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Pregame: Cole, Bucs face Strasburg in 'marquee matchup'


Notes from Clint Hurdle's afternoon chat with the press:

-P- Yesterday afternoon, Hurdle said that he planned on slowly reintroducing Jason Grilli back into the closer's role. However, after circumstances led to Grilli being used in the ninth inning last night, Hurdle was asked today if anything had changed in terms of Grilli's use. He did not directly answer question, saying that he was "curious to see how he [Grilli] feels tomorrow."

"I talked to him today, because he's had a very aggressive workload," Hurdle said, referring to last night's outing and the simulated innings he pitched on Thursday and Wednesday. "He threw some good pitches, his command has some room for growth, the velocity started showing up ... I think he is in a good place."

-P- Tony Watson, Justin Wilson, and Grilli are unavailable tonight.

-P- Hurdle said that he has had more conversations with Pedro Alvarez about his plate approach than any other position player he's managed with the Pirates.

"There might be something said about his comfort level in the lineup (batting sixth), I don't know," Hurdle said. "He's a cerebral kid, he cares a lot ... I don't want to put expectations on him because everyone else does."

Pitching matchup

Tonight will feature one the most intriguing pitching match up of the season, so far: Gerrit Cole vs. Stephen Strasburg.

Hurdle described it as a "marquee matchup."

"I'm excited for the game and I hope it all plays out," Hurdle said. To see two guys that provided such "burst of energy" to the game of baseball when they broke in "is the type of game where you go, 'I hope this is going to be a good one.'"

Strasburg added a slider to repertoire early in the season, but after allowing a slugging percentage of .727 with it, he has abandoned the pitch. The slugging percentages against his other four pitches are: four-seam fastball, .403, sinker, .480, changeup, .174, curveball, .227.

(Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball)

Revised pitcher wins

In yesterday's pregame post, I noted that Pirates' starting pitchers had the second-fewest winning decisions through 46 games in baseball history.

Using the win stat as a measure of a pitcher's seasonal performance has well-documented problems, which we won't belabor. Once we stop using it as evaluative measure, however, there is a story that a properly-calculated Win statistic could tell. That is, it could tell us which pitcher deserves the most credit for helping his team win. It still would not be predicative nor evaluative, but it would be an interesting "descriptive" statistic.

The problem with the current win rule is that it weighs timing over performance. Currently, what matters most is being on the mound (i.e. pitcher of record) when your team takes the lead and never relinquishes it. A clear example of the problem with this approach is found in Wednesday night's Pirates' victory against the Orioles. In that game, Vin Mazzaro relieved Wandy Rodriguez and pitched 3.1 important innings, maintaining a Pirates lead. In the top of the seventh, however, Bryan Morris allowed a game-tying run. In the bottom of the seventh, the Pirates scored the game-winning run, and because Morris was the pitcher of record when the Pirates regained the lead and never relinquished it, he was credited with the win. The current system's emphasis on timing took a win from Mazzaro (deserving), and gave it to Morris (clearly undeserving).

Indeed, the fact that a pitcher can receive a blown save and a win, is enough to highlight the problem with the current rule.

Recently, Tom Tango, author of the The Book, proposed a new way to credit pitching wins/losses. You can read his proposal here, and more about it here and here. In short, Tango's method distributes "win points" and "loss points" calculated as follows (taken directly from Tango's site):

To assign Win Points:

+1 for each out

-4 for each run (earned or otherwise)

Give the W to the pitcher on the winning team with the most points.

In the event of a tie, give it to the pitcher with the most outs.  If still tied, give it to the first pitcher to appear in the game.


To assign Loss Points:

+6 for each run

-1 for each out

Give the L to the pitcher on the losing team with the most points.

In the event of a tie, give it to the pitcher with the fewest outs.  If still tied, give it to the first pitcher to appear in the game.

Exception: remove from L consideration any pitcher who gave up 0 runs.

As you can see, Tango's new rule emphasizes performance over timing, which is the important difference. I'm going to start including the Tango-Winner/Loser in future postgame posts because it is a nice, fairly straightforward, reform to the current rule.

Using the Tango Rule, the distribution of Pirates' wins and losses changes as follows:

Relief pitchers from 14-6 to 10-5

Starters from 7-20 to 11-21

Charlie Morton from 1-6 to 3-3

Francisco Liriano from 0-4 to 3-4

Edinson Volquez from 2-4 to 3-3

Gerrit Cole from 4-3 to 2-2

Wandy Rodriguez from 0-2 to 0-3

Brandon Cumpton from 0-1 to 0-2

Bryan Morris from 4-0 to 0-0

(Track Tango's pitchers wins/losses here)