A starting pitcher's won-loss record isn't what we crack it up to be.
If a pitcher hypothetically goes 16-7, he does so for the same reasons he might go 6-10.
He's at the mercy of how many runs his own team scores.
That's it. That's all a W-L record means.
Not everyone is on board with this, apparently. Take, for example, Jerry Dipoto, the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In discussing the Dan Haren(notes) trade made with the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday, Dipoto gave the impression Joe Saunders'(notes) 54-32 career major league record is a strong indication of what the D-backs are getting.
Dipoto — whom you also might remember as a major league relief pitcher — is new to his job, having recently taken over for the fired Josh Byrnes. But he's often mentioned as a candidate for open or soon-to-be open jobs. The guy wasn't born last night. But he might live in a cocoon.
Dipoto said via the Arizona Republic:
"We achieved by maintaining major league quality with a 2008 All-Star in Joe Saunders and a guy who quite frankly has been one of the winners in Major League Baseball. I think he trails only Roy Halladay(notes) among major leaguers in total wins. He's won 63 percent of his games since coming to the major leagues... "
Dipoto also praised Saunders for being "a quality, durable, steady major league starter" with "a good deal of playoff experience."
As if playoff experience is a virus and Saunders' new teammates in Phoenix will catch it. Playoff fever, literally.
The hypothetical pitcher I used at the beginning — the one who could have been 16-7 or 6-10 — was Saunders.
Saunders is not pitching substantially different than he did in 2009, when "he" went 16-7 for the Angels.
His ERA is almost identical. His WHIP is higher by six-hundredths of a point. He gives up about the same amount of hits per inning. He's walking a few more than last season, but not much. His strikeouts are virtually the same as in 2008 and '09.
Yet, he goes to Arizona with a 6-10 record. Why?
For the same reason any pitcher's record is what it is: If the Angels scored more runs for Saunders when he was in the game, his record might look like last year's.
Saunders is 54-32 because, in 51 of 115 career starts, the Angels have scored at least six runs for him.
There are just too many factors in a baseball game — much less a season, or a career — to assign much meaning to a pitcher's individual record. Teams win and lose games. People shoot guns. What?
But either he didn't have enough nice things to say about Joe Saunders that are true or can be supported with facts, or he really thinks that pitchers can be defined by their own W-L records. It's everything else that defines them.
Such postures don't bode well for the future of the D-backs.
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