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:
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.