Most readers of this blog (hopefully ALL readers) are well aware of the shortcomings of Wins as a stat, and despite such obvious reasons why it should not be used to compare pitchers we have all seen countless articles in the Cy Young debate that say things along the lines of "I know wins are helped by your offense, but you can't ignore how many wins CC Sabathia has gotten for his team compared to Felix Hernandez".
So for fun I thought I would present a new way to make the case for not using wins by posing the question: What would this debate look like if CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez were in each other's shoes this season?
I won't restate the statistical comparisons between the two (other than to say Fangraphs has CC's WAR at 4.6 and Felix' at 6.1), but will simply recap that outside of the W-L record the two have had similar seasons with Felix getting the edge in most categories. To look at how each other would have fared in the other one's shoes, I simply took the starts of each but plugged in the other's stats for that start (for example, CC's stats for his third start in the box score of Felix' actual third start) and found out whether or not they would have earned the decision and what it would have been.
Beyond what he did that day, I kept the actual scoring for the game and never adjusted the team's offensive performance. For example, let's say that on a particular day, the Mariners had scored 3 runs in the sixth inning and nothing else all game. If in CC's equivalent start he had given up 1 run in 7 innings, he got a win. If he gave up 3 runs in 7 innings, he got a ND. If he gave up 1 run in 5 innings, he got a ND. If he gave up 4 runs in six innings, he got the L. I think everyone knows how this works.
So what would CC Sabathia's record have been to this point if he was backed up by the Mariners offense? A dominant 12-18 (Felix Hernandez is 12-12 on the season). Oh wait, that's not dominant. CC Sabathia must be a terrible pitcher!
And how would Felix Hernandez be doing with the Yankees scoring machine behind him? A lousy 21-8 (CC Sabathia is 20-7). Oh wait, that's not lousy. Maybe this Felix guy knows how to pitch!
Hopefully this provides some more firepower should you find yourself having this argument with an "old school" fan, although don't be surprised if rebuttals include such suggestions as "maybe CC's so good that his team hits better for him" or a blank stare followed by the evidence ignoring comment "if Felix is so good then how come he only has 12 wins compared to CC's 20?"