, going from a 1-2 official record to 7-0 in a stellar season when he gave up just 2.17 R/9 and 1.004 WHIP. His 8 game improvement was matched by four other players: Mark Hendrickson (1-6 to 6-3), Darren Oliver (1-2 to 11-4), Tommy Hanson (10-11 to 16-9), and Wade LeBlanc (8-12 to 11-7). The biggest fall was 7 games, also by 4 players: Brandon League (9-7 to 2-7), Jeff Weaver (5-1 to 1-4), Bruce Chen (12-7 to 5-7), and Billy Wagner (7-2 to 1-3). Wagner was quite effective overall as the Braves closer that season (1.82 R/9 and 0.865 WHIP), but a one-inning pitcher who is the last in the order isn’t likely to pick up wins. I was somewhat surprised that although Wagner also had 7 blown saves, just 2 of his wins came in blown saves.
Overall these changes seem to make more sense for starters than relievers. Typically those whose records improve a lot pitched well (or at least had a very bad actual record), while those who dropped tended to pitch poorly (or had an unusually good actual record). For relievers the big changes seem more random, but that likely just reflects the nature of the role. Under the Tango rule, a reliever will only get a win if the starter is relatively ineffective, and then only by being either the most effective reliever, or the one who enters first among those tied. While that is somewhat arbitrary, it does improve over the official rule, where what matters is simply being the pitcher of record when your team scores to take a lead it never relinquishes. I was moderately surprised not to see more closers on the biggest drop list, since they’re likely to lose both vulture wins (when they blow the lead, but their offense wins the game the next inning) as well as wins when they enter tie games (there’s a good chance that a starter, or at least an earlier reliever, was as effective under win points).
The Tango record shouldn’t be used to assess overall pitcher effectiveness, but it does relate pitcher performance to actual team wins and losses, and it is in many cases a significant improvement over the current rule for assigning decisions. You can track the 2014 MLB leaders in Tango wins here.