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Sometimes, A Cigar's Just A Cigar
by Derek Smart
Pitcher wins are funny things. They're theoretically meant to document which pitcher on the winning team was most instrumental in bringing a victory to fruition, but more often than not, as is the complaint of those such as myself who enjoy using more objective measures when employing statistics, the pitcher win is simply an accounting tool reflecting the hurler most proximate to the final lead change.
We have recent examples of this phenomenon to choose from, most recent being Kevin Hart's win on Wednesday - a complicated 'got it', 'lost it', 'got it again' scenario that I won't do you the disservice of recounting here. That game clearly featured a superior performance by Ryan Dempster, who got no statistical satisfaction from his performance after his bullpen mates lost the lead. In that case, Dempster deserved the win, but did not get it due to the vagaries of accounting, and each season is rife with examples of similar doings, many of them stories of relievers getting victories they not only didn't earn, but whose performance actively worked against the greater goal - triumph turning to defeat, but for the largesse of the offense surrounding them.
Occasionally, though, due to some combination of luck and timing, the right reliever gets his due, and both wins notched by Jon Lieber have been earned in every respect. But for his work in Games 1 and 3 of the Pirate series, the Cubs could very well be 4-5 instead of 6-3. We and the Cubs owe Jon Lieber a debt of thanks for his early performance, and he's earned every bit of it.