Pitcher Value: Do More Team Wins Lead to More Pitcher Wins?


I mentioned on my last post that I listen to a lot of podcasts. Two days ago, I listened to a recent edition of the BS Report, in which, Bill Simmons interviewed Brian Kenny of MLB TV.

Although, I do not necessarily agree with the binary tone that Kenny takes towards certain issues, I understand why he does it. That this is his character in the media — the die-hard sabermetrician to the end.

Bill Simmons pressed Kenny about his belief that there is no value in “wins” as a statistic, and Kenny did not give him an inch. Kenny debunked any value of the statistic, as any person that is analytically inclined would do.

Kenny and Simmons’ conversation led me to wonder about the idea of the win where it pertains to a recent conversation that has taken place in Fantasy Baseball: pitchers that get traded from a loser to a contender.

You’ll hear around the Fantasy community, as most recently with Matt Garza going from theCubs to the Rangers and Bud Norris going from the Astros to the Orioles, that pitcher value will rise  when a player moves to a better team because he can get more wins.

Do team wins inflate pitcher wins?

I took the qualified starters for 2013 from Fangraphs and ran a correlation between the amount of wins a player has had this season and the amount of wins his team has had in 2013. For simplicity’s sake, I excluded the qualified pitchers that have played for multiple teams in 2013: Ian Kennedy, Scott Feldman, Ricky Nolasco, and Norris. If there is a correlation between individual pitcher wins and the amount of wins that player’s team has had, we would be able to count on pitchers on better teams getting more wins.

What I found is that there is no correlation between the amount of wins a team gets and the amount of wins a player on that team gets. The correlation was 0.33 (or 11% if that makes more sense to some people), which suggests a moderate positive relationship, but is essentially nothing.

This study is not conclusive by any means, considering the sample size only included 86 pitchers over a one-year period. But the complete lack of evidence in support of a correlation between pitcher wins and wins by that pitcher’s team suggests that we should not put any stock into the idea that a player will get more wins because of the ability of his team.

This was too irresistible to pass up. Photo by mrzeising

This was too irresistible to pass up. Photo by mrzeising

Pitcher wins are completely random, unpredictable, and are in no way an indication of a player’s talent level, or a description of their past performance. So much goes into a pitcher getting a win that is outside of his control — his teams offense, defense, base running, and bullpen, just to name a few — that we cannot put any faith in it as a statistic.

Countless examples abound, including Clayton Kershaw and Jeremy Guthrie both have 12 wins, while Kershaw and his team is much more talented than the Guthrie and the Royals. We can see how wins are a defunct product of a distant past, that has somehow transcended into our present, like the stick that finds its way into a bag of sunflower seeds and inevitably into our mouths, just to leave a bad taste and you wincing when you bite into it.

While we never see the stick coming when we toss back a few sunflower seeds, we can, and should be, smart enough to see a pitcher value absent the amount of wins he has next to his name in a box score.

Devon Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading about pitcher value in Fantasy Football, follow him on Twitter @devinjordan.

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