It should come as no surprise that RA Dickey, who is basically the Dos Equis guy with a knuckleball, would post an interesting statistical profile. Seeing him pitch a no-hitter into the seventh inning, only to come away with a no-decision once again, I wondered: just how anomalous was his season, with a 4.8 WAR (wins above replacement), and yet just eight victories to show for it?
Going back to 1980, among pitchers with at least 200 innings pitched, just four pitchers have posted higher WAR than Dickey’s 2011 total of 4.8 with no more than eight wins to show for it. Jim Abbott’s 1992 (7-15 record, 5.5 WAR) tops the list, while a season I thought would be up there, Nolan Ryan’s 1987 (8-16 record, 5.5) is tied with Abbott’s. I recall having my first doubts about the usefulness of W-L records during that season. I assume no one actually thinks Ryan was somehow deficient in racking up victories- his career total, after all, was 324.
In third place stands Tom Candiotti’s 1993 (8-10 record, 5.3 WAR), and fourth place is Joey Hamilton’s 1995 (6-9 record, 4.9 WAR). Candiotti was a hard-luck pitcher for much of his career- in two seasons other than 1993, he led the league in losses- while Hamilton won 15 games the season after his 6-9 year, despite a WAR around half as positive.
But the pitcher just below Dickey on the list is probably the best example of how W-L records are completely a function of the team around pitchers. Bob Welch, in 1986, pitched to a 7-13 record with the Dodgers, despite a 4.5 WAR. He threw 235 innings. Four years later, Welch pitched to a 27-6 record with the A’s, posting a 2.5 WAR. He threw 238.1 innings.
It will please fans, RA Dickey and the Mets if the 2015 Mets are as impressive as the 1990 A’s. The good news is, both teams stand a reasonable chance of having been built by the same General Manager: Sandy Alderson.