Front Cover, Spalding's Baseball Guide for 1885.

Patrick Corbin and the Elusive 10th Win: The Win/Loss Rule for Pitchers Explained.


Patrick Corbin, #46 for the Diamondbacks, has proven to be the go-to left-hander on this year’s Pitching rotation. Over the last 10 starts for Corbin, he’s recorded a low 2.22 E.R.A over 69 2/3 innings pitched so far this season while issuing only 19 walks and ringing up 53 strike outs. It’s fair to say that he’s been the rock of the Diamondbacks pitching staff to this point in the season.  His start on June 27th against the Washington Nationals fire-throwing right hander, Stephen Strasburg who has a similarly low E.R.A recorded at a mere 2.41 over 93 1/3 innings pitched was equally impressive, something that D’backs coaches, staff and fans have come to expect from #46.

Jun 27, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Patrick Corbin (46) throws during the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Corbin would hurl 7 complete innings for a total of 111 pitches thrown while allowing only 5 hits, 2 walks with 6 strike outs in his fifth-straight no-decision.  Why? The D’backs won the game, right? Let’s briefly look at the current rule and the foggy evolution that this rule has undergone over the decades of baseball’s rich history.

Rule 10.17 of Major League Baseball’s Official Rules States:

10.17 WINNING AND LOSING PITCHER

(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,

unless

(1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 10.17(b) applies; or

(2) Rule 10.17(c) applies.

On its face, this rule this rule seems simple enough. Often times the circumstances that are in place during a game when a starting pitcher is removed for a reliever or closer often can influence how the Win or Loss is assigned by Official Scorers for Major League Baseball.  To most of us, the rule is pretty clear. You pitch Five complete innings, secure and hold the lead, you get the win.  If you are charged with the last go-ahead run for your opponent, you get the loss.  Things get murky when substitutions are introduced for pitchers, batters and runners.  For now, we will keep this simple.  Or as simple as possible.

Reaching back into the annals of a rich history, pitchers in Major League games were expected to go the distance.  Hurling anything less than 9 complete innings was considered to be dereliction of duty.  By those standards, Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, of the 1884 Providence Grays holds the All-Time Record for Wins in a Single Season with 59 complete game wins. A record that most likely will stand the test of time. Henry Chadwick, recognized as the “Father of Baseball” would invent a new Win/Loss system of scoring in 1884, which would be re-printed in Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide in 1885. It wasn’t until the Minor Leagues were consistent in using this new system of scoring that the National League would take note. Until 1890, the only statistic that was regularly published for a pitcher would be Games Played or “G.P.”. For the next two years, the National League would combine “G.P.” with Wins in order to represent the level of success or failure of any given pitcher. From 1893 to 1900, the National League introduced a “Win/Loss Percentage” and dropped the Wins column from all of its published statistics. The 1901 and 1902 seasons saw no statistics published, and the local newspapers that followed their hometown nine adopted a wide variety of ways to report the win, loss as well as other statistics related to a pitcher’s performance on the field. Since then, both the National League and American Association/League have had different instructions and ways of deciding a win or loss to a starting pitcher.  In 1916, National League Secretary John Hedler would take steps to resolve this long standing practice and issued a letter of instruction to all of his Official Scorers that would make an attempt at setting some kind of frame-work for deciding the win or loss to a pitcher. The instructions that were detailed in a section titled “Basic Rules for Determining Games Won and Lost Where Two or More Pitchers Participate on a Side,”  Hedler explained the rationale behind the new scoring rules the League Scorers were to follow.

Implementing these instructions were another matter as scorers and American Association League President Ban Johnson tended to assign wins and losses on their own views of what transpired during any game.  The irregularities in assigning the win or loss to any starting hurler would remain the norm until 1950, when the Rules Committee of Major League Baseball stepped in to ensure uniformity and enforcement.

Unfortunately for Patrick Corbin, Rule 10.17(a) applies.  He did leave the game during a 2-2 tie, which in effect makes it a new-contest. He would not be eligible for the Win, despite pitching a majority of the game for the Diamondbacks.  This is a frustrating rule, no doubt since he did throw 111 pitches, despite a Rain-Delay that pushed the start of the game back by almost one hour. For now, like Corbin, we will have to wait for his 10th Win of the season.

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Tags: Arizona Diamondbacks Patrick Corbin

  • Tom Lynch

    I hope he gets number 10 before the All Star Break.