The Pirates public relations team is hiding something from us. They are hiding the fact that A.J. Burnett has a 5.20 ERA and 56 home runs allowed the last two seasons. They are hiding the fact that the Yankees are paying Burnett $20 million to not play for them.
And what are the Pirates covering up their lies with? Wins.
What else but wins? Probably the most misleading statistic in our sport, possibly the most misleading in any sport. Peter Brand from Moneyball puts it best:
Baseball thinking is medieval, they are asking all the wrong questions.
Now “baseball thinking” has come a long way in the last couple decades, but it still has a ways to go. Most serious fans have been exposed to the truth about the wins statistic, so it’s not as big of a problem as it used to be. However, it’s clearly still a big enough problem that teams think they can convince their fans that it’s useful.
A.J. Burnett was brutal last year, but his offense was good enough to get him 11 wins. What does that mean for 2012? Absolutely nothing. Wins are extremely unpredictive. (Yeah, you’re right – unproductive isn’t a word). Personally, when I’m looking at pitcher and trying to feel out how his future looks, I completely skip past the win and loss columns; I don’t even look at them. You shouldn’t either.
How many wins would A.J. Burnett have got with the Pirates offense behind him? I’m guessing like 6 or 7. That’s not a great season. Paul Maholm had a 3.66 ERA for the Pirates last year and got just 6 wins (he started 6 less games than Burnett, but you get the picture).
I was talking to a friend earlier this offseason about the possibility of the Pirates nabbing Jeff Francis. He said something like “We don’t want him, he was 6-16 last year”. Needless to say, the next thing I said to my friend wasn’t too kind.
Most of you probably don’t need me to tell you what a waste of time the wins statistic is; I’m just curious as to when baseball PR departments will stop pushing it on us.
Obviously you can’t blame the Pirates here for trying to make their fans excited about a new player. They have a vested interest in the positive morale of their fan base, and they have to do whatever they can to make their product look attractive. And don’t get me wrong, I think the Burnett addition was a great one for the Pirates. As you’ve heard a hundred times, Burnett should benefit greatly from a change of scenery in general, especially since the scenery is changing from the A.L. East and Yankee stadium to the N.L. Central and PNC Park. I could easily seeing him posting a sub-4.50 ERA and helping the Pirates win a good amount of games.
I just really, really want people to stop talking about pitcher wins.