There's a good thread over in the ORG:
It starts out as if it might just be another "Stat Wanker" vs. "Old Timer" debate over the relative importance of numbers vs. game-watching... and don't get me wrong, there is some of that in there.
But it also hits on a slightly different tone that I don't think I've seen voiced here with any regularity: namely, that even the old timer/common man is catching up and able to grasp that certain numbers aren't telling him (or her) all of the story.
The primary thrust is about the value of Wins as a metric for pitchers. The way the discussion plays out (both in the article referenced and in the thread as it develops), Saves are pretty much painted in the same light.
And in the end, despite my overall self-image as being anti-stat-wanker, I ALSO view myself as a game-watching/eyeball-trusting old timer who at least possesses a modicum of intellectual curiosity, and I was overwhelmed by the sense of how little value I really gave to Wins and Saves as currently awarded.
Some of those feelings actually date back years, but most are a little more recent.
Stuff from that ORG thread that resonated with me, and which I'd like to throw out for discussion here:
* The method for awarding wins (and losses, for that matter) often paint a wholly inaccurate picture. If you're going to insist upon keeping W/L stats for each pitcher, the the win should go to the pitcher who contributed the most to his teams ability to be victorious (the loss to the pitcher who was most responsible putting his team on the losing end of the stick). A SP goes 7 IP of 1 ER ball, leaves down 1-0, and then after various swerves and twists (and match-up based pitching changes) you have some LOOGY awarded the WIN for pitching 0.1 innings. Wrong. A RP allows 1 H and inherited runners score, then gets 3 consecutive outs, but takes the loss because some OTHER GUY loaded the bases. Wrong. Or even: a SP allows 6 R in 4 IP and leaves on the short end of the stick, but his team rallies for a 7-6 lead in the 9th, only to see a RP blow it for an 8-6 loss in the bottom of the 9th, and we can't still blame the SP for painting his team in a corner and assign HIM to L? Boo.
* While changing some of those rules would be nice, it's also tough to envision clear-cut ways to define things so that you aren't -- in the end -- letting the Official Scorer assign wins and losses arbitrarily (as they do with errors). But still, almost any change would have to be an improvement, no?
* If you don't change the rules, one option floated in the ORG thread is to make it the norm to include not just a SP's W/L record, but to ALSO report his team's W/L record in his starts. The example given is that Mike Leake is "officially" 2-0, but the Reds are 3-1 when he starts (which, ultimately, is what matters). You figure out some kind of notation for this (maybe take a note from hockey, where they don't make shoot-out wins/losses the same as regulation ones), and Leake becomes 3(2)-1(0), or something.
* The other option floated: maybe the common man is smart enough to see the value in the Quality Start stat. Maybe the SP got the official win, maybe he didn't.... but what a fan wants (and is capable of discerning) is whether or not his SP pitches well enough to ALLOW HIS TEAM to win. The QS tells us a hell of a lot more than W, if you ask me, and in my favorite Fantasy League with my oldest friends, we have used it as a stat for years. Not everybody in the league is super-baseball-savvy, but everybody endorses and understands why this is a good stat to use. The only thing I might concede: 6 IP and 3 ER might be a LITTLE lenient... the idea is that QS should be stingent enough that if any SP on any team gets one, then that team should be more-than-capable of winning that game. Most teams should have enough offense to score 3 R; but not all teams have bullpens deep enough to get 9 outs without some drama... so I could see redefining QS as 7IP and 3 ER, and then jamming down fans' throats until they realized why it was much more useful than W in determining SP value.
* Moving on to Saves, you can raise pretty much all the same stinks about the vagaries in the awarding-saves-methodology (there's even a thread on the Sun Deck right now about the hows and whys of Wednesday's NON-save for Cordero)... that could probably be looked at and tightened up.
* But more so than that: the entire way RP is viewed by fans is LONG overdue for an overhaul. This is probably my longest-held notion (in my storied history of 14 posts-per-year here, I think I even wrote about it before) of those I'm presenting, actually. It boils down to a deep-seated concern over the whole "holding back your closer till the 9th, rather than using your best reliever when it matters" issue. Does a RP who starts the 9th fresh and facing the bottom of the order in a 1-run game do more to secure the win than a RP who enters the game with 1-out in the 8th and the bases loaded and a 2-run lead to protect? I don't think so. And yet: every manager out there will throw situational pitchers out there in the 8th and hold back his bullpen ace till the 9th... that doesn't sit well with me, and the fact that fans (even common-ones-with-a-modicum-of-intellectual-curiosity like me) are sort of questioning something that $3-million-per-year managers haven't thought about yet is worrisome.
* To correct this, my stance has been that some kind of effort needs to be made to "sexy-up" middle relievers... not just changing the way Saves are awarded, but maybe even pushing/re-naming/inventing new stats so that fans can quickly grasp. I have a bunch of ideas about this. Start by focusing more on who put the runners on base than on who allowed them to score; then, as a counterpoint, FOCUS ON WHO DOESN'T ALLOW INHERITED RUNNERS TO SCORE. The argument that a Closer is "trained" to come in with a clean slate in the 9th does nothing for me; it may be true, but it just means he's trained in a skill that isn't as valuable as a DIFFERENT skill might be. Maybe he should train at something else. Or maybe somebody else who's already good at that other skill should start getting more of the credit.
* To this end, I figure we need to create some new terminology to allow Closers to retain their domain, while allowing Set-Up guys to invent a whole NEW domain. Scott Boras would wet his man-panties if all of a sudden there was a way to inflate the value of 8th inning pitchers! Which sucks! But it'd also be worth it if we start placing more credit where it belongs! My solution: get fans used to a new set of stats where Inherited Runners and Situational Leverage of a RP's insertion to the game become vital to our understanding of who helped the team win. If a guy assists in a low-leverage (or short-term, 1-batter-faced) type of situation, we already have the Hold as a stat for him... but we need to start recognizing a whole other level of contribution, where a a guy just comes into a tough situation and shuts down the other team (either in a situation where he needs two outs and the bases or loaded, or it's slightly less-dire but he's facing a Pujols-type batter instead of a limp-lumbered #8 hitter, or whatever)... when the RP succeeds at that, call it something catchy. I dunno, a "Shutdown" or an "Escape" or something. And instead of calling that guy the "Middle Reliever" you give him a catchy name just like Closers have... you call him "The Cooler." And you keep stats on the best Coolers and give awards to them. I'm sure Coors Light would LOVE to pay to sponsor the reward for the greatest Ice Man in each league every year.
* Ideally, this results in fans viewing RP As A Whole in a different light, and maybe in 20 years, we can move past the Closer vs. Cooler distinction and just start thinking about bullpen maximization.... if we elevate Coolers to the point where their performances is valued as much as Closers, then the debate can start over which is more valuable, which is the better pitcher, and why you aren't using your best pitchers in the most important spots of the game. Coolers and Closers either continue to remain separate, with different skill sets (9th-inning clean-slate, untouchable guys vs. 7th-inning any-situation, close-down-the-rally guys), or fans just decide that they should coalesce into one uber-group, and figure out yet ANOTHER way to rate them against each other in terms of who's more important to a win. I'd look forward to that day...
Just a few thoughts. Feel free to have at me....