Is there a more arbitrary barometer for measuring a pitcher's skill and performance than his win/loss record? Reading Rule 10.17 governing the determination of a winning and losing pitcher by the official scorekeeper is a mind-numbing if it were so arbitrary as to be outrageous.
The Rule begins with section (a):
The official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead
...unless, that pitcher is a starting pitcher, then section (b) applies, and the starter must have pitched five innings to receive a win.
But, it is the intent of this section that a relief pitcher not be deemed the "winning pitcher" unless he pitched "...at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher."
Whenever the score is tied, the game becomes a new contest insofar as the winning pitcher is concerned. Once the opposing team assumes the lead, all pitchers who have pitched up to that point and have been replaced are excluded from being credited with the victory.
So a starter can throw six innings of shutout baseball, but if a relief pitcher is in the game the following inning, and gives up a three-run homerun only to remain in the lineup for the start of his team's offensive inning, when they score, say, five runs, the relief pitcher who gave up three runs in one inning is the winning pitcher.
That is, unless the scorekeeper deems him "ineffective" and a subsequent pitcher more effective...
BOOKENDED "EFFECTIVE PITCHERS"
The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
"MOST EFFECTIVE" RELIEF PITCHER
When determining the "most effective" relief pitcher, the comment to Rule 10.17 of the MLB Official Rules, the scorekeeper "should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance." But, "[i]f two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher."
This is to say nothing about how it is all relative to your team's offensive output on a given day. You could throw nine innings, give up one run, and lose if your team is shutout while you could throw five innings, give up six runs and win if your team hits on that given day.
So, the arbitrariness of the Win/Loss Record is extended as it is relative to the scorekeeper, subsequent relief performance, and, most importantly, your team's bats on that particular day.
ANTHONY REYES' 2007 RECORD: START-BY-START
By all accounts, Anthony Reyes had a lackluster 2007 as a starter, and what seems to me to be the most oft-cited statstic is his win/loss record for the year. However, he did not pitch as badly as his record of 2-14 would suggest. In fact, his first seven starts, he surrendered 22 ER in 39 IP while the team put up 8 runs total for those seven games in their entirety and just 4 runs while Reyes was on the ound. As noted above, the amount of runs your offense scores for you while a pitcher is in the game goes a long way toward his win/loss record. Well, the Cards' bats gave him 4 runs in 22 innings, which is next-to-nothing.
Apr. 7 vs. Houston: 5 IP, 3 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-1
Apr. 16 vs. Pittsburgh: 5 IP, 3 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-2
Apr. 21 vs. Chicago: 6 IP, 4 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-3
Apr. 27 vs. Chicago: 6 IP, 4 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-4
May 2 vs. Milwaukee: 6 IP, 3 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-5
May 7 vs. Colorado: 6 IP, 2 ER Decision: No Decision Record: 0-5
May 13 vs. San Diego: 5 IP, 3 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-6
On May 19 and 25, Reyes gave up 7 ER and 5 ER respectively, yet the team only lost each game by a single run. The Fates frowned upon him and he was given two losses, even though against Detroit on May 19, the team made up the seven-run deficit. Ironically, Wellemeyer gave up the run that was the margin of victory for the Tigers. St. Louis scored two runs in the 9th inning that would have tied the game. (I bring this up to point out the arbitrariness of the allocation of wins and losses. Both Reyes and Wellemeyer contributed to the run total that lost the game by a single run.)
June 17 vs. Oakland: 5 IP, 5 ER Decision: No Decision Record: 0-7
The Cards put up 10 runs and win the game 10-6. Reyes pitched worse than he did in each of his first seven games, through which he was 0-6, yet escapes without a blemish to his win/loss record. He gets lit up by the Phils in Philly for another loss and the Cards head to Shea...
June 27 vs. New York Mets: 5 IP, 2 ER Decision: Loss Record: 0-10
The Cards get shut out 2-0 by Tom Glavine in a rain delay-shortened game that was called after five and a half innings. His reward is being sent back to AAA Memphis and does not start until July 28...
July 28 vs. Milwaukee: 6 IP, 2 ER Decision: Win Record: 1-10
His first "win" of the season on the back of a strong performance that is reminiscent of his first seven starts of the year.
Aug. 2 vs. Pittsburgh: 5 IP, 3 ER Decision: No Decision Record: 1-10
Reyes leaves in a game tied 3-3 and the Cards end up losing in the bottom of the 11th with Thompson giving up an unearned run.
Aug. 7 vs. San Diego: 7 IP, 1 ER Decision: Loss Record: 1-11
Reyes leaves after seven down 1-0, but the Cards are the victims of a five-hit shutout (six innings of which by Peavy) and Izzy surrenders three in the top of the ninth to put the game out of reach for the Cards in the bottom of the ninth.
Aug. 12 vs. L.A.: 6 IP, 2 ER Decision: Win Record: 2-11
The Cards stomp the Dodgers 11-2, giving Reyes more than enough offense to win after surrendering two runs over six innings.
Aug. 18 vs. Chicago: 6 IP, 5 ER Decision: Loss Record: 2-12
Aug. 23 vs. Florida: 5 IP, 0 ER Decision: Loss Record: 2-13
A loss that brings home the absurdity of the winner/loser determination. The run need not be "earned," it need merely be scored to make a pitcher the losing hurler. Reyes surrenders four runs, none earned, and is the losing pitcher of record. The rules' arbitrariness is brought home the following game vs. Cincy as well...
Aug. 31 vs. Cincinatti: 1 IP, 4 ER Decision: No Decision Record: 2-13
This was the beginning of a precipitous decline at the end of the season for Reyes. Counting the Aug. 31 game vs. the Reds, over his last four games, he pitched only 7.2 innings and surrendered a whopping 13 runs, shooting his ERA from 5.33 to 6.04 for the year. The effect on his record was not as great because of his work in relief for two of the games.
In the 20 games that Reyes started, the Cardinals offense plated a grand total 36 runs while Reyes was in the game. And of those 36 runs, 16 of them came in two starts. If leaving a game with a lead is the most important factor in scoring a "win" with the scorekeeper, then Reyes was severely handicapped by his teammates' offensive (lack of) assistance, which averages out to 1.8 runs/game during the innings that Reyes was the pitcher. The Cardinals were shut out 8 of the 20 games that Reyes started. So, in 40% of his starts, Reyes received no run support--none, zip, zilch, notta.
So, when reporters call his 2-14 season a "slog" it is important to keep in mind that Reyes could have just as easily been 5-0, 6-1, or even 3-3 after his first seven starts. Nonetheless, he was 0-6 despite never giving up more than four runs in his first seven starts while never throwing fewer than five innings. In addition, he lost one game where he gave up a single earned run and the team's defense delivered him a loss in a game where he didn't surrender a single earned run. Against the Mets, he gave up only two runs and, as if to show that luck was entirely not on his side in '07, the game was rained out after 5 and a half innings, giving him the "loss."
His cold, hard 2007 stats are nothing to tout, I realize. But, if we are looking for reasons to be optimistic, there are a few: a 5.7 EqSO9 being one and a 74/43 SO/BB ratio is another. However, Cards fans hope to see him up in St. Louis should be concerned at his 36.2% groundball percentage (Thompson's was 50.8% last year, which was his career low). The greatest reason for concern is his implosion down the stretch, which sticks more vividly in one's mind than his okay start to the year (and should, especially when projecting forward). Nonetheless, his year was no as bad as some say, especially since win/loss record is deflating due to rather poor offensive support.