There's a strong contingency of baseball fans and pundits who wish to abolish the pitching win, saying it's a useless stat that doesn't truly measure a pitcher's contribution to a game. But there's a whole other group of baseball fans who grew up memorizing win-loss records and thinking of 20 wins as a grand threshold of pitching superiority.
Those who hate the win have a 2014 poster boy for their cause — Jeff Samardzija, the tough-luck ace of the Chicago Cubs whose season thus far illustrates that if you're just judging pitchers by wins, then you're doing them a disservice.
Samardzija is 0-3 after a no-decision Monday night. Hey, if memorizing stats off the back of baseball cards in the 1980s has taught us anything it's that 0-3 is not very good, right? Not exactly. Samardzija pitched nine innings Monday, giving up one run on three hits and striking out seven. That's the sort of "win" pitchers wish for, but since the score was tied 1-1 after the ninth, Samardzija took the no-decision. Heck, he even got a hit to break up opposing pitcher Jose Quintana's no-hitter in the sixth inning.
Tough luck, Jeff. And it's been happening to him all season. Samardzija has a 1.62 ERA, which is the second best in baseball right now. But he's receiving an average of 2.14 runs per start from the Cubs' offense, the third worst among qualified pitchers. For comparison: Dan Haren is getting six runs per game from the Dodgers and he's 4-0 with an admirable 2.39 ERA.
Here's how Samardzija's numbers compare to the guys who rank No. 3 and No. 4 in ERA:
Jeff Samardzija: 1.62 ERA, 9 ER in 50 innings, 41 hits allowed, 38 strikeouts, 15 walks.
Max Scherzer: 1.72 ERA, 9 ER in 47 innings, 33 hits allowed, 60 strikeouts, 12 walks.
Jose Fernandez: 1.74 ERA, 9 ER in 46.2 innings, 30 hits allowed, 65 strikeouts, 12 walks.
It's all fairly close, except Scherzer and Fernandez strike out more hitters and Samardzija has given up more hits. All stellar starts to the season, though.
The difference in win-loss record? The other two pitchers are each 4-1. In fact, Samardzija's the only one of the nine pitchers in MLB with a sub-2.00 ERA to not have a win. All the others have at least two.
It's actually historic that Samardzija has been so good without getting a win. As dug up by Ted Berg at For The Win, Samardzija is the only pitcher since George "Pea Soup" Dumont in 1917 to start the season with seven straight outings in which he pitched more than five innings, didn't allow more than three runs and didn't get a single win.
But previous Cubs pitchers do know Samardzija's pain:
If Samardzija can't get a win, his misfortune should at least be turned into something. How about a stat? The Samardzija — when a pitcher deserves a win but doesn't get one.
"Sure, he finished the season with only nine wins, but look at his ERA, it's great. Plus he had six Samardzijas."
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