While Brian Kenny turned #KillTheWin into a Twitter meme, Tom Tango has proposed redefining it. Rather than using the old definition, he suggests computing “win points” and “loss points” for each game, and then giving the player with the most win points on the winning team a win, while the player with the most loss points on the losing team gets the loss. This is intended as a “descriptive” stat, not an analytic one. It’s based on actual wins and losses, but rather than using the old rule, it tries, via a rather simple formula, to find the most deserving pitcher to get the win or loss.
His original suggestion was to give 1 win point per out recorded, and -4 win points per run allowed (whether earned or not) to each pitcher. Highest total gets the loss. In case of ties, the win goes to the pitcher giving up the fewest runs among tied pitchers; if still tied, then give it to the one getting the most outs; finally, if still tied, go with the one who entered the game first.
Loss points were similar: 6 points per run allowed (again whether earned or not), and -1 points per out recorded. For losses, though, you ignore any pitcher who does not give up a run (you don’t deserve a loss if they don’t score on you!). The tiebreakers there are symmetric: first give the loss to the pitcher giving up the most runs; then give it to the one getting the fewest outs; finally, go with the one who entered the game first.
I’ve created a page on my site that computes Tango wins following these rules for seasons from 2010 onward. Well, not exactly. The page actually lets you try your own coefficients,  after a discussion on Tango’s site about results from the earlier model. So I’ve generalized, and in tinkering I think using -5 points per run allowed for win points, and 10 points per run allowed for loss points, gives a better distribution of wins and losses between relievers. That’s the default I use on the page now. I do notice that the traditional rule has a much more stable breakdown in winning percentage of starters and relievers than the Tango proposal, no matter what coefficients I try.
This seems like a promising alternative to traditional wins and losses. The rules are actually simpler to describe than the present MLB rules, and it looks like it removes much of the luck from the traditional allocation. It is still theoretically possible under this system to get a loss you don’t “deserve”. Suppose the starter pitches in the bottom of the 9th inning of a scoreless game, and strikes out the first two batters, but then walks one. The closer comes in, and gives up a triple to end the game. Since the run allowed is charged to the starter, he takes the Tango Loss, as he’s the only one to give up a run, even though the 2-out triple had more to do with that run scoring than the 2-out walk. But that’s a minor quibble, and if anything its more of an indictment of how runs are allocated when pitchers leave with men on base than of the win proposal anyhow. If the run allowed were charged to the closer in that case, he’d get the loss.
It’s also possible to get a Tango Win in a game where current rules would credit you with a save.
I did try to adjust one of the tiebreakers. The Win Points and Loss Points definitions and even tiebreakers are almost perfectly symmetric: positive coefficients in win points are replaced by negative ones in loss points; most tiebreakers in win points are replaced by fewest tiebreakers in loss points. So I wondered what would happen if I switched the last tiebreaker for loss points, giving the loss to the last pitcher to enter the game, rather than the first. Well, so far in 2014, nothing changes, as the loss breakdown between starters and relievers remained unchanged. Even in prior years, just a handful of games were affected. So that tweak basically doesn’t matter. I’d still prefer to give it to the last tied pitcher, though, as it would match current practice if there were a tie for most loss points in a walk-off game.
One other side benefit of this little project: I’ve discovered a data error in my database, as total wins and losses don’t equal each other for 2011 and 2012. I’ll have to get that fixed!


  1. I understand the rhetorical advantage of replacing the win rather than killing it. It’s probably a more winning position than kill the win. But I think this proposal in all its forms is flawed because it still requires some pitcher to get a loss in a 1-0 game, or a win in a game that ends 11-10 and no pitcher on the winning team deserves it. There should be a “no decision” category for a game, not just a pitcher. Without doing the necessary calculations, I’ll propose the obvious place to start: if no pitcher on the winning team has a positive score using your numbers, or no pitcher on the losing team ends up with positive points, then no pitcher gets credit for a win or a loss.

  2. It depends on what you’re trying to do. Think of it as a descriptive stat. Sure, it seems unfair to pitch a complete game allowing just one run and getting a loss, but when your team loses the game, that great performance was for naught.
    And when you win 11-10, that’s still a win. Now I’d agree at one level it’s overly simplistic to give a win to any one player; baseball is after all a team game. But a pitcher usually has the biggest impact on the game, period, and so it’s not much more of a step to identify which pitcher had the biggest impact on a win or loss, and then crediting them.
    In this case the pitcher “wins” all will add up to match the team totals, and there is some value in that.
    You could also simply track a team’s record when using a given pitcher. Especially for starters, that might not be that bad, but for relievers it might be more biased based on usage.
    No stat is perfect. Sometimes the 1-0 game is as much a result of outside factors (weather, a somewhat larger strike zone) as of excellent pitching. This keeps focus on the bottom line, a team win, and simply tries to allocate that win to the pitcher most responsible in a fairly simple to understand way.

  3. Kenny and Geoff perfectly articulated both sides of the issue.
    It simply comes down to the objective. For people like Geoff, we have other stats. For those who like the idea of giving out 1 W and 1 L to ONE guy on the team in that game (and forcing it to be a pitcher), we have the stat I’m proposing.
    Someone else suggested giving out 1 W and 1 L to either SP, Bullpen, or Offense. That also would appeal to some other segment.
    We can make everyone happy. The current official definition of W and L can be improved, so, let’s at least do that.

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