About who gets the loss in a baseball game...

Last night, the Cubs lost 5-4. John Lester, Cubs starting pitcher, gave up 4 of the 5 runs. Justin Wilson, reliever, gave up the 5th run - a home run. At that point, the score had been 4-3, and that hit made it 5-3. The Cubs did score one more run in the last inning. So Wilson gave up the run that beat the Cubs. Why doesn’t he get the loss?

Lester left the game with the Cubs trailing, so he is going to get the loss no matter what UNLESS the Cubs tie or go ahead and THEN fall behind again and lose. In that case, the pitcher giving up the run or runs that caused the loss would get the loss. If the Cubs had gotten their 4th run and tied the game BEFORE Wilson gave up the 5th run, then Wilson would have gotten the loss. The fact is that Lester left the game with the Cubs behind and the Cubs REMAINED BEHIND the rest of the way.

Because the Cubs were losing when Lester was pulled. Since the Cubs never tied the game or regained the lead, he takes the loss.

You could conceivably determine the Winning or Losing pitcher on who gave up the ultimately winning run, but that is no more “true” than the current method. Teams play differently depending on whether they are in the lead, tied, or behind. Ultimately, it’s arbitrary and this method works.

Also, you can’t really say that the last run was “the run that beat the Cubs” any more than any of the first four were.

Here’s another strange one: if the home team is ahead after eight innings, they bring in a reliever for the ninth, and he gives up the lead, but then the home team wins the game in the bottom of the ninth, the reliever gets the win even though he did nothing to deserve it.

Uh, the pitcher who finishes a half-inning got an out somehow. Maybe he just casually tossed the ball and the hitter got a little too much under it to hit it out of the park and it got caught, and so didn’t exactly deserve the out, but he did something to cause the last out. Even if the catcher picked off a runner on base, the ball had to get to the catcher first. I suppose they could do a trick play with the pitched secretly giving the ball to a fielder to tag someone who was careless, but I don’t think that works in the pros. And in the situation you generally describe, the pitcher likely did something of merit, while I’m stretching the situation to find what the least possible merit might be.

Hidden ball trick in the majors.
First segment is just as you describe.

So the rule has been mentioned but to be clear;

  1. The losing pitcher is the pitcher who gives up a lead that is never relinquished.

  2. The winning pitcher is whatever pitcher got the last out before his team takes a lead they never relinquish, UNLESS

2a. That pitcher is the starting pitcher,
2b. Who fails to pitch the minimum number of innings (5, in a full regular season or playoff game,) in which case
2c. The winning pitcher is whatever subsequent pitcher is deemed by the official scorer to have been the most effective.

Well, it works for what? At the risk of pointing out the obvious it sometimes does not work.

Smith pitches 8 innings, allowing no runs, and in the top of the ninth inning is relieved by Brown, with a 4-0 lead. Brown loads the bases and gives up a grand slam, tying the game 4-4. In the bottom of the ninth Smith/Brown’s team scores a run, winning 5-4. Brown is the winning pitcher. I think anyone will agree that the rule didn’t work. Smith deserved the win, not Brown.

The rule for assigning wins was invented in the 19th century, when pitchers were not relieved unless they had been absolutely shelled. In, say, 1896, to pick a random year, 82.4% of all games were complete games. In the few that were not it’s because the starter just got the shit kicked out of him; you did not pull a guy who was doing well, so the phenomenon of “vultured” wins was a rare, rare thing.

The rules really doesn’t work well today; it’s a frequent occurrence that the deserving winning pitcher isn’t awarded the win.

Another version: A few years ago, LaTroy Hawkins, (argh, don’t get me started!) a Cubs’ reliever, came into a game in the 9th inning for the save. I don’t remember the specifics, but the Cubs were ahead by a couple runs I think. He promptly put guys on base and then allowed them to score and tie the game. Blown save. Inning ends, Cubs come to bat and score a run. Hawkins gets the win. WTF?

It works well enough for baseball. Does a pitcher who gives up an unearned run and loses 1-0 deserve the loss? Does a pitcher who gave up 6 runs but his team scores 8 deserve a win? Wins and Losses aren’t really a great measure of pitching and that’s just the way it goes. It’s the same with Saves, they’re artificial and arbitrary, but it’s what MLB uses.

Who cares about wins and losses? I mean, it’s an oft-quoted stat, but it’s not really a good measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness. A pitcher for a team that can’t score will lose a lot of games, even if he’s reasonably decent; a pitcher for a team that scores bundles might win a fair number of games despite being relatively mediocre.

The situations described here just make it more clear that the stat has a certain amount of lack of meaning.

But it simply doesn’t. We have clearly illustrated circumstances where it is absolutely, undoubtedly a silly rule that doesn’t correctly assign the win.

You’re right in that wins and losses are heavily affected by a team’s run scoring capabilities. But in a game where Bill gave up only 2 runs and lost 2-1, and least he actually was the losing pitcher. In a game where he give up 5, but wins 7-5, at least he was the pitcher who got through most of the game and kept him team in the lead. Those circumstances may be tough losses and cheap wins, but you’re giving it to the right guy.

I think that the current rules probably work just fine 98% of the time, but corner cases can lead to the occasional head-scratching or “inappropriate” attribution of a win or loss.

I’d be curious to see if a different approach was able to fix the current weird results, without creating its own new set of odd corner cases.

I agree. ERA is a more reliable measure of a pitcher’s worth.

You could always make it the discretion of the official scorer.

I’m actually really surprised they don’t already do this. Every time once of those ponderous “how would you change baseball?” threads pops up, I think about this. If I ran the world, the way wins and losses (and saves, for that matter) were assigned would be much more flexible. There would be some hard-and-fast rules - the guy who goes 8 innings and leaves up 11-0 whose team goes on to win always gets the win, obviously. But in edge cases the official scorer could assign the win or loss just as (s)he awards an error or hit today. So if Jones pitches four no-hit innings as a starter, but leaves after the fourth up 22-0 (he’s pitching against the Mets, obviously), he still is eligible for the win.

I really can’t see a single reason why this wouldn’t be implemented, which of course means it never will be.

The official scorer does have a little leeway in determining the winning pitcher, as stated in rule 9.17©:

“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.”

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen this rule actually applied, or perhaps I’ve seen it just once or twice. Obviously it wouldn’t apply for the Latroy Hawkins situation mentioned above, because there was no pitcher who followed Hawkins.

Either there’s a rule, or there isn’t. You’re replacing a rule with a scorer’s choice, unless you want to suggest a new rule. Again, I really don’t have a problem with doing so, but since Wins and Losses assigned to a pitcher don’t really change things I find it hard to get too worked up about it. And you’d have to define correctly, although I admit in the cases mentioned in this thread 99.9% of fans would agree with you. I’m sure there are cases where it’s not cut and dry.

Assigning wins and losses to a specific pitcher if fraught with peril from the beginning, since pitchers aren’t the only ones that affect whether a team wins or loses. Sometimes baseball works that way, and I really don’t have a problem with it. There are lots of things like that; hits awarded instead of an error because a slow fielder never touched a ball he should have caught, Carlos Martinez getting a home run because a fly ball bounced off Jose Canseco’s head, hits lost because a game was postponed after 2 innings. I think of it as an amusing part of baseball.

When i was a youngster, Frank Funk was relief pitcher for the Indians (1960-62). He came in late one game with the bases loaded and promptly gave up a grand slam typing the game. The Indians took the lead in the next half inning, but the win was given to a subsequent pitcher. That’s when I first learned of this rule.

“If the win would be awarded to a relief pitcher who, upon entering the game, surrendered a lead and then becomes the winning pitcher of record upon his team taking the lead in the subsequent half inning, the Official Scorer shall instead award the win to the starting pitcher, if the starting pitcher left the game with the lead that was surrendered and pitched at least five innings.”

OK, what if a third pitcher comes in after the game is tied, pitches three innings and ends up getting the win. Should he get the win or would the starting pitcher still get it? Which is correct?