NEWS FLASH: MIKE MUSSINA WINS GAME #3OO, NOT #255 — IT’S THE NEW MATH IN PITCHING

                                                        Kallas Remarks By Steve Kallas   

Once upon a time in pitching, as hard as it may be to believe today, a major league  pitcher would take the ball every fourth day and would start 40-41 times a season and would pitch usually into the eighth or ninth inning (if he was a good pitcher).  

But that was then, this is now.  Today, a major league pitcher takes the ball (maybe) every fifth day, starts 34-35 times a season and, on the rare occasion, pitches into the eighth or (unbelievable today) ninth inning.   

Which brings us to Mike Mussina and his win number 255 on May 8, 2008, a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.  While the win wasn’t hailed as a milestone, it really should have been viewed as such.  There’s the new math in pitching and here’s how it works:  Starting with the young Met pitchers of the late1960s (you old-time Met fans will remember – Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry and even part-time starter Nolan Ryan), pitchers started to rest four days between starts rather than three.  Over the next few decades and coupled with expansion, this would be the watering down of pitching as we see it today (but that’s for another time).  

Over the next decade or so, there was a transformation of pitching – no longer would pitching every fourth day be the norm, it would now be every fifth day, a huge difference in terms of putting together a pitching staff.  

So whether everybody understood it or not, there would never be another 30-game winner again (an impossibility today with only 34-35 starts a season).  In fact, the question is whether there will ever be another 25-game winner again (also for another time).  

But the new math in baseball for career wins is this:  Since good starters for decades, with rare exceptions (Whitey Ford and Bob Gibson come to mind), would start 40 or so times a year and good starters today start 34 or so times a year, it’s simple mathematics to figure out that a pitcher’s chance to win games reduces by six starts a year or 15% (40 starts less 15% (six starts) equals 34 starts a year).  So, too, again by simple mathematics, will a pitcher’s actual number of wins go down by 15%.  

So the 300-game winner of yesteryear, by mathematical definition, couldn’t possibly win 300 games today if he pitched every fifth day instead of every fourth day.  And this, of course, is before we even talk about middle relievers, closers and the mentality of the pitch count.  So by simply subtracting 15% from 300 (45), we come up with the modern-day equivalent of 300 wins — 255 wins.  

So Mike Mussina, a possible Hall of Fame candidate down the road, essentially won his 300th game on May 8, 2008.  And nobody knew about it.

 © Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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