If a pitcher posts a win-loss record of 2-14, it’s easy to assume he’s had a lousy year. With a record like that, he might even be looking for a new line of work in the off-season. Yet, strange as it may seem, there can be important qualitative differences between one 2-14 season and another.
To begin with, here are some raw stats for a pair of pitchers who each posted a 2-14 season in their career:
Pitcher A: 2-14, 119 innings pitched, 510 batters faced, 71 strikeouts, 1.324 WHIP.
Pitcher B: 2-14, 121 innings pitched, 517 batters faced, 64 strikeouts, 1.364 WHIP.
As you can see, not a great deal of difference so far between these two pitchers.
Yet, for pitcher A, this represented the best season of his career, in which he posted a WAR of 3.3.
For pitcher B, those numbers represented one of the worst seasons of his career: -0.5 WAR.
Pitcher A was exclusively a reliever in his 2-14 season. Pitcher B swung back and forth between the bullpen and the starting rotation.
The team for which Pitcher A toiled went 70-92 in his 2-14 season.
The team for which Pitcher B worked slogged through a 72-90 season.
Pitcher A’s team had been picked to finish in last place by many writers before the season.
Pitcher B’s team had been picked to win their division.
They both pitched in what were considered to be “pitchers” parks.
Pitcher A was 28-years old. Pitcher B was 26-years old. “A” was a lefty. “B” threw right-handed.
So what separated one 2-14 season from the other?
Pitcher A posted a 2.04 ERA, and an ERA+ of 174.
Pitcher B posted an ERA of 4.17, and an ERA+ of just 85.
Pitcher A was charged with having surrendered 27 earned runs. Pitcher B gave up more than twice as many, 56.
The defense behind Pitcher A ranked #1 in Fielding Percentage in his 2-14 season. The defense behind Pitcher B ranked 8th out of 12 teams.
Pitcher B, of the 4.17 ERA, was out of baseball by age 31. Pitcher A lasted until he was 38-years old.
Pitcher B holds the record for consecutive losses, losing 27 straight decision from 1992-93.
Pitcher A is the only pitcher to have appeared in all seven games of a World Series.
Pitcher B, of course, is former New York Mets pitcher Anthony Young.
Pitcher A was a member of the Washington Senators in 1970 when he posted his 2-14 record, but is more closely linked with the Oakland A’s teams of the 1970’s, Darold Knowles.
From 1992-93, Anthony Young posted a record of 3-30, (2-14 in 1992), though not pitching quite badly enough to have earned such a horrific record. Knowles never lost in double-digits again.
As you can see, a pitcher’s won-lost record does not tell the whole story of how he actually pitched. In fact, it can quite clearly tell us nothing worth knowing at all.