Laurila: Pop-Boy Smith’s most unusual win and save

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on September 22, 2019, with mention of SABR members Jacob Pomrenke and David W. Smith:

Pop-boy Smith was credited with his only big-league win on September 21, [1916] when the Cleveland Indians edged the Washington Senators 3-2 in a game that went 13 innings. The home team won, with Al Gould, who pitched the final four innings in relief of Smith, getting the save.

How is this possible? According to two experts I queried — SABR’s Jacob Pomrenke and Retrosheet’s David W. Smith — the answer to that question is both simple and complicated. Moreover, the occurrence wasn’t all that uncommon at the time.

Per Pomrenke, the official scorer was likely using Henry Chadwick’s original, archaic logic for awarding wins, which is the pitcher that “pitched the most innings” or “did the bulk of the work” in the game.

Also per Pomrenke, “Before official scoring became truly official around 1920, there was often no rhyme or reason to how wins and losses were awarded. American League president Ban Johnson had a bad habit of overruling the local official scorers, who could only ‘recommend’ scoring decisions to the league office, which had final approval. Johnson was extremely inconsistent in when and how he overruled the AL’s official scorers.”

The modern rule for pitching wins, which includes the starters’ needing to go at least five innings, was formalized in 1950.

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Originally published: September 23, 2019. Last Updated: September 23, 2019.