Joe Posnanski has a recent series of posts about his preferred way to improve the way pitcher wins and losses are tracked. Pos argues the decision should always go to the starters of a game. Start a game and your team wins, you get the win, and vice versa. That simple. I certainly agree that it tells a more complete story than the current rule book version of wins and losses, though Pos’s method of course maintains many of the flaws the current rule holds (mostly that individuals don’t win or lose games).
Piggybacking on that, I wondered how Pos wins and losses would affect Royals starters’ numbers. I looked at the 22 players to have started 100 or more games for KC and compared their actual record to their Pos record. No one’s Pos winning percentage was wildly different than their rule book winning percentage, but it does shed a few pitchers in a different light. Zack Greinke’s official record with the Royals is a not-so-great 60-67, but the team was a dreadful 69-100 in games he started. Tim Belcher has a winning record at 42-37, but the team lost one more than they won when he started (50-51). Bruce Chen similarly flops from a winning to losing record (47-43 vs. 55-58). Bud Black is the one guy who looks dramatically better with his Pos record. Nobody would give a second thought to his official 56-57, but it’s pretty impressive for the team to go 70-58 when you take the mound.
Royals to reach 100 Pos wins:
1. Splitt – 212
2. Leibrandt – 188
3. Leonard – 173
4. Gubicza – 169
5. Appier – 148
6. Saberhagen – 130
7. Gura – 129
8. Gordon – 103
Since I had all this data loaded into a spreadsheet, I thought I may as well throw in another little study. For the 22 pitchers with 100+ starts, I compared the team winning percentage in games they started vs. the team winning percentage when anyone else started during the same years as their Royals career. Clear as mud? Basically it’s measuring how much of a boost or a drag they were to the team compared to their rotation mates.
Danny Jackson was a good pitcher for the Royals, but for some reason the team didn’t find ways to win with him on the mound as much as you’d expect. The 1983-87 Royals won only 43% of his starts while winning 52% of their other games. That’s the only dramatic dip in a negative direction. Rich Gale, Jeff Suppan, Luke Hochevar, and Jorge Rosado also got to 100 starts while their teams actually won at a lower rate with them, but the effect was slight in their cases.
On the flip side, quite a few of the pitchers had a dramatic positive effect on their clubs relative to their contemporary starters. Bruce Chen, Charlie Leibrandt, Bud Black, Steve Busby, Tom Gordon, Dennis Leonard, and Larry Gura all made their teams noticeably better on days they started. Four guys were especially head and shoulders above their mates: Tim Belcher drug otherwise .429 clubs up to .495 in his starts between 1996-98. The team won 58% of Bret Saberhagen’s starts compared to 50% of the other games between 1984-91. Kevin Appier was able to lift some very bad teams (.460 without him) up to a .538 winning percentage. But the biggest difference maker of all was a surprise to me: Al Fitzmorris. The 1970-76 squads grew up rapidly from an expansion team to the brink of the playoffs, and it turns out Fitzmorris deserves quite a bit of credit for the increased winning in those years. Without Fitz, those clubs were a combined .497. But when Fitz started, they turned into an 80-56 (.588) juggernaut.