Chad Billingsley of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Wins and losses for teams? Overrated at this point in the season, but just slightly.
Wins and losses for pitchers? Overrated at every point in every season ... though less so, with each passing season, as little things like "truth" and "knowledge" somehow worm their way into the public consciousness.
Still, there remain observers who believe that a pitcher with a losing record is actually a loser ... But it's not necessarily true that he's a loser, because if he's pitching well he'll probably be a winner, eventually.
Today, five losing pitchers who shouldn't be ...
Chad Billingsley (2-3) Consistency, thy name is Billingsley.
After going 35-19 in his first three seasons with the Dodgers, the big right-hander went 12-11 in both 2009 and 2010. This season, all his ratios -- ERA, hits, home runs, walks, strikeouts -- are almost exactly the same as last season. Is Chad Billingsley a great pitcher? He is not. But he's good and he's consistent, and he deserves to win more games than he loses.
Matt Garza (2-4) - Yeah, Garza's cooled off some since an incredibly hot start. But he still leads the National League in strikeouts per nine innings and has given up just one home run in 56 innings. How has he managed to lose four games while winning only two? Well, seven unearned runs hasn't helped. Also, his teammates have scored only 23 runs in eight of his starts (they did score 11 in another). Bottom line, Garza's better than 2-4, and if he keeps striking out 11 batters every nine innings he'll probably win more than he loses.
(Statistical oddity: Garza's ERA's since his rookie season are 3.69, 3.70, 3.95, 3.91, and 3.72.)
Jeremy Guthrie (1-6) - Two years ago, Baltimore's Guthrie led the American League with seventeen losses. He was unlucky to some degree, but he also just didn't pitch real well. Or well at all, really. This year he's leading the American League with six losses, but has actually pitched pretty well. He pitched pretty well last year, but went 11-14 because the Orioles weren't real good. This year he's 1-6 because ... well, because the Orioles aren't real good, but mostly because of poor luck. Guthrie's got a 3.98 ERA and a fine 3.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the best of his career.
Wandy Rodriguez (2-3) - Oh, pitching for the Astros must be alternately frustrating and heartbreaking. Since becoming a solid major-league starter in 2007, Rodriguez has a 3.65 ERA ... and a losing record (45-47). This season he's got a losing record despite a 3.45 ERA and an excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.62, the best of his career). Rodriguez might never win with the Astros, but if he keeps pitching this well he's at least got a good shot at .500 this season. One bit of bad (if self-inflicted) news for Wandy ... He's signed with the Astros through 2013, and with a club option for 2014. Oh, well. Winning isn't everything.
Ervin Santana (1-4) - Last year, Santana went 17-10 with a 3.92 ERA. This year he's 1-4 with a 4.85 in nine starts, and one might be excused for assuming Santana's suffering a real performance decline. Look a little closer, though ... Santana's walking fewer hitters this year than last year, and striking out more. He's given up homers at roughly the same rate as last year. He hasn't even been unlucky on balls in play; hitters are batting .303 on balls in play, just a tiny bit higher than Santana's career number (.297). No, this looks mostly like they're just bunching their hits better than usual. And that -- like Santana's record -- figures to change for the better.