The Colorado Rockies won their first game of 2022 behind the absolutely stellar pitching of team ace, Germán Márquez. Márquez pitched seven innings of three-hit, one-run baseball, only to have the win taken from him in the eighth by new bullpen addition Alex Colomé.
Colomé only lasted two-thirds of an inning and allowed four hits and a run before being relieved by Carlos Estévez for the final out. Estévez threw two pitches and received the decision for the entire game.
Those two pitches better have been important for the Colorado Rockies. Well, they were.
The Max Muncy fly-out was the third most important play of the game behind Connor Joe’s home run and Mookie Betts bloop single off of Colomé by WPA (Win Probability Added). While Estévez’s work was important, was it truly worth the win? Let’s look at pitching wins and how they can be fixed.
Estévez is a bad example though, so let’s look at perhaps the worst pitching win in Colorado Rockies history to show why a change may be necessary — Bruce Ruffin on June 7, 1994.
Ruffin came into the game in the eighth inning with the Rockies up 8-4 against the visiting New York Mets. When Ruffin recorded out number three of the inning, he had allowed four players to cross home on five hits and a walk, tying the game at 8-8.
The Rockies would rally to score two runs in the bottom of the eighth and then Mike Muñoz proceeded to put three Metropolitans down in the ninth. Bruce Ruffin got the win despite recording an ungodly -0.336 WPA.
For those who don’t know, the reason this is an issue at all is how decision-making for pitchers works. It entirely depends on the offense and is a relic of the time before the designated hitter. Despite being a solely defensive position, a win depends entirely on when the offense takes the lead. Most simply put, a pitching win goes to the pitcher who is listed as the team’s active pitcher when they take the lead, even if they do not take the mound following the lead.
For example, pitcher A allows six runs over two innings, but in the top of the third inning, pitcher A’s team scores seven runs. In the bottom of the third, the team uses pitcher B instead, who throws seven innings of shutout baseball. Pitcher B does not receive a decision but Pitcher A gets the win. That doesn’t seem right, does it? It allows pitcher A to be rewarded with one of the (wrongfully) most important stats for awards season. So how can this be fixed?
I have two fixes for this problem, one simple and one complicated. I feel both would better represent baseball pitching decisions than the system that we have now.
Let’s start with the simple one.