The pitcher win and the pitcher loss have to be among the very first baseball stats. Like it or not, they are still going to be in the paper every morning long after we are all gone. Thanks to Cy Young wins by Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez, even the old guard baseball writers have come to the realization that win-loss record is a poor indicator of how well a player has pitched. I try to straddle the line between the eye test, the dirt and sabermetrics, but I could not have even guessed as to the won-loss record of any pitcher on the Royals until I started working on this article.
Truthfully, pitcher win-loss records might not have ever been a very good measure, but with the evolution of the game over the last 30 years towards more and more bullpen usage, it certainly has become less and less important. That, obviously, applies on down to relievers as well as starters. You can all come up with scenarios where a reliever gets credit for a win for doing little or, as is very common, more harm than good only to be bailed out by an offensive rally. I will say, however, that a late inning reliever who gets a loss more often than not deserved it. Of course, we are talking about pitchers in the roles of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and, no surprise where this was headed, Joakim Soria.
It may not be fair, given the high pressure situations the late inning guys are placed in, but that is the nature of the beast. Soria has eight losses in relief this year, second only to Erasmo Ramirez’s 11 for Tampa. Kelvin Herrera has five losses this year. Wade Davis has four…..in the last three seasons combined. Three of Soria’s losses have come when he has allowed just a single run. He went 11 straight appearances in August without allowing a run, but few of us remember that after a dismal three losses in eight-day span in early September. The bar is high for a late inning reliever. I mean, all we are asking for is perfection, right?
This season, Joakim Soria has appeared in 68 games and allowed runs in 18 of them. Sounds bad, seems bad, felt bad. How does that compare to the other ‘late inning types’ employed by the Royals in 2016?
I wrote an article not all that long ago about how the Royals were missing and would continue to miss Luke Hochevar. I still think that is true, but Luke was far from perfect. Let’s give Peter Moylan a bit of a break as two of his ‘runs allowed’ outings were multiple inning affairs and let’s also be fair to note that Matt Strahm has a slew of one or two hitter outings on his very brief (but promising) major league resume.
Let’s compare the above to the World Championship late inning roster of 2015:
Hmmm…expecting better weren’t you? Miss Ryan Madson? He has seven relief losses this year as the A’s closer. Flawed stat and all, seven losses in that role is not a good number.
More than anything, the above two tables probably point to the fact that the percentage of appearances in which relievers allow a run tells us, like pitcher wins and losses, more about perception than reality. Yet, is there something telling in the fact that the pitchers listed for 2015 combined for 11 total losses, while the 2016 group has been tagged for 18 losses? Quite honestly, if there is something to be learned from an antiquated stat combined with a very basic one, is it teaching us more about the bullpen or a Royals offense that would have to average almost 12 runs per game this final week just to equal the output of the 2015 squad?
There has been plenty of Soria bashing and Soria defending here, there, Twitter, wherever. I have to admit one of my favorite Soria usage defense was ‘don’t you think there are reasons Yost made this decision?’ without ever stating a single reason. Oh to be young and smart again! There has been logic on both sides and in the middle of the argument and there has been just random non-sense and, gasp, raw emotion. In the end, we are all just fans searching for answers and searching for reasons why this season simply got away from the Kansas City Royals.
Does Joakim Soria and the bullpen in general share in the blame? Sure they do, but do they deserve all of it? Certainly not, and frankly, after I emerged from my cave and beat about the very basic numbers with my wooden club, I don’t think the bullpen probably deserves as much of the blame as we might be giving it.