Aside from fantasy where they are an objective and tangible stat, I think wins are an astoundingly bad but WIDELY used method of assessing a pitcher's performance. It constantly baffles me when the only stat a talking head on ESPN (which I've stopped watching in favor of MLB TV completely for baseball coverage) will mention is wins and losses. The bright side of this for me is that it hopefully gives me an advantage in fantasy.
Once again, wins are wins in fantasy and this can't be ignored. The team a pitcher plays for is pretty important, this is undeniable. But aside from a pitcher's performance, how much of this "luck" that goes into a win is run support (over the course of a season)? How much does a pitcher's division and league factor? But that's a different discussion...
Thus to my ultimate point. Wins are wins, I've established this, but how much does this stat "leak" into other categories. I've kind of invented that term to mean when a good performance in one category correlates to good stats in other categories. For example:
Pujols has an off-the-charts OPS. This correlates/is a predictor that he has high HR totals, tons of RBIs and a great batting average. But do wins "leak" like this?
My best example is Tim Wakefield. He got elected to the All-Star team this year based almost solely on his 10 wins up until this point (not to mention a "lifetime achievement" of sorts from Joe Maddon). It absolutely pained me to hear some dime-a-dozen mediocre major leaguer-turned-analyst on Baseball Tonight make a case for why Wakefield should be starting for the AL in the All-Star game.
I wanted to run to Bristol and waive the rest of Wakefield's stats in this guy's face:
He's running an ERA of 4.30 good for 27th in the AL. He's got a WHIP of 1.35 good for 26th in the AL Striking out 4.65 per 9, 52nd in the AL
I know this is nothing new, but we're rewarding mediocre to good pitchers who happen to receive great run support here. Once again, "insiders" like myself who have access to basic stats available on any sports website can dig up the truth that wins are misleading and overvalued when it comes to assessing a pitcher's overall performance
So where does this translate to fantasy baseball? Let's take a look. I love using ESPN's fantasy player rater as an overall value system for players. It uses comparisons-to-league average in all the 5x5 categories. Amongst all pitchers, Wakefield is ranked 73rd. This shows that his wins certainly do not "leak" out into his other stats, thus he has a low overall value relative to his value just from his wins.
For stats that "leak" well, check out good old ERA. The league leaders in that category read as almost the exact same leaders in overall pitcher value. But what about something a little bit more obscure. Where can you find a gem?
Interestingly enough, I like batters faced as a good "leaking" stat. The league leaders read as such:
Kevin Millwood Cliff Lee Jason Marquis Chad Billingsley Nick Blackburn Tim Lincecum Adam Wainwright Felix Hernandez Zach Duke James Shields
An interesting correlation maybe? I didn't dive too far into comparisons between batters faced and overall pitcher value but you'd certainly be happy if you had any of those names pitching for your team for the first half of this season. At the least, EVERY ONE of the above pitchers would have 10 wins for the Red Sox.
In comparison, let's look at some notable names amongst the league leaders in wins (other than Wakefield):
Kevin Slowey (4.86 ERA, 1.412 WHIP) Randy Johnson (4.81 ERA, 1.320 WHIP) Bronson Arroyo (5.85 ERA, 1.573 WHIP)
Not so good.
I'm very open to other opinions about this. My overall fantasy advice out of all of this is:
Sell high on pitchers who have high win totals and little else. Take a look at batters faced leaders. The first part, pretty much a no-brainer maybe, but the second part might be helpful for those looking for a 2nd half sleeper.
i don't know... good pitchers generally win a lot of games.. Roy Halladay wins a bunch every year even though he playes on a mediocre Blue Jay team. one thing that wins measure is a pitchers ability to buckle down when it counts. alot of pitchers are way better when its a 1 run game, then when its out of hand. Roy is a prime example of this. if his Jays are up by 1, he will pitch and pitch well until he knows they have the game won. which often results in a complete game. this is why he wins so much. adn this is why he is a great pitcher. very rarely does a mediocre pitcher win more than 15 and pretty much never does a player that wins less than 15 have an argument for the Cy Young. so back to the original statement, good pitchers win games.
In real life, yes - wins are the most overvalued stat. They are not overvalued in fantasy, because they comprise 10% of the points in a 5x5 league, but they are probably the most difficult to predict, so there's a strong correlation. All that said, I like wins as a fantasy category because its the most important thing in real baseball - nothing else really matters. I'd be all for coming up with a better way to measure wins (no vulture wins, for example), but I still prefer wins to QS. Also, there's a degree of unpredictability with any stat, and its not impossible to try to make educated guesses as to how to predict wins (go for pitchers from teams with good offenses and good bullpens).
I do totally agree with your comments about the talking heads at ESPN and in the papers - those guys should be the "experts" and give regular fans additional insight that they don't have into why wins are the end-all of measuring a pitchers performance.
I'm certainly not going to argue that Wakefield deserves to be in the ASG game, but as a Sox fan I love it. It's obviously a lifetime achievement award and I'm sure Maddon didn't want to tick off the players in the Sox clubhouse by not picking Wakefield. That said, I don't think its any more absurd than guys getting voted into the game based purely on name recognition, even if they've barely played or have had a terrible first half (Hamilton? Really?). If the ASG didn't "matter", it would be a moot point - the game would be purely entertainment and putting the most popular players and best stories into the game would be a good thing.
"The government cannot give to anyone anything that it does not first take from someone else"