Correct, Yet Totally Meaningless

Just heard this maybe a half hour or so ago on SportsCenter: Mike Mussina is retiring, apparently. Tim Kurkjian is discussing whether The Moose is Hall of Fame material:

“He is to me. More so than the 100+ above .500 (Note from EE: Part of the lead-in to the question of “Is he a Hall-of-Famer?” was the fact that his career record is 100+ games above .500. 20 other pitchers have that statistic; the 16 that are eligible for the Hall are all in [The other 4 are either still active or not retired long enough to be eligible]), is his winning percentage. He has a .638 winning percentage; the average during his time in the league is .501!”

I’ll let those of you who follow baseball point and laugh at Mr. Kurkjian.

For those of you who may not be in on the joke, I’ll explain. In every game (We’ll forget the 2002 All-Star Game debacle for purposes of this discussion), a team wins, and a team loses. Also in each game, there is a winning pitcher, and thusly, there is also a losing pitcher. In short, of course the league average winning percentage is going to be very close to .500 (I have no idea how it isn’t .500 on the nose, actually. My guess is that you have the occasional situation where some poor reliever gets tagged with the loss for whatever reason)–there will be an equal number of wins and losses in a season (And pitchers with said wins and losses)–making it an entirely useless statistic to compare Mussina’s winning percentage to in terms of Hall of Fame consideration.



    • James on November 20, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Heh–good catch. What Kurkjian should have said was that Mussina has a higher winning percentage than his peers, or something along that line.

    Mussina is a weird case for a hall of fame pitcher; he certainly was never dominant but tended to have his good games when his team’s bats were cold and awful games when his team’s bats were hot. I remember reading a while back he had the most wins where he gave up 6+ ERs.

    Anyhow, if he retires I’m glad he never won a ring. He was one of those lured to the Yankees because the World Series seemed like a sure thing and in his tenure, they’ve never won. The Orioles were starting to click when he left, but instead his exit (along with a bunch of others, not to mention Raf Palmero running out of “B12” injections).

    • emptyeye on November 21, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Well, depending on how one defines “his peers” (Starting pitchers? Pitchers that predominantly were at his slot in the rotation?), you’re likely going to run into the same problem of “Their wins and losses will be equal by default.”

    I don’t know much about Mussina’s career overall, but you make a good point about pitchers’ wins not being a great statistic, because so much depends on your teammates. If you give up 19 earned runs, but your team scores 20, you still get the win. Extreme example, but you see what I mean. On the other hand, I remember thinking in 1999 that Pedro should’ve won 30 games that year (He went 23-4), because it seemed like every other start, his line was roughly “8 innings, 1 earned run, no decision” because of a complete lack of Sox run support (In hindsight, I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as I remember–23-4 is 27 decisions; presuming he was healthy the whole year, he’d get 33 starts as the ace in the rotation, so he had about 6 no decisions that year), even though he was lights out every time.

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