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2017: One last chance to question the official scorer. November 2, 2017

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.

In game 7 of the 2017 World Series, neither starter lasted long. Yu Darvish left after only 1 2/3 innings, and Lance McCullers lasted only 2 1/3. Even though McCullers left with a 5-0 lead, that short start left him ineligible for the win. Behind the cut, I’ll examine the relevant rules for determining which pitcher should be credited with the win, and why I don’t agree with the official scorer’s decision to give Charlie Morton the win.

9.17 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 9.17(b) applies; or (2) Rule 9.17(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, …
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.
(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.
Because McCullers left after only 2 1/3 innings, Rule 9.17(b) applies: he did not complete five innings on defense. However, he left with a lead that the team did not relinquish, so no other pitcher was eligible for a win under 9.17(a). Thus, rule 9.17(b) specifies that since there was more than one relief pitcher, the official scorer must use his judgment to determine the most effective pitcher.
The rules include this comment on “effectiveness”:
It is the intent of Rule 9.17(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. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher’s appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher.
The first reliever in the game was Brad Peacock, who pitched two innings and allowed one hit, one walk, and no runs, striking out two. Peacock made what was arguably a crucial out: he entered with Corey Seager and Justin Turner on base and prevented the Dodgers from chipping away at the 5-0 lead, and then pitched a clean fourth inning. Granted, his fifth inning wasn’t pretty: he also allowed Seager and Turner on base and was relieved by Francisco Liriano. Liriano made another arguably crucial out before being relieved by Chris Devenski. Devenski got Yasiel Puig out, but was lifted for a pinch hitter and relieved by Morton.
Morton pitched four innings. He notched four strikeouts but allowed a walk and two singles, one of which turned into the Dodgers’ only run. After that, he settled down.
Morton was similarly effective to Peacock. The only difference between their performances was that Morton’s trouble came during his first inning, when the game was nearing its end, while Peacock’s came after he had already pitched a clean inning. The game situation made Morton likelier to remain in the game, not his effectiveness.
Also, MLB already has a statistic for a pitcher who holds down a lead: the save.
9.19 Saves for Relief Pitchers
A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in this Rule 9.19. The official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
(a) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
(b) He is not the winning pitcher;
(c) He is credited with at least 1⁄3 of an inning pitched; and
(d) He satisfies one of the following conditions:
(1) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs
and pitches for at least one inning;
(2) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the
potential tying run either on base, or at bat or on deck
(that is, the potential tying run is either already on base or
is one of the first two batters he faces); or
(3) He pitches for at least three innings.
Peacock, as a similarly effective pitcher earlier in the game, could have been credited with the win. (Indeed, he should have been so credited presumptively, according to the comment to 9.17.) Morton’s ability to protect the lead is properly recognized with a save, rather than a win.




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