A Pitcher's Wins
In 30 starts during the 2000 season, San Francisco southpaw Shawn Estes won 15 games, tied for 10th in the National League in that category. Estes achieved this with a mediocre 4.26 ERA (the most accurate measure of a pitcher's overall performance), which ranked him 24th among National League pitchers who threw at least 162 innings. If a double play is a pitcher's best friend, run support is his Baseball Annie. Estes was aided mightily by the Giants' offense, which generated an average of 7.37 runs in his starts. Meanwhile, Los Angeles ace Kevin Brown collected only 13 victories in 33 starts despite a minuscule 2.58 ERA, the best among National League starters. Brown received a reasonable 4.58 runs per start, but the often impotent Dodgers scored three or fewer runs in 15 of his starts and were shut out in three of those games. Knowledgeable baseball observers consider a pitcher's victory total so circumstantial that Brown finished sixth in the Cy Young voting, while Estes received no votes.
The object of the game for any hitter is to get on base as often as possible. That quest is best measured by on-base percentage (OBP), roughly the number of times a batter reaches base with a hit, walk or hit by pitch divided by his total plate appearances. Sure, batting average is a sexier stat—how often do you think a boy has turned to his father this season and said, "Gosh, Daddy, do you think Ichiro [left] will have a .400 OBP this year?"-but to comprehend the influence of OBP on a team's success, look back no further than last season. Oakland and Seattle finished 11th and 12th, respectively, in the American League in batting average, yet Seattle ranked second and Oakland third in OBP. It's no coincidence that the A's and the Mariners ranked third and fourth in runs scored, and that Oakland and Seattle finished with the league's second-and third-best records and that both teams made the playoffs.