Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena proving why ‘wins’ is a bad metric

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Whether or not a pitcher picks up a tally on their win total is out of their control. No longer considered the gold-standard of success for a starter,  is proving why.

The Miami Marlins have had to dig deep into their pitching depth this season. One of the pleasant surprises of the season for the Fish has been the emergence of Jose Urena. After starting the season in the bullpen, the Dominican right-hander has adjusted well to the starting rotation.

He is off to a 3-2 start following Sundays victory of the Los Angeles Angels. Urena is the only pitcher in the Marlins current starting rotation with a winning record. Following Bill James‘ “Game Score” metric, he has gotten there in a very curious way.

If you’re unfamiliar with how James’ “Game Score” works, here is how the score is determined:

  • Start with 50 points.
  • Add one point for each out recorded, so three points for every complete inning pitched.
  • Add two points for each inning completed after the fourth.
  • Add one point for each strikeout.
  • Subtract two points for each hit allowed.
  • Subtract four points for each earned run allowed.
  • Subtract two points for each unearned run allowed.
  • Subtract one point for each walk.

The maximum possible score is 114. Achieved if a pitcher faces the minimum 27 batters, and strikes them all out.

Urena’s winding way to a winning record

Urena has proven why a metric like game score is a better way to determine a pitchers success. Controlling only one phase of a multi-faceted game, the result is not entirely in a pitchers hands. With this, lets look at how Jose Urena has found himself 3-2 this season.

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Urena’s first foray into the starting rotation this season was a wild success. It was his best start by a considerable margin. Working six innings while throwing only 63 pitches, Urena dominated. He allowed only one hit, one walk, while striking out two batters. His game score was 73, and he earned his first win.

Urena would fall to 1-2 before notching another win.

Against Atlanta on May 12th, Urena was effective again. He scored slightly better than average with 53 points. To get there, he went six innings, allowed two earned runs, walked three and struck out four. The Marlins only got him one run of support, and ultimately lost 8-4.

His following start came against the Houston Astros. A team with a devastating lineup of sluggers, Urena pitched effectively. He would find himself with another loss, due to poor run support by the lineup. In six innings, three runs scored, only one of them earned due to a throwing error by Dee Gordon which would have ended the inning.

Urena scored a 50 in this game. Poor defense and poor hitting led to a 3-0 Marlins loss in a very winnable game. Urena found himself on the short end of the stick.

The way the ball rolls

Sometimes it doesn’t roll your way, sometimes it does. In his previous two starts, Urena gave his team a chance to win, achieving game scores comparable to an average start. Wins failed to materialize. In his fourth start of the season, he pitched his worst, and notched a win.

The Oakland A’s were seeing beach balls coming out of Jose Urena’s hand on May 23rd. The righty worked only 5 innings, tied for his shortest outing of the year. He allowed six earned runs, walked two batters, and finished with a game score of 36. His record would improve to 2-2.

The Miami Marlins offense exploded that game. And while Urena gave up six runs, the Marlins scored 11 and had the lead when he left the game. They’d win by a final of 11-9, and despite it being his worst outing of the season, the surrounding effort was substantially better.

Urena’s most recent start against the Angels was a mixed bag. After five innings he was at 103 pitches and was pulled. He walked six batters, but allowed only two earned runs while striking out seven. It was a high volume outing, and he finished with a game score of 54 for his efforts. Slightly above average.

This falls within the same range of scores he achieved in his two starts against the Braves and Astros. Scoring 53 and 50 in those games, he took the loss because of poor run support. This time, after pitching essentially the same game, he improved his record to 3-2.

Proving the point

Urena has won a game pitching very well, very poorly, and very average. His two losses came on games where he pitched well enough to get the coveted ‘win’. With the Miami Marlins batting order producing more runs lately, they are looking to buck this trend.

As it stands, Urena could just as well be 0-5, or 5-0. Offense is such an integral part to a pitcher earning a win; it’s a beauty pageant statistic at this point.

Next: Miami Marlins finally notch a series win

Ideally, Urena, along with all the Marlins pitchers, would live in the 60-70 range of scores, which constitutes a “good” start.