MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Really Good Pitchers with Awful Win/Loss Records

Rich StoweAnalyst IIIAugust 8, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Really Good Pitchers with Awful Win/Loss Records

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    Over the last couple of years, MLB fans and experts are starting to realize that a pitcher's win/loss record doesn't tell you the whole story regarding just how good or bad a pitcher is, and whether a pitcher has a good or a bad win/loss record is almost out of his control due to a another stat called "run support."

    A pitcher can throw eight innings of one-hit ball, and if that one hit was a leadoff home run in the first inning and his team doesn't have any offense, he can take the loss.

    A pitcher can throw five innings and give up 10 runs and walk five batters, but because his team has a potent offense and scores 11 runs before he leaves the game in the sixth inning, he can get the win.

    In order to get the "win," all a pitcher has to do is pitch a minimum of five innings (for a starting pitcher) and simply have his team in the lead when he is removed the game.  It doesn't matter how many hits, walks or runs the pitcher allows, all that is needed is his team to be in the lead, that's it.

    However, a pitcher can throw the game of his life, but if the opposing pitcher is throwing the game of his life as well or he is on a team with little to no offensive power, he can take the "loss."

    I decided to look at the "key" pitching stats and decide which pitchers are actually pitching much better than their win/loss records would indicate.  What are "key" pitching stats?

    The "key" pitching stats are those which are almost 100 percent in the pitcher's control.  Yes, some of them still rely on the defense behind him and other factors, but they are the stats which show you just how good a pitcher actually is.  These stats are ERA, ERA+, WHIP and K/BB ratio.

    These stats show how many baserunners the pitcher allows (WHIP), how many of those baserunners the pitcher allows to score (ERA), how his ERA compares to other pitchers in the league with a slight adjustment for the ballpark they pitch in (ERA+) and how much control the pitcher has (K/BB ratio).

    While these "key" stats aren't all the stats that tell you just how good a pitcher is, if the pitcher is good in these stats, chances are the rest of his stats will be good as well.

    The following are pitchers who have a win/loss record of at or below .500 but who are actually pitching really well, and if they were on a different team, would probably be in the Cy Young award discussion.

    All stats are as of the morning of August 5th and are from Baseball Reference

No. 10: Paul Maholm

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    W/L:  6-11

    ERA:  3.27

    ERA+:  116

    WHIP:  1.256

    K/BB Ratio:  1.90

    Innings Pitched:  145.2

    Games Started:  23

    Pittsburgh has been a surprising team this season, and Maholm is their second-best starting pitcher (Jeff Karstens is better in ERA, WHIP etc.).  However, if you look at their starter with the best record, Kevin Correia, you'll see he's 12-9 but with a much worse ERA, ERA+ and WHIP.

    Part of the reason for Maholm's bad win/loss record is because being the "ace" means he routinely faces the "ace" of the opposing team, so that makes it tougher for his team to score enough runs to win the game.

    While Maholm isn't as good a pitcher as others in this list, an ERA under 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.30 means he's pretty good, and lots of teams would love to him on their roster.

No. 9: Gio Gonzalez

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    Win/Loss:  9-9

    ERA:  3.10

    ERA+:  128

    WHIP:  1.364

    K/BB Ratio:  2.16

    Innings Pitched:  136.1

    Games Started:  22

    Looking at Gonzalez' stats, you can see why several teams inquired about him at the trade deadline.  While the WHIP isn't great, an ERA barely over three and two strikeouts for every one walk is pretty good.

    How much better would Gio's record be if he was on a better team?  Look no further than Freddy Garcia of the Yankees this season (ERA of 3.16, WHIP of 1.31). 

    Garcia's numbers are worse than Gio's, but because Garcia pitches for one of the best offenses in baseball, he has a record of 10-7.  If Gio was on any other team, he'd be at least several games over .500 easily.

No. 8: Jhoulys Chacin

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    W/L:  8-8

    ERA:  3.38

    ERA+:  132

    WHIP:  1.177

    K/BB Ratio:  1.87

    Innings Pitched:  141.0

    Games Started:  22

    A fantastic WHIP and a tremendous ERA (especially considering where he calls home) but only a .500 record.  So why does Chacin only have a .500 record?  Because the team he pitches for isn't that good.

    Let's compare Chacin to CJ Wilson of the Texas Rangers. 

    Wilson has an ERA of 3.35 and a WHIP of 1.23, but he's 10-5 on the season.  The Rangers have scored the third-most runs in the American League this season (behind the Red Sox and Yankees) so they give their pitchers much better run support than a team like the Rockies do.

    Chacin is currently slated to be a free agent after this season and should get paid very well by teams looking for a young pitcher who may improve even further on this season's stats.

No. 7: Tim Stauffer

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    W/L:  7-8

    ERA:  2.96

    ERA+:  120

    WHIP:  1.238

    K/BB Ratio:  2.67

    Innings Pitched:  143.0

    Games Started:  23

    What more can you ask of your "ace" than an ERA under three, an ERA+ over 120, a WHIP under 1.250 and a K/BB ratio over 2.50.  Stauffer has absolutely pitched like an "ace" this season—too bad his win/loss record doesn't reflect that.

    The best pitcher on the Padres (win/loss wise) is Aaron Harang who is 10-3 but has an ERA of 3.91, a WHIP of 1.391, has only pitched in 115 innings and started 19 games.

    I'd much rather have a roster full of pitchers like Stauffer than ones like Harang, because Stauffer consistenly would give my team the best chance to win every game.

No. 6: Doug Fister

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    Doug Fister started the season with the Seattle Mariners but got traded at the deadline to the Detroit Tigers.

    W/L:  4-12

    ERA:  3.29

    ERA+:  114

    WHIP:  1.170

    K/BB Ratio:  2.78

    Innings Pitched:  153.0

    Games Started:  22

    You can see why several teams asked about Fister at the deadline.  He has fantastic numbers but was playing on one of the worst teams in MLB.

    He is now Detroit's second-best starting pitcher (if you look at ERA, WHIP etc.).  Every other pitcher on the Tigers except for Verlander are worse than Fister in those key categories, and so far, Fister's numbers are better in Detroit than they were in Seattle (only one start though).

    Now with the Tigers' offense backing him, I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fister reaches double-digit wins this season, and his numbers improve even further.

No. 5: Ervin Santana

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    W/L:  7-8

    ERA:  3.32

    ERA+:  112

    WHIP:  1.159

    K/BB Ratio:  3.10

    Innings Pitched:  157.0

    Games Started:  23

    Ervin Santana is the third-best starting pitcher for the Los Angels Angels (behind Jered Weaver and Dan Haren).  He threw a no-hitter earlier this season, but for some reason, he's under .500.

    The numbers Santana is putting up this season would be "ace-like" for almost every other team in baseball.  If you take a look at his game logs on Baseball-Reference, you'll see that out of his eight losses, five were when the Angels lost by three runs or less (two of which were by one run).

    This just goes to show you that the difference between being a "winning pitcher" and a "losing pitcher" is simply a matter of a couple of runs.

No. 4: Hiroki Kuroda

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    W/L:  7-13

    ERA:  2.96

    ERA+:  123

    WHIP:  1.214

    K/BB Ratio:  2.92

    Innings Pitched:  140.0

    Games Started:  22

    You can see why teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were hoping Kuroda would waive his no-trade clause at the deadline this season.

    How can a pitcher have an ERA under three and a WHIP under 1.250 and be well under .500 for the season?  That's easy.  All that pitcher has to do is be on the Los Angeles Dodgers because the Dodgers are ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the National League in runs scored.

    Seven of Kuroda's 13 losses have been from when the Dodgers lost by three runs or less so just like Ervin Santana in the previous slide, the difference between a winning record and a losing one is just a couple of runs.

No. 3: Ricky Romero

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    W/L:  9-9

    ERA:  2.98

    ERA+:  138

    WHIP:  1.199

    K/BB Ratio:  2.25

    Innings Pitched:  151.0

    Games Started:  22

    When you look at Ricky Romero's stats, you see a clearly dominant pitcher who doesn't allow a lot of base runners or a lot of those runners to score and he plays on a team that is fourth in the American League in runs scored, so why the bad win/loss record?

    Seven of his nine losses came when the Blue Jays lost the game by less than three runs, and most of those were in games where the final score was 3-2, 5-4 etc. 

    Well, he pitches in the American League East, so maybe that's it?  Not really. Only five of his losses have come against AL East teams (he's 4-5 overall against AL East teams).

    Why Romero is hovering at .500 is anyone's guess.  If you figure it out, let me know.

No. 2: Jordan Zimmerman

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    W/L:  6-9

    ERA:  3.12

    ERA+:  123

    WHIP:  1.101

    K/BB Ratio:  4.45

    Innings Pitched:  132.2

    Games Started:  21

    Jordan Zimmerman has the best WHIP and K/BB Ratio of any pitcher in this list.  However, he pitches for the Washington Nationals who are ranked 11th out of 16 teams in the National League in runs scored.

    Zimmerman is easily the best starting pitcher on the Nationals, but he just doesn't get run support.  Six of his losses have come when the Nationals have lost by two runs or less (including two games they lost 2-1 and one in which he pitched a complete game but lost 1-0).

    Zimmerman, who is only 25 years old, is a free agent after this season and will get many, many offers from multiple teams this offseason.

No. 1: Tim Lincecum

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    W/L:  9-9

    ERA:  2.77

    ERA+:  131

    WHIP:  1.179

    K/BB Ratio:  2.71

    Innings Pitched:  149.1

    Games Started:  23

    Tim Lincecum is one of the best pitchers in all of baseball and has been for several years now.  However, when you pitch for the team ranked 29th out of 30 teams in all of baseball (and dead last in the National League) in runs scored, you're simply not going to win a lot of games, no matter how well you pitch.

    Lincecum, much like Felix Hernandez in Seattle last year or Zach Greinke in Kansas City a couple of years ago, is simply having a fantastic season, but it is lost because of the team they play on. 

    While the San Francisco Giants may be leading the National League West, it isn't because of their offense.  Their pitching keeps them competitive, but that means their pitching has to be almost perfect for the team to win.