San Francisco Giants: MLB must revise pitcher win-loss decision rules


Jul 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) is relieved in the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Have you ever been washing the dishes and are almost finished when all of a sudden one of your siblings finally comes to help you out? Then your mother walks in and sees that both of you have been doing your chores and you both get the credit, when in reality you have been washing dirty plates for over 15 minutes, while your brother made one silverware contribution. Well, this gives you an idea of how Rule 10.17 of the Major League Baseball Official Rules works.

In Monday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds, Tim Hudson of the San Francisco Giants had his outing cut short in the 4th inning after a double, single, and walk loaded the bases. Perhaps earlier in his career and before his most recent DL stint, manager Bruce Bochy would have allowed Hudson to try and work himself out of the jam. Instead, he decided to play it safe and relieve him of his duties after just 70 pitches.

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  • Bochy summoned for left-handed-specialist Javier Lopez as power hitting lefties Jay Bruce and Joey Votto were due up in a bases-loaded with one out situation. Hudson’s line for the start consisted of 4 1/3 innings pitched, just one earned run, one strikeout, and three walks. Not a dominating performance, but by show of the runs allowed (1), Hudson was able to limit the damage throughout.

    As the game unfolded, San Francisco held on to their lead by a thread, and would end up winning the ballgame 5-3 behind a 2-RBI double from Matt Duffy. Here is the boxscore from the game:

    Boxscore of Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants (September 14, 2015)

    What is missing from the boxscore? Lets see here: Keyvius Sampson took the loss for the Reds, Santiago Casilla notched his 33rd save, and George Kontos got the win for the Giants. Okay, makes sense. Wait a minute! George Kontos got the win? Why is he granted the victory when he pitched to just four batters and finished with 1 1/3 innings pitched?

    Well, thanks to rule 10.17 Winning and Losing Pitcher of the MLB Official Rules:

    (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

    Well, okay so Hudson left with his team in the lead, started the game on the mound, and pitched more innings than any other pitcher in the game. This brings up the lovely fine print:

    (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, or
    (2) four innings of a game that lasts five 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.

    In other words, in order for a starting pitcher to earn the winning decision, he must pitch at the

    June 20, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo celebrates the 6-2 victory following the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    minimum five innings and his team must be winning when he is relieved. Where did the innings minimum of five come from? Why five? Well, we would have to ask Major League Baseball because I do not have an answer for you on that one.

    This requirement of five innings is absolute blasphemy. In order for a pitcher to be granted with the win, his team should be winning. That makes total sense. But, why is Kontos being granted the victory in a game where he was much less of a deciding factor in the game? Hudson pitched almost four times as many innings, and his team was winning, yet Kontos gets the decision.

    On the flip side, starting pitchers have no minimum number of innings in order to receive a losing decision. This is exemplified by the Reds starting pitcher Sampson’s decision in that same game when he only got through three innings.  Hypothetically, if a starting pitcher throws to the leadoff batter, surrenders a home run, is taken out of the game directly after that one pitch, and the opposing team never relinquishes their lead, the starting pitcher would be given the loss even though he threw just one pitch.

    Oct 26, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; MLB executive Joe Torre addresses the media after game three of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Cardinals won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    So, why are these same starting pitchers being screwed out of a victory if they do not pitch through five innings? Who cares if they only pitched three or four innings? They still had a greater effect in the game than, lets say a reliever who pitches to a few batters and is done for the day.

    So, what is the resolution and what should Commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball do to fix this awful rule?

    It’s simple:

    “The official scorer shall credit the pitcher who has pitched the most innings while his team is winning.”

    In a nutshell, whichever pitcher pitches the most innings (AKA having the biggest effect on the game) while his team is winning, he should be granted the winning decision. Just as Hudson did Monday night, the key is which pitcher had the greater impact. This is what a boxscore should look like:

    Example A:

    Madison Bumgarner starts and pitches 3 innings (1st-3rd innings). His team is winning 2-0 when he exits the game. George Kontos comes in and throws 2 innings. (4th-5th innings). Hunter Strickland throws 2 innings (6th-7th innings). Sergio Romo throws one inning (8th inning). Santiago Casilla comes in for the save (9th inning).

    Box Score:

    123   456   789     F

    Dodgers:    000  000  000    0

    Giants:       020  000  000    2

    W: Bumgarner  L: Kershaw  S: Casilla

    Because Bumgarner pitched the most innings while his team kept the lead, he deserves the win because he had a greater effect on the game than any other pitcher.

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    Example B:

    Matt Cain starts and pitches 2 innings (1st-2nd innings). Cain exits with a 0-0 tie. Yusmeiro Petit comes in and pitches 3 strong innings (3rd-5th innings). Petit exits with a 1-0 lead. Tim Lincecum comes in and pitches 4 innings (6th-9th innings).

    123   456   789     F

    Dodgers:    000  000  000    0

    Giants:       000  100  000     1

    W: Lincecum  L: Greinke  S: N/A

    Again, Lincecum had a greater effect on the game, thus, he is granted the win over Cain (who started the game) and over Petit (who came in and exited with the lead) because he pitched more innings. Seems reasonable.

    The fact of the matter is that what happened to Hudson is not a relatively common occurrence, but it is a subject of concern knowing that this sort of thing can happen and does happen. Just as a player is granted the Player of the Week award for having a larger impact on games, Commissioner Manfred and Major League Baseball needs to fix their mistake and make it so that pitchers are granted the winning decisions they deserve.