Thursday, September 25, 2008

Does 20 Matter?

As I write this the Jays and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees are just getting underway in the last hogtown home game of '08 (look at all those wingnuts going apeshit for their beloved boys in blue!). Halladay makes his 33rd and final start, his lone shot at 20 wins on the season (though I suspect it wouldn't take much begging from Cito for Roy to agree to start all their remaining games -- off-days are for lesser men and mere boys). I don't need to tell you that the last time The Ace won 20 was '03, when he nabbed his Cy Young, and Roy's not going to reach that season's total of 22 bedpost notches, but in every other respect he's been better. In every peripheral category, The Inning Eater has bettered his '03 numbers, and the only thing missing, of course, has been run support (5.67 runs/game then vs. 4.48 this year). Anemic bats are his W-L kryptonite.

When I was a kid, and the world was dewy and green and splendid, and polution hadn't yet begun, and America was sexy, wins were really all that were used to determine a pitcher's greatness. I think Ws and Ls were all they put on the back of Opee-Chees (and maybe strikeouts). They used the extra room for the French translation of those zingy factoids. Who the fuck cared what Dwight Gooden's WHIP was, or his K/BB ratio? Dude was 17-9 as a rookie, and 24-4 in '85 -- of course he was good (and always would be, right?).

Of course, since the internet and all these web-logs have sprung up, we've all developed calculators for brains (I'm right about that, aren't I? People are smarter now?), we've begun to see the demise of the W as the sole stat in determining a pitcher's worth (Fanks, Bill James!). If that proverbial coffin required a final nail, Roy's '08 season will do, because, whether he ends up with 19 or 20 victories, that number won't do justice to the season he's gifted us with. I know the sense that good pitchers get wins and bad ones don't -- period -- will linger in many minds, maybe forever. I know this after trying to convince my father of the fallacy of the W-L tally on several frustrating occasions, most recently while seated in the nosebleeds at Yankee Stadium, and discussing Mike Mussina's HOF credentials, or possible lack thereof. My father's ironclad defense in this or most any debate: "Call me old-fashioned, but I think 20 wins still means something." Ugh.

That said, obviously I'm pulling for Roy to get his 20th tonight, if only because it means he'll get a little more attention around the rest of baseball, where Toronto remains a provincial outpost about which little is known, and about which few care to learn. Also, to hell with the Yankees. I suggested in my last post that we were playing for third place. Well, er, we've lost two straight to the Yanks' scrubs, so maybe playing for Roy's 20th is a more realistic goal.

No doubt I'm biased, but Jeter's right, and so's GWB (and that is the only time I will ever say that): Halladay is the best damn pitcher in baseball. You can have your Cliff Lees and your Brandon Webbs and your damn Jobas; Harry Leroy Halladay is our ace and I hope it stays that way for seasons to come.

UPDATE -- How Fitting

A complete game victory. Beautiful. And the hugs with AJ and Arnsberg, and the pie in the face; perfect. And maybe I'm reading too much into it all, but there was something sorta kinda like a playoff atmosphere tonight at Ted's House, and it gave me a thought: if this team does make the postseason sometime in the next few years, is there any doubt whatsoever that Doc will prove himself a rock solid big game pitcher? Think about it: it's a crime against wee helpless orphans and Mother Nature that Halladay has never tasted October baseball. The Fates willing, it's an injustice we'll one day see righted.

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