Hot takes: Win-Loss record, the NL’s DH and electronic strike zones

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 28: Manager Torey Lovullo
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 28: Manager Torey Lovullo /

The Arizona Diamondbacks current homestand might have revealed some problems with the team as a serious playoff contender, but what is more important to me, is that it revealed some real problems the league can address.

The Diamondbacks current homestand was an example of some issues that baseball is actually facing right now. These problems actually need fixing, not the length of the game.

Earning the W

Any serious baseball fan knows that a pitcher’s Win-Loss record is not indicative of how well a pitcher is performing. If you didn’t, well now you do, or you will.

Nothing is more evident of this than Zack Godley. Godley has a 5-5 record in 17 games, but the lowest ERA and the second lowest WHIP among starters in the Diamondbacks roster.

So much more goes into a win, or a loss, than what the pitcher is throwing, but they’re the only ones affected by their W-L record. Analysts still use it regularly. But, with five losses and seven no decisions, you’d never know that Godley is one of the best pitchers in the rotation.

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Sure, like many have said, there is an art to winning games from the mound. There’s no denying that Clayton Kershaw’s 15-2 record tells you that he’s a good pitcher. It also doesn’t tell you the Los Angeles Dodgers have given him three or more runs of support in 12 of those wins, including over six runs in eight of them.

Kershaw is not winning games alone, just like Godley is not losing them alone. In all five of Godley’s losses, the Diamondbacks failed to score more than two runs while Godley was on the mound.

In four of his seven no decisions, the team provided less than two runs of support. The worst coming against the Dodgers on August 8.

Godley pitched 6.2 innings. He gave up three runs, while the Diamondbacks scored two. In the seventh inning, Godley gave up a single to Kyle Farmer with two outs. With Chris Taylor on-deck, Lovullo pulled Godley from the game and replaced him with David Hernandez. Hernandez struck out Taylor. 

The Diamondbacks went on to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh, giving Hernandez the win even though Taylor was the only batter he faced.

Most can agree that WHIP is a better indicator of a pitcher’s performance over both W-L record and ERA. But, it isn’t going to stop anyone from recording the “winning pitcher” in every game. I’m just suggesting that we find a way to improve who earns the win.

For example, Godley should have earned the win. He pitched the majority of the inning and didn’t give up any runs or leave runners in scoring position.

But, it gets tricky when pitchers pass on inherited runners to relievers. Or, when relievers pitch out of jams created by someone before them. It would make the W-L record too subjective.

So, remove it altogether. It’s doing more harm than good.  

It’s time: Add the DH to the NL

I grew up an American League fan, but I’ve also never had a solid opinion on the Designated Hitter. Whatever the NL fans wanted, I couldn’t care less. But, one instance actually changed my mind.

In his third MLB start, Anthony Banda threw 4.0 innings against the hot-everything Los Angeles Dodgers.

With two outs and two runners on, the rookie couldn’t escape the jam and gave up a base-clearing double to Enrique “Kike” Hernandez.

Obviously giving up three runs in the first inning is not the best way to start a game. But, for a rookie facing the 2017 juggernaut-Dodgers, it could be worse. The kid settled in and pitched three scoreless innings and faced 10 batters. Much better.

Then, Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo made a questionable decision.

With two outs and two runners on for the Diamondbacks, Lovullo replaced Anthony Banda in the on-deck circle with Brandon Drury. Not because the kid gave up three runs in the first inning, not because his 69-pitches had reached some odd limit.

No, Lovullo removed Anthony Banda from a 3-2 game to avoid allowing the pitcher to bat in a situation where the Diamondbacks had the opportunity to score.

Except they didn’t score.

Brandon Drury struck out by swinging at three pitches outside of the strike zone. Something Anthony Banda could have done and remained on the mound.

But, it wasn’t just the at-bat that cost the Diamondbacks. Lovullo replaced Banda with Arizona-native Jake Barrett.

On the first pitch, Chris Taylor took Barrett deep, 4-2 Dodgers. Barrett would give up three runs in the fifth inning, 6-2 Dodgers.

The Diamondbacks went on to lose 8-6.

Now that I have an opinion on the DH and a situation to back it up, I’m left questioning why baseball fans are against the DH in the NL?

The only answer I’ve gotten is that’s the way it has always been and stuffy, old-fashioned baseball fans don’t want change. If you’ve got a better argument, by all means, drop me a line.

Please don’t include Madison Bumgarner’s career 16 home runs in nine seasons to define your argument. Also, don’t try to use Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon’s career 25 hits in 20 seasons.

I’m not even arguing for a DH to improve the Diamondbacks offense. I’m arguing for a DH to allow Anthony Banda to stay on the mound for the fifth inning.

Despite Lovullo sticking by his decisions, there was no legitimate reason Banda could not return to the mound, except for a traditionalist point of view keeping the game from improving in a real way.

The Automatic Strike Zone

I’ve seen quite the call for this lately. But, it took a little bit of research to get behind this one.

Yes, I’m aware that umpires blow an ungodly amount of calls regularly. In fact, watching the Diamondbacks homestand has shown me one of the worst and most inconsistent strike zones I’ve ever seen.

I’m not the fan that’s going to call for the “human element” of the game. Bring on the cameras, bring on the replay. Bring on anything that is going to improve the game in a real way.

I recognize that there is a problem with umpires blowing strike calls, but I also see that it affects both teams on the field. The team that adjusts accordingly is going to win.

But, the electronic strike zone doesn’t remove the human element. It doesn’t add any unnecessary bodies or technology to the field.

The home plate umpire stays behind the plate and the league would add an umpire to man the tech somewhere and relay those calls to home-plate umpire. In fact, using the electronic strike zone in an Independent League in 2015 took just milliseconds and aided the home-plate umpire in getting the calls right.

There would be added cameras, but nowadays those are so small, fans would never know. The strike zone even adjusted for the varying heights of the batters.

But, the league is against it because they think it’ll add to the length of the game. Sure, a few milliseconds on every pitch call will add up, but it will also make players and fans happier and limit argued calls and ejections.

The most intriguing part of the debate is MLB Network analyst and former Major League outfielder Eric Byrnes suggesting that the league give the technology a limited role. Bring the tech in, but only turn to it on questionable two-strike calls.

This could give the electronic strike zone a few opportunities. It can be used at the umpire’s discretion, although I can’t see very many admitting that they don’t know the call. So, better yet, give managers a limited number of challenges, similar to replay challenges.

That makes the players, managers and fans happy, while keeping a majority of the human element in the game for the traditionalists. It doesn’t remove an umpire’s job, but adds one instead. And the league doesn’t have to add milliseconds to every pitch by waiting for the right call.

It literally pleases everyone, except those who just refuse technology, but hey, can’t win ‘em all.