Brewers record that will likely never be broken #8
Pitcher Wins – Single season
Record: 1978 – Mike Caldwell – 22 wins
Pitcher wins is a dying stat that no one really cares about anymore. It’s archaic, it doesn’t accurately represent a pitcher’s contributions, and doesn’t really have a place in the modern and future eras.
The way things used to be, winning 20 games in a season for a pitcher was like a batter hitting .310 on the season. Now, 20 win seasons more like a unicorn, because they don’t really exist anymore. Almost no one reaches 20 wins, and even if they do there’s generally a feeling of illegitimacy to them, as if the pitcher doesn’t actually deserve credit for 20 team wins. That’s because, odds are, they didn’t.
Brent Suter was the Brewers team leader in wins last year with 12 and he was primarily a long reliever. He was fortunate in the situations he was brought into and “vultured” most of those wins.
For a starting pitcher to be eligible for a win they have to pitch five complete innings and have the lead when they’re the pitcher of record. In the 1970s and other decades of a bygone era, starting pitchers going just five innings was considered a poor outing. Pitchers routinely went seven, eight, nine innings. Bullpens only had a few arms and managers simply rode their starting pitchers. That doesn’t happen anymore.
Nowadays, pitchers going five full innings is seen as a solid outing. Plenty have left the game with a lead despite not completing five innings and being ineligible for the win. At early signs of trouble, managers bring out the hook and pull their starters. They can afford to with seven or eight pitchers in the bullpen.
No one really cares about win totals anymore, and thus the chase for that stat isn’t really happening and pitchers don’t care about getting the “win” on their personal record as much as they do the team winning. There’s so much variance with what can happen in the final few innings that the bullpen has to handle that starting pitchers don’t get “decisions” like they used to. As soon as your lead is gone, as soon as there’s a tie, boom, you are no longer in line for the victory.
When pitchers threw complete games all the time, then they would get the decision, good or bad. It made sense. But they don’t do that anymore, and thus the win-loss record is mostly useless and the 22 wins by Caldwell in 1978 will likely stand for a long, long time. Speaking of complete games…