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What were the St. Louis Cardinals' most- and least-deserved pitching "wins" of 2014?

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Some pitching "wins" are more deserved than others. Bill James's Game Score helps us sort them out.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

To tell a baseball fan whether a starting pitcher received a pitching "win" in a given start is to tell that fan nothing except that the starter recorded at least fifteen outs. A starter can be assigned a pitching win if he gives up 10 runs over five innings so long as his offense scores 11 runs before he is relieved and the bullpen and his relief corps records another 12 outs before the opposition ties the game or takes the lead. A starter can receive a pitching "loss" if he throws a complete game and allows an unearned run if his offense fails to generate any offense. Some pitching "wins" are more deserved than the others; the same goes for "losses."

Every offseason I like to look back at the most- and least-deserved pitching "wins" for the Cardinals during the year before. To do so, I use Game Score, a method of evaluating starts first developed by Bill James. Here is how Game Score is calculated:

  • Start with 50 points.
  • Add 1 point for each out recorded; or, 3 points per inning pitched.
  • Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
  • Add 1 point for each strikeout.
  • Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
  • Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
  • Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
  • Subtract 1 point for each walk issued.

I cross-referenced Cardinals starters who notched a pitching "win" with their Game Score in those starts. The first chart shows the 10 pitching performances with the highest Game Score that also earned a pitching "win." The second chart shows the 10 games with the lowest Game Score in which the starter received a pitching "win."

2014 Most-Deserved Starter Pitching "Wins" by Game Score

Rank

SP

Date

Opp.

GSc

IP

R

ER

SO

BB

HBP

H

HR

1

Wainwright

5/20

ARI

94

9.0

0

0

9

0

0

1

0

2

Wainwright

4/17

WSH

88

9.0

0

0

8

3

0

2

0

3

Lynn

6/13

WSH

86

8.0

0

0

8

0

0

2

0

4

Miller

6/7

TOR

85

9.0

0

0

5

1

0

3

0

5

Wainwright

5/25

CIN

83

8.0

0

0

12

1

0

5

0


Lynn

6/23

COL

83

8.0

0

0

7

0

0

3

0

7

Wainwright

4/27

PIT

81

8.0

0

0

7

2

1

3

0

8

Lynn

4/14

MIL

79

7.0

0

0

11

3

0

3

0

9

Wainwright

9/22

CHC

78

7.0

0

0

8

1

0

3

0


Wainwright

9/17

MIL

78

9.0

0

0

7

2

0

7

0

  • This gives us an inkling of just how valuable Adam Wainwright is to the Cardinals. The staff ace accounts for six of the 10 highest Game Scores in which a starter received a pitching "win" for his effort. They range from Wainwright's sterling May 20 outing versus the Diamondbacks to his solid complete game against Milwaukee in which he scattered seven hits.
  • Wainwright being so great isn't to say that Lance Lynn is not quite good in his own right. The third-year starter accounted for three of the ten starts in his own right, an indication of how important he was to last year's club. He ate innings and made it tough for the opposition to score while doing so.
  • I was surprised to see Shelby Miller on this list. His 2014 season was lackluster by just about any metric. But that's probably why I vividly remember the Toronto start that places fourth on this list. It felt like a breath of fresh air after months of struggles.

2014 Least-Deserved Starter Pitching "Wins" by Game Score

Rank

SP

Date

Opp.

GSc

IP

R

ER

SO

BB

HBP

H

HR

1

Masterson

8/2

MIL

39

6.0

5

5

4

3

0

7

0

2

Lynn

8/8

CIN

40

6.0

5

5

4

0

1

8

0

3

Lynn

8/10

BAL

44

5.2

3

3

6

1

0

9

0


Wainwright

9/2

PIT

44

6.0

4

4

3

1

0

7

3

5

Lynn

8/3

CIN

45

5.0

3

3

7

1

0

8

2

6

Miller

7/19

PHI

46

6.0

3

3

1

3

0

6

2

7

Miller

5/5

ATL

50

5.0

2

2

5

2

0

6

0


Miller

5/11

PIT

50

5.1

2

2

2

4

1

4

1

9

Kelly

4/5

PIT

52

5.1

1

1

4

4

1

6

0

10

Martinez

7/22

PHI

53

5.0

3

3

5

1

1

3

0

  • Speaking of vivid memories, I remember the anticipation I had for Justin Masterson's first start in the birds on the bat. It was a brutal outing that would've been completely and utterly deflating had the offense not plated six runs while Masterson was in the game and nine overall. In hindsight, we know that it was a harbinger of things to come.
  • For as excellent as Lynn was last season, I was surprised to see that he picked up three of the most garbage pitching "wins." All place in the top five. Two weren't awful starts, just short. Lynn surrendered three runs in each while failing to record more than 17 outs.
  • Less surprising is seeing Miller on this list multiple times. Reaching six innings seemed like an accomplishment for Miller during his frustrating sophomore season. Those short outings, when manager Mike Matheny saw fit to get Miller out of the game while the getting was good due to a low runs-allowed totals that gave the Cards a chance to win the game despite Miller's lackluster if not outright bad peripherals, were all too common.
  • It's interesting that we get a Joe Kelly Special on this list. Only Kelly's unique ability to allow base runner after base runner yet wriggle free could produce such a line at his "winning" one on April 5 against PIttsburgh. Nine Pirates reached base against Kelly in just 5 1/3 innings yet just one crossed the plate. Kelly's ghastly peripherals that day earned him a spot on this list.