The Worst Rule In Baseball: Lidge, Nunez Blow Saves, Record Wins

↵There are a lot of terrible rules in sports. I'm not trying to be cynical either, because I'm sure that some rules made sense when they were created and those who wrote the rulebook had the best interest of the game in mind. ↵

↵There are some rules, however, that seem absolutely indefensible and perhaps the most indefensible – or would that be the least defensible – happened twice last night. ↵

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↵Here is Brad Lidge's line last night: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER…win. Joe Blanton threw a solid seven and two-thirds innings of three-run baseball and left in the eighth with at 6-3 lead over the Cincinnati Reds. Jose Contreras threw one pitch to get out of the eighth inning before Lidge came in to close out the ninth. After getting two quick outs, Lidge unraveled, allowing the next two batters to reach base before his outing culminated in a moon shot home run by Joey Votto to tie the game. ↵

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↵The Phillies came back and scored three runs in the top of the tenth to take back their three-run lead and win 9-6. J.C. Romero then came in to get three-straight batters and record the save. Lidge, as the pitcher of record when the Phillies re-took the lead, got the win. ↵

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↵Almost the identical situation happened to the Marlins last night as well, with Leo Nunez blowing a save in the ninth inning before the Fish came back to beat the Mets in walk-off fashion. Nunez entered the game in the ninth with a 6-4 lead before giving up two runs on three hits in the inning, blowing the save and taking a win away from teammate Nate Robertson. ↵

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↵People say wins are a failed stat because they are as much a product of the offense as they are the pitcher. In this case, it's a failed stat because pitchers who deserve wins don't get them, and those who clearly don't deserve anything, get the notch under the W column beside their name. ↵

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↵There are 26 closers in MLB with 10 or more saves after play on Tuesday night. They have combined to record 439 saves in 509 opportunities, meaning the top 26 closers have already blown a total of 70 saves (roughly three blown saves per pitcher) but of those blown saves, 19 of them have registered wins for the closer. In fact, of the 59 total wins for those 26 closers, nearly a third have come after their own collapse. ↵

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↵Why can't the win be given to the pitcher of record before the blown save? Why reward a pitcher for his own failure? Well, let's look at the pertinent parts of the official MLB rule: ↵

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↵⇥10.17 Winning And Losing Pitcher
 ↵⇥
↵⇥(a) The official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless
(1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 10.17(b) applies; or
(2) Rule 10.17(c) applies.
 ↵⇥

↵⇥(b) If the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed
(1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or
(2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher.
 ↵⇥

↵⇥

↵⇥Rule 10.17(b) Comment: It is the intent of Rule 10.17(b) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. (lots more words…) ↵⇥

↵⇥

↵⇥(c) The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
 ↵⇥

↵⇥

↵⇥Rule 10.17(c) Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher). ↵⇥

↵
↵Rule 10.17(b) is in reference to a starter that doesn't go the required number of innings, and clearly states that win can be given to any reliever based on scorer's judgment. Rule 10.17(c) clearly states that a pitcher who is "ineffective" in a brief appearance should not be credited with the win, so long as – and here's the sticking point – there's at least one succeeding relief pitcher who pitches effectively. ↵

↵In the case with Nunez, the Marlins won in the bottom of the ninth in a walk-off, so he was the last pitcher in the game for Florida. But in the case with Lidge, Romero did pitch effectively after him and could have, based on this interpretation of the rule, been given the win instead of the save. ↵

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↵The fact of the matter is, the rule is antiquated now that the game has become so specialized. When the rule was made, there was no closer in the ninth or set up guy in the eighth or set up guy to the set up guy in the seventh. The rule also indicates that it's considered a "new contest" whenever the game is tied after the end of a full inning. Simply removing that stipulation would allow this change to the rule: ↵

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↵If a pitcher relinquishes a lead, his team regains that lead while he is still the pitcher of record, yet does not pitch after his team is ahead (due to being replaced or the end of the game), the official scorer can use judgment to give the win to the preceding pitcher. ↵

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↵It's almost too easy for MLB not to fix. And while wins don't matter to relievers, they still do matter to starters. No matter how flawed the stat is, it's still a widely-used measuring stick of success. We should ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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