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July 28, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Jerry Blevins, Non-Vulture

by Sam Miller

On Friday night, Ryan Cook entered the game for the A's in the eighth. He allowed two inherited runners to score and one of his own, blew the lead, and got the final out of the inning. The A's then took the lead back in the ninth. Jerry Blevins replaced him and protected the lead. As you know, Ryan Cook would be credited with the victory. But 

Cook was the rule-book victor, except the rule book has an exception. If a reliever is in line to get the win but is deemed to have pitched too ineffectively to get the win, the scorer can award it to somebody else. The rule: 

(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.
Rule 10.17(c) Comment: The official scorer generally should, but is not required to, consider the appearance of a relief pitcher to be ineffective and brief if such relief pitcher pitches less than one inning and allows two or more earned runs to score (even if such runs are charged to a previous pitcher). Rule 10.17(b) Comment provides guidance on choosing the winning pitcher from among several succeeding relief pitchers.

You could be forgiven for not knowing this exception existed (if you didn't know this exception existed). It's the first time I can remember it happening (though I don't follow pitcher wins decisions all that closely). Meanwhile, there are lots of times I can find of it not happening. In 1993, Heathcliff Slocumb allowed five runs to score in less than an inning but still earned the win. (The guy after him pitched two scoreless.) No fewer than 20 pitchers have earned wins in "ineffective and brief" outings since 2000, and just this year Chad Qualls and Kameron Loe did. Loe was followed by two relievers who threw scoreless innings, and Qualls was followed by one.

Of course, the pitcher who followed Qualls was Jonathan Papelbon, who earned the save, and that's actually probably what he preferred. Pitcher wins probably don't matter a whole lot to you, but pitcher wins for relievers don't matter a whole lot to anybody, up to and including the relievers. Trevor Hoffman had a career losing record, and so did Bruce Sutter, and so did Rollie Fingers, and nobody cares.

What's great about this rule is that, just as you think pitcher wins are deeply flawed, Rule 10.17(c) also thinks that pitcher wins are deeply flawed, and offers a correction to the flaw. What's not great about the rule is that it's just insane, in spirit and implementation. The scorer can only award the win to a reliever who pitched subsequently; he can't give it to, say, a starter who pitched well, even though the spirit of the rule is clearly to reward a strong performance instead of a weaker one. Despite it being a rule, in the rule book—"shall not credit"—it isn't anywhere near uniformly enforced, just because. As a rule, it generally runs against the standards of the larger pitcher-wins standards, which usually remove subjectivity from the decision. But perhaps the weirdest thing is that baseball's rule book still has all these words and clauses to govern the awarding of a thing that, so far as I can tell, doesn't matter to anybody. 

Jerry Blevins is now 4-0. Ryan Cook remains 4-2. 

H/T to James, who I'm pretty sure has Ryan Cook on his fantasy team. 


Sam Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Sam's other articles. You can contact Sam by clicking here

Related Content:  Ryan Cook,  Jerry Blevins

7 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Thanks for this. I own Ryan Cook in a couple of leagues and was ecstatic when the A's took the lead and I thought perhaps Cook had scored the ugliest 1/3 of an inning win on record. Then I saw it had been credited to Blevins.

I remembered there was a rule, but have been too lazy to look it up yet so this was very timely.

What was extra weird is that Yahoo's live scoring of my league flashed up a hold for Cook that quickly went away. I don't think he qualified for one, since though he came in with a lead his team did not hold it, but I wonder if for a moment in time that was the official scorer's word after deciding the win should go to Blevins.

Jul 28, 2012 04:55 AM
rating: 0

Now if only this rule was applied more than once in our lifetime.

Jul 28, 2012 08:27 AM
rating: 0

I know it happened in 2006 in another Orioles' game: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/TBA/TBA200604130.shtml

Jul 28, 2012 10:21 AM
rating: 2

I was trying to figure out what the worst pitching performance ever to be credited with a win was, but so far have struck out.

I was thinking checking lowest Bill James' Game Scores for pitchers who had gotten the win would be the way to go, but couldn't find that.

The best I could figure was to sort for all players who pitched in only one game and got the win, then looked at ERA (many had high FIP but 0.00 ERA, so Cook was definitely worse).

One candidate - Earl Huckleberry on Friday September 13, 1935 for the Athletics. In 6.2 IP, he gave up 7 runs, all of them earned, 8 hits (1 a home run), and four walks, while striking out two for a whip of 1.80, an ERA of 9.45, and a Game Score of 28. He also committed an error, but redeemed himself somewhat at the plate by drawing a walk and scoring a run as the Athletics won 19-7.

But of course there's big selection bias there against pitchers who have appeared in more than one game, so surely there have been worse...

Jul 28, 2012 17:56 PM
rating: -1

I remember it happening some time in the early 1960s. I think the pitchers were Hal Reniff &/or Jim Coates, but the details escape me. I only remember it happening because it was so odd.

In this case, it is only officially true that Cook got the final out of the inning. He was on the mound when it happened, but he did not actually get any batters out. Rather, a base runner was thrown out by an outfielder after Cook gave up a hit.

Jul 29, 2012 07:28 AM
rating: 0
One Flap Down

The A's made it easy for the official scorer to give the win to Blevins by scoring 6 times in the top of the 9th. Had they only scored 4 and gone in with a 12-9 lead, I'm sure Cook would have received the win and Blevins the save.

In fact, I'm not even sure if the scorer would have discretion here to award a win by taking away a save, since the save rule is cut and dried.

Jul 29, 2012 08:42 AM
rating: 0

First time I saw this rule invoked was June 30, 2000. Eric Cammack entered for the Mets down 5-1 and gave up 3 ER in one inning. The Mets then scored 10. Armando Benitez finished for an apparent save of an 11-8 game. This would have been Cammack's first (and only) big league win--but the scorer deemed him ineffective and awarded the win to Benitez, instead of the save. It was bizarre--if memory serves, Cammack had been given the lineup card from his first win...only to learn on the radio that he didn't get it.

Boxscore is here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYN/NYN200006300.shtml

Jul 29, 2012 14:07 PM
rating: 1
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