Tanner Houck deserves a win for his 5 perfect innings – and here’s a way to give it to him

There was no way Tanner Houck was ever going to complete the game he started for the Boston Red Sox on Saturday. He’d been moved to their bullpen a couple of weeks before, and was no longer stretched out enough to throw a complete game. People had their expectations set at 3 innings, when thinking about how many innings he’d complete. So to get 5 perfect innings was huge.

A nice bonus for Houck was that by completing 5 innings with the lead, he was qualified to be awarded the win. All the Red Sox’ relief pitchers had to do was maintain that lead through the rest of the game.

But they didn’t. They allowed the game to become tied, which took Houck out of the running for the win. The win went to Austin Davis, only because he was lucky enough to have been the last Red Sox pitcher to have thrown a pitch, at the time his team broke the tie and built a 4-run lead in the 9th inning. His results, 2 runs allowed over ā…” of an inning, were the worst of any of the six Red Sox pitchers in the game; for this he was awarded the win.

Seems wrong, doesn’t it?

There is a way to fix this. There is a way of awarding wins that gives it to the right pitcher. I call it the merit method of awarding wins. I explain the method in my post The how and the why of awarding wins to pitchers by the merit method.

Using that method, we take the 5 runs that the Red Sox scored in Saturday’s game and divide by 9 to get the average number of runs they scored each inning (5/9, or 0.56). We then credit each Red Sox pitcher with this number of runs for every inning they pitched. We see this in the first three columns in the table below, IP, RCr/IP, and RCr, which stand for Innings Pitched, Runs Credited per inning pitched, and Runs Credited, respectively. You get the third column (Runs Credited) by multiplying together the first two.

PitcherIPRCr/IPRCrRRAResult
T. Houck50.562.7802.78
G. Richards 10.560.5600.56Hold
R. Brasier 10.560.5600.56Hold
A. Ottavino ā…“0.560.191-0.81Hold
A. Davis ā…”0.560.372-1.63Win
H. Robles 10.560.5600.56Save
Runs Ahead (RA) calculations for Red Sox pitchers in victory over Washington Nationals, October 2, 2021

Then you subtract runs allowed (R) from this to get each pitcher’s number of Runs Ahead (RA) for that game. Because Tanner Houck had the highest number of Runs Ahead for the winning team, he would be awarded the win by the merit method. Instead, he was the only one of the six Red Sox pitchers that night who wasn’t awarded anything. Some thanks for being perfect.

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