The debate over pitcher wins in baseball is one that has been growing steady over the last several years. As statistics have gone more and more in-depth, we’re learning that pitcher wins don’t actually mean all that much. There may not be a better example of that than Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale.
To say that the White Sox hate Chris Sale would obviously be inaccurate. But judging by the run support he does receive, one might actually think that that is the case. Despite his outstanding numbers for the year, Sale has received very little run support so far this season.
In 21 starts in 2013, Sale only has seven wins. But he does have 11 losses. Neither figure would be predictable after a quick look at his overall numbers. His stats on the season are among the best in the league.
Sale has followed up his first full season of brilliance, with an even better 2013 campaign, even if it isn’t reflected in his overall win-loss. His strikeouts are up, going from nine strikeouts per nine, to 9.7 K/9 in 2013. His walks are down, as he’s walking only 2.11 hitters per nine as well. Everything is down, including both his home run rate and his opposing BABIP.
His 2.83 ERA is an improvement, and ranks 16th in the league among starting pitchers. His 2.92 FIP comes in at ninth in the league among starters. He’s pitched to a 4.0 WAR and a dynamite 1.06 WHIP this season. Without going any deeper, those are some terrific figures.
Which prove just how futile handing a pitcher a W actually is. Six times this season, Sale has tossed at least six innings without allowing more than three earned runs and has taken a loss. In fact, five of those starts were at least seven innings, and only one saw more than two earned in the box score. In his 11 losses, the White Sox have only scored more than three runs twice.
If there was any justice in this game, Sale’s W-L record would look a lot better than the 7-11 it currently stands as. But as disappointing as it is for him, and for the Sox, it’s a perfect example of how pitcher wins simply aren’t any sort of assessment of talent, or even performance.