How to Lie With Statistics

When the Sox fell to the Orioles 2-0 last night, starting pitcher Ryan Dempster earned the loss.

Jun 14, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster (46) throws in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

No. “Earned” is not the right word. It would be more correct to say “due to the quirky nature of baseball, a perfectly good performance from this pitcher did not result in a win due to a lack of offense” but that might be a bit too wordy for some box scores.

Dempster allowed only five hits over 7.2 innings. He gave up five walks and had four strike outs. He is now 4-7 with 4.21 ERA. He gave our exhausted bullpen a much-needed rest. This performance could easily have lead to a win if the offense had managed to get some runs.

I don’t know about you, but the win-loss stat for pitchers is totally useless. To give an accurate portrait of the hurler it must be accompanied by ERA. Look at John Lackey: he’s 3-5 with 3.14 ERA. He has a “losing” win-loss record which could lead you to believe he’s the same terrible Lackey from two years ago. But his ERA is much better which gives a glimmer of hope. To my mind, ERA and Quality Starts reveal a more accurate picture of the pitcher.

Tonight Lackey goes against Freddy Garcia who is 3-3 and has a 4.47 ERA. He has a better win-loss record than Lackey but a higher ERA. So, who’s the better pitcher? Who will get the win? For all we know the Sox will hit 15 HRs while Lackey gives up 12 runs and earn a win. Or Garcia might give up only one run and get a loss when Ortiz hits a 2-run jack. In the end, isn’t this why we watch the game?

Topics: Boston Red Sox, Ryan Dempster

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  • http://bosoxinjection.com/ Earl Nash

    Yah, and let’s add in the K-W ratio as well…

    • John Fahrer

      Wouldn’t dub K/BB as totally useless or irrelevant, though there was a nice dumb luck overlook by the Nats when they acquired Gio Gonzalez. But that’s a rare exception to the rule. If you look at guys like Carlos Zambrano and Jon Lester who had a high amount of Ks to go with too many walks, it led to an early decline for both guys. Zambrano went from being an ace to an emergency fifth starter. Lester regressed from being a semi-ace to a number three starter.

      • Michele Pettis

        K/BB does have great predictive properties. Is there any hope for Lester? Any chance he can get turned around? With Clay possibly heading to the DL, we need Lester to be better than number three.

        • John Fahrer

          I think Lester will eventually break out of his slump. But I really doubt we’ll ever see him put up a season like 2009 or 2010 ever again. If his final stats are more on the mediocre side, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the club decline that $13 million option for 2014.

          Chances are the club makes a deal at the deadline for a starter who won’t cost them much in terms of prospects regardless. Looking at the potential FA starters for probable sellers, there really isn’t much though. I’d love to see the club land Cliff Lee if the cost in prospects isn’t much.

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