Jim Leyland is the type of manager that players want to play for. He will defend his players in any and all circumstances, even he comes off looking bad because of it. So when the media questioned Leyland about Max Scherzer‘s impressive win-loss record this season, Leyland did what he does best: stood up for his guy.
Scherzer has been magnificent this season for the Detroit Tigers, posting an MLB best 19-2 record to go with a 2.88 ERA and 209 strikeouts. However, Scherzer has also received more run support than any other pitcher in baseball, getting the benefit of 5.79 runs per game.
A reporter asked Leyland if that final statistic devalued Scherzer’s season, and Leyland responded by saying he doesn’t “care about all that stat stuff” and he “doesn’t believe in that stuff”.
Now, Leyland is a smart guy, and I don’t want to portray him as anything other than that. However, these comments are a little ridiculous, even for someone as proudly old-school as Leyland. Stats are what they are: a scientific evaluation resulting in an undeniable fact. It doesn’t matter whether or not you believe it — Scherzer still has gotten the best run support in baseball.
Advanced metrics consider the win-loss statistic for pitchers completely pointless, as a pitcher can have an excellent game and lose or pitch a terrible game and win. From a manger’s perspective, of course, wins and losses are all that matters. However, it’s the team’s win-loss record that is truly important, not an individual pitcher’s.
So the question remains, does Scherzer’s incredible run support devalue his season, as well as his Cy Young case? The answer is yes, but not that much. Scherzer still has an excellent ERA and K/9, and that’s a testament to his standout play. However, voters have recognized that wins and losses are not the best measurements of pitching success before, when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young in 2010 despite going 13-12.
Scherzer is still a top Cy Young candidate. In fact, Leyland might be a little more accepting of advanced metrics if he learned Scherzer is second among AL pitchers in WAR.
However, old school guys don’t want to hear anything involving stats, and Leyland is no different. This debate will continue for a long time in baseball, and don’t expect Leyland to change his mind. He will defend his guys no matter what the statistics say, even if they make a good point.