Decisions Decisions Decisions

A bunch of us were debating the “most valuable Expo of all time” on Twitter in response to this tweet

jonahkeri@jonahkeri

Interesting debate if Vlad’s done. Who’s the best Expo of all-time, as in contributions only with Expos. Raines? Dawson? Carter? Vlad?

I mentioned Steve Rogers, winning pitcher in franchise history.  In going over his stats, I noticed something unusual.  In 1974, Rogers made 38 starts and received a decision in 37 of them.  (The one game in which he didn’t get the win or loss was a two-inning start on July 17 in which he left trailing and the Expos rallied to win.)

I wondered how rare it is for a pitcher to accrue a decision in every start of a season.  But first, a little historical context.  Here is a graph of the year-by-year % of pitcher starts that resulted in a decision, from 1918-2012:

From a high of 87.7% in 1918, there has been a relatively steady decline, bottoming out at 67.8% in 2008.  Through Monday, the 2012 percentage is 72.1%.  Reasons for this?  Well, starters are not going as deep into games as they used to, so there is a greater chance for a lead change and thus a no-decision.  And why are starters not going deep into games?  The birth of the seventh, eighth and ninth inning relief specialists, in concert with the introduction of the “save” in 1969, have changed the ways managers utilize their starters.  Here is the change in innings pitch per start over the past 50 years.

Now, let’s show both trends since 1961 on the same chart:

Though the absolute change in IP/start is greater than the change in Decision % (especially since 1987), the trends are relatively similar.

Let’s see the starting pitchers who were perfect in terms of “decision-making” in a season (minimum 30 starts with no relief appearances):

Player Year GS Tm W L W-L% IP ERA
Dazzy Vance 1925 31 BRO 22 9 .710 265.1 3.53
Jeff Pfeffer 1919 30 BRO 17 13 .567 267.0 2.66
Vic Willis 1905 41 BSN 12 29 .293 342.0 3.21
Bill Dinneen 1904 37 BOS 23 14 .622 335.2 2.20
Vic Willis 1904 43 BSN 18 25 .419 350.0 2.85
Noodles Hahn 1903 34 CIN 22 12 .647 296.0 2.52
Bill Dinneen 1902 42 BOS 21 21 .500 371.1 2.93
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2012.

OK, so no full-time starter has made “perfect decisions” in 87 years.  What are the highest number of starts where a pitcher has had 100% decisions in recent history (again, no relief appearances in the season)?

And, for the sake of completeness, let’s look at the starting pitchers who were the champs of the “no-decision”.  These were the pitchers with the most starts without a decision in a year (no relief appearances):

Player Year GS ▾ Tm IP ERA
Yovani Gallardo 2008 4 MIL 24.0 1.88
John Dopson 1990 4 BOS 17.2 2.04
Jerry Ujdur 1981 4 DET 14.0 6.43
Mike Pelfrey 2012 3 NYM 19.2 2.29
Mitch Atkins 2011 3 BAL 10.2 8.44
Brian Moehler 2003 3 HOU 13.2 7.90
Josh Pearce 2002 3 STL 13.0 7.62
Matt Riley 1999 3 BAL 11.0 7.36
Marc Valdes 1995 3 FLA 7.0 14.14
Dave Mlicki 1993 3 CLE 13.1 3.38
Doug Brocail 1992 3 SDP 14.0 6.43
Dave Eiland 1988 3 NYY 12.2 6.39
Rich Sauveur 1986 3 PIT 12.0 6.00
Bob Fallon 1984 3 CHW 14.2 3.68
John Bohnet 1982 3 CLE 11.2 6.94
Frank MacCormack 1977 3 SEA 7.0 3.86
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 6/20/2012.

 

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4 Responses to Decisions Decisions Decisions

  1. Ember Nickel says:

    I’m actually surprised the IP/Start graph is as /constant/ as it is.

  2. Mike says:

    I remember hearing on a broadcast some years ago that decision-less seasons were actually becoming something of a rarity for relievers. I believe the player in questions was Scott Aldred in 1998, where he had a record of 0-0 with 0 saves for Tampa Bay. Now, with LOOGYs an institution, I would expect Aldred-esque seasons, but maybe I’m wrong. Anyhow, I enjoyed reading your blog linked via BP. Thanks!

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