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Mike Dunn makes pitcher wins cool again

We're long past the point of taking pitcher wins seriously as a measure of value. But as a measure of wonder, we might be witnessing the greatest season ever.

Rob Foldy

Chances are, you have no interest in any sort of baseball analysis that makes use of the pitcher win. It's an antiquated and, frankly, useless measure of performance and value. It doesn't tell you anything you couldn't get from a different stat and frequently misleads. We get it. But that doesn't mean we can't use it as a simple point of interest. There's no meaning in what I'm about to show you other than the fact that it's so peculiar. This is a story about one of the craziest pitcher win seasons in baseball history and it's happening right now.

Enter Marlins relief pitcher Mike Dunn. Dunn has 292 major league appearances to his name spanning 242 innings. He has a career 3.46 ERA and 3.69 FIP. He was a late round pick, throws from the left side, and is closing in on age 30. Dunn is a perfectly fine major league reliever having a perfectly fine major league relief season.

Dunn has thrown 44.1 innings and posted a 3.65 ERA and 3.24 FIP with his lowest career walk rate and a nice strikeout rate to boot. You wouldn't kick him out of your bullpen and most teams would be lucky to have him. The projection systems actually think his run prevention might get a little better over the last month or so of the season.

Mike Dunn in a nutshell. He's a good lefty reliever and has throw 44 innings over 56 games this year. Mike Dunn has ten wins. Not in his career, just this season.

We all know wins are silly, but that doesn't mean it isn't interesting that this is happening. He has the same number of wins as Yu Darvish and Chris Sale. Tony Watson has eight wins in 56.1 innings and is the only one with fewer than 90 innings to have eight or more wins besides Dunn. In reality, Waston's having a remarkable season and Tyler Clippard isn't that far behind.

But Mike Dunn is ahead and chasing down history.

Not only does Dunn have 10 wins as a reliever in 44.1 innings with about forty games left on the schedule, but he's closing in on the record for most wins in a season in which the pitcher got three outs or fewer. Dunn has eight such wins this season and the major league record is Francisco Cordero's nine in 2006. Most of the leaders are recent given the shift in reliever usage, but that doesn't remove the mystique.

Mike Dunn has 10 wins as a reliever and is almost certainly going to set the record for the most wins by a pitcher when recording three outs or fewer. He's also doing it on a mid-range team and not one likely to win 95 or 100 games.

It's interesting to consider. For a reliever to get a win they need to enter in a tie game or with their club trailing and have their team take the lead while they're still in the game. Technically, they could also surrender the lead and then have their team get it back or earn most effective pitcher distinction in games in which the starter doesn't go five, but those are less common.

For Dunn to win so many games, he needs to be called on in certain situations that allow for him to earn a win, he needs to pitch well, and then his team has to score right after. A lot has to happen for this record to fall, and it's clear why wins aren't useful as a stat, but it's pretty amazing to see this happen. Dunn leads the team in wins!

Steamer and ZiPS figure Dunn will wind up working 60 innings this season. Ready for this? He's already the single season wins leader for a pitcher with 60 or fewer innings which logically means he's the wins leader for pitchers with 45 or fewer innings too. Several pitchers have ten wins and between 60 and 70 innings in history with Johnny Murphy's 12 wins in 68 innings in 1943 serving as the mark Dunn is chasing.

This has no bearing on how good Mike Dunn is. It's a random alignment of his performance, the timing of his appearances, and the timing of his team's run scoring. It's nothing more than an interesting set of facts.

It's August 15th, a lefty reliever has ten wins, and he's chasing down some unimportant records. And you thought losing Jose Fernandez would ruin baseball in Miami this year!


All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, the Site Educator at FanGraphs, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D