Having fun with pitcher win-loss records

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

So far, Braves starters have pitched best when they receive a "loss"

April is one of the harder months to write about baseball. The small samples of data we have to work with on the new season are tough to evaluate because many times we don't know if a player has undergone an actual talent change or is simply in the midst of a hot/cold streak. With that said, it can still be fun to crunch some numbers; as long as you understand what it may or may not mean going forward.

As we've all seen, the Braves pitching staff has been absolutely dominant thus far. Currently they sport the best ERA (2.20), FIP (2.60) and xFIP (3.15) in the league, with the starters carrying the way. It has honestly been remarkable with all the questions coming into the season how the first 21 games have panned out.

This isn't meant to be an analysis of the staff, but to highlight a beginning of the season quirk I stumbled upon. It actually deals with a stat we don't use around here much, a pitchers win-loss record. We harp on this site a lot about the pitfalls of using wins and losses to evaluate a pitchers performance. There is just no reason with all the widely available stats to continue to take a win loss record with any seriousness, yet we still hear it every time we turn on the TV.

The start to the Braves season further exemplifies this stance. I went through a broke each game by whether the starter received a win (n=9), loss (n=5) or no-decision (n=7) and the average performance in each outing.

Decision IP R BB/9 K/9
L 7.0 1.4 1.5 8.5
ND 5.8 2.1 3.1 6.0
L+ND 6.3 1.8 2.4 9.4
W 6.9 1.9 2.9 7.0

As you can see from the chart, Braves starters have actually had a better pitching line when the starter records a "loss" than when they record a "win". To take it even a step further, their line has been better in losses + no decisions than in wins. Even the starters average game score (can read about game scores here) have been higher whey they receive a loss (67) than in an average start this season (64). Even after only 21 starts, this is quite remarkable.

You'll often hear managers and pitchers talk about going out and giving the team a chance to win, which in the Braves case has pretty much been true every single time out. Overall wins and losses have primarily been determined on how well the offense has performed that day.

At the end of the day, this isn't meant to mislead, but to point out a statistical quirk after almost a month into season. Of course, all this will eventually turn around and the staff as a whole will come back down to earth, but it's fun to at least acknowledge these type of oddities. We can also use it as an opportunity to remind ourselves that every time an announcer pounds you over the head with a win-loss record, there is much much more to the story.

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