Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Earl Wilson
Earl Wilson and the Value of a Good-Hitting Pitcher



In each of my articles on individual seasons, I introduce the table on pitcher offense as an "oft-forgotten position[] that can nevertheless matter." But just how much can it matter? This article takes a look at one pitcher for whom his offense has a fairly significant effect on his overall value.

Earl Wilson was the best hitting pitcher of the 1960s. The first table below presents Earl Wilson's career as measured by Player won-lost records.

Earl Wilson
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1959BOS24
9
1.21.30.474-0.0
0.1
1.52.00.427-0.2-0.0
1960BOS25
14
4.43.90.5330.4
0.8
4.14.40.481-0.00.4
1962BOS27
32
13.011.80.5241.2
2.3
12.212.70.4880.31.4
1963BOS28
37
12.514.70.460-0.4
0.8
13.214.00.4850.31.5
1964BOS29
36
13.815.00.4790.1
1.6
13.415.60.463-0.31.1
1965BOS30
41
14.514.30.5040.9
2.1
15.614.50.5181.42.6
31
42
19.216.30.5412.2
3.7
18.216.10.5311.83.2
1967DET32
52
17.216.70.5081.1
2.5
17.318.60.4820.21.7
1968DET33
40
17.314.90.5382.0
3.3
15.014.40.5101.02.2
1969DET34
37
12.313.00.4870.2
1.4
13.114.00.4840.11.4
35
33
9.011.60.437-0.9
0.0
10.210.60.4910.21.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
373
134.6133.50.5026.8
18.6
133.8136.90.4944.716.7
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
1
0.30.40.381 -0.00.30.40.463 0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
374
134.9133.90.502
18.6
134.1137.30.494 16.7


Overall, Earl Wilson was somewhat better than average for his career, accumulating a respectable 6.8 pWins over positional average (pWOPA) and 18.6 pWins over replacement level (pWORL).

The Impact of Earl Wilson's Hitting on Player Won-Lost Records
The next two tables decompose Earl Wilson's (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) Player won-lost records in two ways. The first decomposes Wilson's record into the four basic factors: batting, baserunning, pitching, and fielding.

Basic Decomposition of eWins, eLosses
(Regular Season only)
Batting Baserunning Pitching Fielding
Season Team Wins Losses Win Pct. Wins Losses Win Pct. Wins Losses Win Pct. Wins Losses Win Pct.
19590.20.1
0.714
0.00.1
0.061
1.31.9
0.417
0.00.10.354
19600.30.4
0.395
0.00.0
0.399
3.53.7
0.484
0.20.10.620
19621.11.4
0.445
0.00.0
0.408
10.110.5
0.490
0.30.30.515
19631.21.5
0.452
0.10.1
0.530
10.811.3
0.489
0.30.40.412
19641.71.5
0.538
0.10.1
0.493
10.913.0
0.456
0.30.30.485
19651.71.5
0.527
0.10.1
0.608
12.112.1
0.500
0.50.30.653
-
2.51.7
0.586
0.20.1
0.637
13.913.5
0.507
0.30.30.547
19672.02.2
0.474
0.10.2
0.382
13.714.9
0.480
0.50.30.605
19682.01.6
0.561
0.00.0
0.469
11.611.8
0.496
0.40.40.470
19690.81.5
0.347
0.10.1
0.476
11.211.1
0.502
0.30.60.344
-
0.81.0
0.431
0.10.0
0.612
8.89.0
0.495
0.20.20.461
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER 14.314.4
0.498
0.80.8
0.495
107.9112.7
0.489
3.33.30.503


Earl Wilson actually compiled a better Player winning percentage for his offense than he did for his pitching (and fielding).

The next table decomposes Earl Wilson's (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) Player won-lost record by position.

eWins, eLosses by Position
(Regular Season only)
Starting PitcherPitcher OffenseRelief PitcherPinch HitterPinch Runner
Season Team eWin eLoss eWOPA eWin eLoss eWOPA eWin eLoss eWOPA eWin eLoss eWOPA eWin eLoss eWOPA
19590.71.2
-0.2
0.20.1
0.1
0.60.8
-0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
19603.13.0
0.1
0.30.5
0.0
0.60.8
-0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
196210.210.6
-0.1
1.11.4
0.2
0.20.3
-0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
-0.0
196310.811.7
-0.3
1.31.6
0.3
0.20.1
0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
196410.613.0
-1.0
1.81.6
0.6
0.30.4
-0.0
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
196512.412.5
0.2
1.81.6
0.6
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
-
14.113.7
0.3
2.51.8
1.0
0.10.0
0.0
0.10.1
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
196714.214.9
-0.2
1.82.2
0.5
0.00.1
-0.0
0.30.2
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
196811.911.9
0.2
2.11.5
0.8
0.20.2
0.0
0.00.1
-0.1
0.00.0
0.0
196911.511.6
0.1
0.91.5
0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
-0.0
0.00.0
0.0
-
8.18.7
-0.2
0.81.0
0.2
0.80.7
0.1
0.00.0
0.0
0.00.0
0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER 107.7112.9
-1.1
14.614.7
4.5
3.23.3
-0.2
0.50.5
0.0
0.00.0
0.0


So, Earl Wilson was a below average pitcher - as both a starter and a reliever - whose excellent hitting (for a pitcher) is what made him above average overall.

Earl Wilson's Hitting in Historical Context
Generally speaking, when one talks about a good-hitting pitcher, the reference is implicity to the player being a good hitter "for a pitcher". So, exactly how good a hitter was Earl Wilson "for a pitcher"?

The next two tables show the top 10 players in career wins over positional average for pitcher offense (batting plus baserunning) and the top 10 single-season totals in the same statistic.

Top 10: Career Pitcher Offense
Wins over Positional Average
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
1Bob Lemon20.821.30.4945.2
2Wes Ferrell18.416.70.5244.9
3Bob Gibson23.129.60.4384.7
4Red Ruffing26.330.50.4634.6
5Don Newcombe16.816.50.5054.6
6Warren Spahn30.340.60.4274.5
7Early Wynn28.236.10.4394.5
8Earl Wilson14.614.70.4974.5
9Mike Hampton13.416.00.4554.1
10Red Lucas17.817.30.5064.1


Top 10: Single-Season Pitcher Offense
Wins over Positional Average
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
1Don Drysdale19653.02.40.5621.2
2Don Newcombe19552.91.80.6151.1
3Wes Ferrell19313.12.10.5961.1
4Jim Tobin19422.92.30.5581.0
5Bob Lemon19492.92.10.5701.0
6Earl Wilson19662.51.80.5811.0
7George Uhle19233.32.60.5580.9
8Blue Moon Odom19692.21.70.5750.9
9Warren Spahn19582.72.30.5400.9
10Wes Ferrell19352.41.60.6030.9


Earl Wilson is the second-best hitting pitcher for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records (for his entire career) and two of the top ten best hitting seasons by a pitcher for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.

Looking at winning percentages of the top 10 careers, however, highlights that these are definitely the best hitters "for a pitcher". Bob Gibson is a great example of this. As the above table shows, he is the 4th-best hitting pitcher of the past 60+ years. Bob Gibson's lifetime batting line was .206/.243/.301. That's an OPS of .545. Baseball-Reference calls that an OPS+ of 50. To put that in some perspective, comparing Gibson to a few famously bad hitters: Neifi Perez had a career OPS+ of 64, Mark Belanger had a career OPS+ of 68, Mario Mendoza had a career OPS+ of 41. So, Gibson crosses the "Mendoza line", but he's not quite up to the level of Neifi Perez or Mark Belanger. That's what that "for a pitcher" qualifier means.

Among the top 10 pitcher hitters in the above table, Earl Wilson is one of two who was an actual above-average hitter - for a major-league player. The next table shows every pitcher who earned at least 5.0 player wins on offense with an offensive winning percentage above 0.500 for the portion of his career for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. It's a very short list.

Career Pitcher Offense
Winning Percentage over .500 (min. 5 wins)
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
Wes Ferrell18.416.70.5244.9
Ken Brett7.36.70.5222.4
Chubby Dean5.35.00.5151.5
Tommy Byrne11.010.60.5082.9
Red Lucas17.817.30.5064.1
Don Newcombe16.816.50.5054.6
Jim Tobin14.013.70.5053.5


The Impact of Earl Wilson's Hitting on Traditional Stats
As I showed above, as measured by Player won-lost records, Earl Wilson was a slightly below-average pitcher whose excellent hitting made him above average overall. Player won-lost records make this easy to see, by putting everything on the same scale and tying everything to actual player and team performance - which is why Player won-lost records are so awesome (he says modestly). But what about more traditional statistics?

In the case of Earl Wilson, we actually can see the same thing in his traditional statistics. For his career, Earl Wilson had an ERA of 3.69. He pitched from 1959 - 1970, which included all of what is sometimes called the "Second Deadball Era" (1963 - 1968). According to Baseball-Reference, Wilson's ERA was very slightly below average for his career, working out to an ERA+ of 99. So, Earl Wilson was a slightly below average pitcher for his career (although an ERA+ of 99 is perhaps slightly above average for a starting pitcher, actually).

Wilson pitched the majority of his career for teams that finished with losing records - the Red Sox from 1959 - 1966, the Tigers and Padres in 1970. In between, he did spend 3+ seasons with winning Tigers teams (in 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969). But overall, the combined record of the teams for which Earl Wilson pitched was slightly below .500 (about .498).

So, you have a slightly below-average pitcher who pitched his career with slightly below-average teams. One would think that would translate into a losing, or, at best .500, traditional pitching record. But no, Earl Wilson's career (traditional) won-lost record was 121-109, a very respectable .526 winning percentage (the same as Nolan Ryan had for his career, for example).

Why? Because he got very good run support most seasons. And why did he get very good run support most seasons? Well, because the pitcher's spot in the lineup performed much better when he was pitching than when other guys were. Tying this back to his Player won-lost record, a record of 126-109 is 8.5 wins over .500 (117.5 - 117.5); Wilson's batting was 4.5 wins over average. So, his batting explains more than half of this difference. This matches up almost perfectly with his Player won-lost records: excluding his own batting, his eWins over positional average is slightly negative; his pWins over positional average are only barely positive.

1964
Consider, for example, Earl Wilson's 1964 season.

The 1964 Boston Red Sox had a won-lost record of 72-90. They had a Pythagorean record of 71-91 and generally won about as many games as you'd expect, given the performance of their players.

The 1964 season was probably Earl Wilson's worst season as a pitcher. His ERA was 4.49 - the highest of his career for any season in which he pitched more than 65 innings - and, as you can see above, his Player winning percentage as a pitcher was his lowest except for his 9-game, 23.2-inning first season.

Earl Wilson's ERA in 1964 - 4.49 - was almost exactly equal to the Red Sox team ERA - 4.50. In games started by pitchers other than Earl Wilson, the 1964 Red Sox went 54-77 (.412). In games started by Earl Wilson, the 1964 Red Sox went 18-13 (Wilson, himself, went 11-12 - so he might have benefited from better-than-expected relief pitching)).

Overall, in 1964, the Red Sox scored 4.32 runs per 27 outs. In games started by Wilson, the Red Sox scored 5.16 runs per 27 outs. Some of that difference was mere chance, but much of it was because of Wilson's own batting. In 1964, Wilson batted .205/.293/.466 with 5 HR, 13 RBI, and 19 runs scored in 83 PAs. The Red Sox other pitchers combined to hit .128/.183/.165 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, and 20 runs scored in 358 PAs.

Wilson's OPS (.758) was better than three Red Sox starters - 2B Dalton Jones, 3B Frank Malzone, and RF Lee Thomas. The Red Sox top HR/RBI guy in 1964 was Dick Stuart, who hit 33 HRs and drove in 114 runs in 651 plate appearances. Extrapolating Earl Wilson's 5 HRs and 14 RBIs in 83 PAs up to 651 plate appearances would translate into 39 home runs and 110 RBIs - and the only reason the RBIs are that low is because Wilson batted 9th for all 83 of his plate appearances in 1964 (what were the Red Sox thinking?).

Earl Wilson managed to overcome bad pitching in 1964 with good hitting to get up to about average (in both Player won-lost record as well as traditional pitcher won-lost record). For the remainder of his career, Wilson was a better pitcher (career ERA of 3.69) than in 1964 (4.49 ERA); he was also a worse batter for his overall career (.634 OPS, a HR every 21.1 AB) than he had been in 1964 (.758 OPS, a HR every 14.6 AB). But the basic story was the same: Wilson's offensive contributions were a huge component of the value he provided to his teams over his career.



All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

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