A pitcher receives a win when he is the pitcher of record when his team takes the lead for good -- with a couple rare exceptions. First, a starting pitcher must pitch at least five innings (in a traditional game of nine innings or longer) to qualify for the win. If he does not, the official scorer awards the win to the most effective relief pitcher.
There is also a rarely used clause where an official scorer can deem a relief pitcher's appearance "brief and ineffective." (For example, if a reliever relinquished a one-run lead by allowing three runs, but was still in line for a win after his team scored four runs in the following inning -- that may qualify.) If that's the case, the scorer can award the win to a pitcher who followed that "brief and ineffective" pitcher. Which relief pitcher earns the win specifically is also up to the judgment of the official scorer.
The importance placed on wins -- and losses, too -- has decreased among statisticians and baseball fans in the past few decades. The thinking is that a pitcher on a team with a bad offense (or bullpen) will often receive the loss even during games in which he pitched well. A pitcher can go nine innings without allowing a run, but he won't get the win if his team doesn't score.
Win-loss record was assigned a greater importance in the past for a different reason. During the time when starters pitched complete games routinely, bullpens were rarely at fault for losses. But today's specialization of relief pitchers has led to starters pitching fewer innings, leaving their win-loss fates in the hands of hurlers who enter games after them.
A starting pitcher does not necessarily receive a win every time his team wins -- even if he exits the game with his team ahead. In such instances, if the winning team gives up the lead before eventually rallying to win later in the game, the pitcher who is in the game when his team takes the final lead usually gets the win.
Watch: Max Scherzer earns a win after pitching six scoreless innings.
Pitching mechanics instruction is broken.
Pitchers are being coached out of the things that dominant and durable pitchers do. Things that Justin Verlander, Mariano Rivera, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver actually do.
Pile on top of that rising levels of risk-taking encouraged by the (mis)perception that procedures like Tommy John surgery are completely safe and effective, and may even boost a pitcher's performance, and you have The Epidemic.
The Difference is Easy to See
The difference in how dominant and durable pitchers and modern, hard-throwing but far more injury-prone pitchers move is visible to the naked eye. While dominant and durable pitchers have exceptional Timing and consistently get to the Ready Position, modern pitchers increasingly exhibit problems like Flat Arm Syndrome and Premature Pronation.
Harvey, Seaver, Fernandez, and Ryan
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These differences explain why Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez quickly experienced injury problems early on in their professional careers while Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan were equally dominant and far more durable.
The Root Cause
The root cause of the problem is that...
- The definition of proper pitching mechanics has changed.
- How pitching mechanics -- and, more fundamentally, throwing mechanics -- are being taught has changed.
I'm not just talking about the Inverted W, although that is increasingly, inadvertently, and again becoming an important and relevant topic. Instead, I'm talking about all of the different problematic pitching cues and drills that "work" by creating a Timing problem.
There's no question pitchers at all levels are throwing harder than ever.
However, the latest research into pitching mechanics suggests that these changes to how throwing and pitching are taught are contributing to the rising injury rates to pitchers.
How Things Have Changed
To fix the problem with how pitching mechanics are taught, and reverse the course of the pitcher injury and tommy john surgery epidemic, we first need to understand how things have changed in terms of throwing and pitching mechanics and how they are taught.
Tom Seaver, Jose Fernandez, and Nolan Ryan
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I grew up hearing stories about Bob Gibson...
...and Tom Seaver...
I was able to watch Nolan Ryan, on TV, if not in person.
As my kids got older, I focused my attention on Greg Maddux, his pitching mechanics, and the ridiculous ways he could get the ball to move...
...and Mariano Rivera and his cutter.
The more I studied pitchers and pitching mechanics, the more obvious it became to me that modern pitchers looked -- and moved -- differently than the pitchers I idolized and studied ad nausaeum.
Mark Prior and his pitching mechanics were part of it, but he wasn't the only one. Living in St. Louis, Anthony Reyes quickly caught my eye due to his pronounced -- even worse than Mark Prior's -- Inverted W.
Yes, there were guys like Justin Verlander...
...but there seemed to be fewer and fewer pitchers who displayed the pitching mechanics of the greats.
What I came to understand over time was that the differences in how pitchers moved were due to differences in how they were being taught.
As I discuss in my analysis of Matt Harvey's pitching mechanics, in my opinion the root cause of Matt Harvey's elbow -- and eventually, shoulder -- problems is something called the Power T. If you got here by Googling "pitching mechanics," "proper pitching mechanics," or something similar, you likely came across a piece with these two pictures illustrating what are (supposedly) proper pitching mechanics.
I assume that Matt Harvey was taught something similar.
Matt Harvey's Power T
The problem is that the Power T works by creating a Timing problem; the pitcher's arm isn't up and in the correct position when their front foot plants and their shoulders start rotating.
Matt Harvey's Power T
The Power T works -- for a while -- by overloading the arm; by pushing it past the red line. That will often yield quick velocity increases but, in my experience, will also lead to elbow and/or shoulder problems.
I believe that people who teach the Power T think they are teaching pitchers to throw like Roy Halladay.
But they aren't.
My analysis of Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics discusses my belief that other common cues are compromising his pitching mechanics and are putting his career in jeopardy.
I say this in part because, of all my pitcher injury predictions, my...
...unfortunately proved to be the most accurate, which suggests that the problem with Jose Fernandez's pitching mechanics is extremely serious.
Where to go from Here
I have put together a number of free and other pieces for people who want to dive into the topic of pitching mechanics.
Pitcher Injury Predictions
Since 2006, I have been making predictions about which pitchers I think are more, and less, likely to experience injury problems.
I mention this because I believe it establishes that I have a deep understanding of pitching mechanics and injuries; you have to understand a system in order to make accurate predictions about it.
Professional Pitcher Analyses
In order to help people understand how major league pitchers actually throw the ball, I have created a number of analyses of the pitching mechanics of major league baseball pitchers, including...
Research Into Pitching Mechanics
Since 2005, I have been researching the topic of pitching mechanics and how and why pitchers get injured or stay healthy...
Pitching DVDs, eBOOKs, and Webbooks
As a result of the research I have done into pitching mechanics, I have put together a number of ebooks, webbooks, and streaming DVDs that discuss the topic of proper pitching mechanics and how to develop them.
In an attempt to reverse the trend of rising injuries to pitchers, I have put together a webbook that discusses what I believe are the root causes of the pitcher injury epidemic.
It is called, simply, The Epidemic.
The Epidemic gives my view of what is happening, why, and what coaches, parents, and physicians can do about it.
In order to ensure that everyone who wants to read The Epidemic can do so, rather than charging a fixed amount for it, I have made The Epidemic available via a Pay What You Can pricing model.
That means that everyone can read most of The Epidemic, regardless of your ability to pay. All I ask is that you remember that I have spent years researching and putting The Epidemic together, and my family and I would appreciate it if you would pay what you can for it.
Throwing Mechanics 101
While people can, and often do, go into excruciating detail about pitching mechanics, at the end of the day pitching is just throwing with less margin for error. As a result, the way to learn to pitch well is to learn how to throw well. To that end, I have put together Throwing Mechanics 101, a webbook that explains the keys to teaching throwing.
Pitching Mechanics 101
Finally, just as there are some things a pitcher should do, because they will improve your ability to throw hard and well, there are some things a pitcher should not do because they increase the risk a pitcher will injure himself. Unfortunately, many of these things are taught by many well-meaning, but ill-informed, pitching coaches. Pitching Mechanics 101 discusses what to teach pitchers and, just as importantly, what not to teach pitchers.
Power Pitching Mechanics
Power Pitching Mechanics is the ultimate pitching mechanics resource. It is a bundle that gives my clients access to the information contained in The Epidemic, Throwing Mechanics 101, Pitching Mechanics 101. It also provides access to my analyses of the pitching mechanics of the most dominant and durable pitchers of the past 50 years, including FREE access to my in-depth analyses of...
...as well as access to my Pitching Mechanics 101 DVD and MUCH more.