Pitcher win-loss record is one of the worst stats in baseball. It has the initial allure of something meaningful, but then delivers absolutely no reliably useful information. For starting pitchers it assigns credit and blame for teammates’ accomplishments, and for relievers a win might actually mean they blew the lead before getting bailed out by their lineup.
Individual win-loss is such a toxic stat in this full-team sport that I almost never even mention it on this site. At best it tells you what you already learned from other superior metrics, and at worst it straight-up lies to you.
However! Right now an Oakland A’s pitcher leads the American League in wins, and it’s always interesting to lead the league in anything — especially when it’s not the player you would have expected.
After picking up the win in Friday night’s victory over the Los Angeles Angels, reliever Yusmeiro Petit now has a 6-0 record for the season, through 46 games for his team.
The MLB leader in wins is St. Louis Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty, with eight already. After that come a half-dozen pitchers tied with six apiece, including three National Leaguers in Clayton Kershaw (LAD), Julio Urias (LAD), and Trevor Rogers (MIA). The AL leaderboard looks like this:
- Yusmeiro Petit, OAK, 6 wins
- Gerrit Cole, NYY, 6 wins
- Aaron Civale, CLE, 6 wins
Note: Cole earned his sixth win this afternoon.
Setting Petit apart from all the other pitchers mentioned is that they’re starters and he’s a reliever. That’s not as odd as you might think, though, at least this early in the season. By the end of the year the leaderboard will be all starters, but they’ll compile those totals gradually, five or 10 days at a time. Relievers can rack up wins in bunches, even in consecutive games, so they can jump out to quicker starts in this department in April and May.
To Petit’s credit, most of his relief wins have been the good version, in which he enters a tie game in the late innings and buys time for the A’s lineup to mount its own go-ahead charge. It’s still a somewhat arbitrary distinction that he gets the entire “win,” but at least it was a reward for doing something good in a high-leverage situation.
The right-hander’s sixth win on Friday was the other kind. He entered with a lead, blew it and let the opponent pull ahead, and then his teammates bailed him out by retaking the lead. They won in spite of his whoopsie, but he was still in the game after the re-comeback so he gets one of the most paradoxical combinations of stats in the sport — both the blown save and the win in the same contest.
Of course, we don’t need a 6-0 record to tell us that Petit has been excellent this year, and already worth the modest $2.55 million the A’s spent to bring him back in free agency.
- Petit, 2021: 2.45 ERA, 25⅔ ip, 18 Ks, 5 BB, 1 HR, 21 hits, 2.84 FIP, .248 xwOBA
That’s the best xwOBA on the team, and it’s tied with former A’s closer Liam Hendriks in his new home with the White Sox. And some more reliever stats ...
- Petit, 2021: 1 save, 6 holds, 1 blown, 1.50 WPA, 9-of-13 inherited stranded
That’s a strong 88% success rate holding leads, and his Win Probability Added mark ranks 10th among MLB relievers and 16th among all pitchers in the majors. After allowing his first four inherited runners to score in the season-opening series against the Astros, he’s now stranded his last nine in a row.
So, pick your measure for why the 36-year-old with the 87 mph fastball is still one of the best relievers in the league. And in this case, you can even use a junk stat like pitcher win-loss to prove the point.
Yusmeiro Petit is the only player in baseball history to win both the Little League World Series and the MLB World Series— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) August 28, 2018