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Danny Ray Herrera

 

Mike Leake Just Wins

April 08, 2010

This weekend, Mike Leake is scheduled to make his big-league debut with the Reds against Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. He'll have skipped the minors altogether after a stellar three-year career at Arizona State.

The stat that pops out at almost everyone who looks at Leake's college record is that he won 40 games for Arizona State, including double-digit win totals each of his three seasons. Sure, pitcher wins are an old-fangled stat that no intelligent baseball fan talks about, but...dude, that's a lot of wins.

Here's a fun fact: From 2007 to 2009, only other pitcher (UNC's Adam Warren) posted double-digit win totals twice. Hell, only 22 major league pitchers amassed 40 wins over the last three seasons.

Naturally, Leake topped Division One over the last three years. Here are the leaders in that span, notable as much for who is missing as for those on the list:

  Player           School            2007  2008  2009  Total  
  Mike Leake       Arizona State       13    11    16     40  
  Adam Warren      North Carolina      12     9    10     31  
  Justin Marks     Louisville           9     9    11     29  
  Kyle Gibson      Missouri             8     9    11     28  
  Alex White       North Carolina       6    13     8     27  
  Ryan Berry       Rice                11     8     7     26  
  Nick McCully     Coastal Carolina     7    10     8     25  
  Matt Ridings     Western Kentucky     7    10     8     25  
  Preston Guilmet  Arizona             12     6     6     24  
  Louis Coleman    LSU                  2     8    14     24  
  Chris Fetter     Michigan             6    10     7     23
 

Not a lot of filler there. If we went down to 22 wins, we'd see Mike Minor, Jerry Sullivan, A.J. Morris, Stephen Strasburg, and Austin Wood.

In fact, only 28 D-1 pitchers racked up twenty wins over the last three years. No matter how you look at it, Leake's achievement is an impressive one, maybe on par with a 30-win MLB season.

We're in the habit of discarding pitcher wins when talking about pros. Certainly there are better and more thorough ways of evaluating pitchers. But consider all of the meaningful things Leake's win total indicates:

We're accustomed to misleading win totals in MLB. Last year, Braden Looper won 14 and John Lannan won 9. In the college game, it's possible that a low win total disguises a good pitcher, but it's much less likely that a bad pitcher lucks into a high win total, especially over multiple years.

Who knows? Maybe in this corner of the baseball analytical world, pitcher wins actually mean something.