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Well, it’s been a week now since my Braves completed their epic collapse. Perhaps it’s time to move on from misery to something more productive… like recapping the regular season that was. This week, we’ll look at the year in Dumb Luck Wins.

(If you are new to Dumb Luck Wins, read about their origin in this post

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or just check out the definition in the Glossary
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.)

Coming off a 2010 season that saw a large dip in Dumb Luck Wins (only 4.3% of starter wins were DLWs, the lowest rate since 1992), 2011 got back to more normal levels. Overall, there were 86 DLWs, up from 75 last year. 2011′s DLW% went up as well, to 5.0%. That’s still low by recent standards

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, but it’s up a bit from last year.

This increase in DLWs is somewhat puzzling, as offensive levels were down this season, and lower offense should mean fewer DLWs. The minimum number of runs scored for a DLW to be possible is 9 (5 by the winning team, 4 by the losing team), and you would expect there to be fewer such games in an environment with less offense. But that’s oddly not what happened. For instance, there were 730 games this year in which a team gave up 4+ runs and won; there were 715 such games last year.

I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s probably just a fluke.

Which players had the most DLWs? You probably won’t be too surprised to see the 2 pitchers who tied for the top spot:

Rk Player Year DLWs Game Lists ERA IP H HR BB SO
1 Brad Penny
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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6.48 16.2 18 3 6 6
Chris Capuano
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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8.27 16.1 21 5 4 18
3 Carlos Zambrano
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.94 11.2 14 2 6 9
Alex White
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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9.00 10.0 13 6 4 7
Tim Wakefield
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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8.76 12.1 16 4 3 10
Carlos Villanueva
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.00 12.0 12 3 3 6
Justin Verlander
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.00 12.0 11 4 5 14
Max Scherzer
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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7.50 12.0 16 6 2 16
Ivan Nova
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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9.00 11.0 16 2 4 4
Jonathon Niese
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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9.00 10.0 16 1 4 11
Chris Narveson
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.75 10.2 11 4 5 9
John Lackey
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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8.18 11.0 17 1 4 5
Aaron Harang
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.55 11.0 21 1 5 3
Roy Halladay
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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5.14 14.0 18 3 1 12
Jorge de la Rosa
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.57 12.1 14 1 7 10
Jhoulys Chacin
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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6.55 11.0 13 0 7 9
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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: View Play Index Tool Used
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Generated 10/5/2011.

Brad Penny and Chris Capuano were both aggressively mediocre this year (for Capuano, that’s a comeback; for Penny, that’s more evidence of a continued decline). Congratulations to them. Remember: a DLW is still a good thing. Sure, you’d always rather throw a shutout, but in order to qualify for a DLW you have to A) leave with a lead and B) go at least 5 innings. Being able to eat innings even when you aren’t pitching your best is a sign of a good pitcher.

What’s perhaps more interesting than the expected names (John Lackey, Aaron Harang, Carlos Zambrano, pitchers from Colorado) are the unexpected ones. In particular, future Cy Young winner Justin Verlander and once-and-future Cy Young winner Roy Halladay. Both had great years, and yet both picked up 2 DLWs. Though I should point out that Halladay’s DLWs were 2 of the best ones of the season. He went 7 innings each time (2 of only 7 DLWs of at least 7 IP) and gave up the minimum of 4 ER in each. Oh, and the 2nd one was at Coors Field. Verlander’s DLWs weren’t bad either, as he struck out 14 in 12 combined innings in the 2 games, both of which came during his long late-season win streak.

Which team had the most DLWs? If you guessed the Rockies, you guessed correctly. Though it’s not for the reason you may have guessed: only 4 of their 9 DLWs were at Coors Field. More than half were on the road! The Rockies just had some really mediocre pitching this year.

Rk Tm Year DLWs Game Lists
1 COL
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2011
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9 Ind. Games
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2 DET
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2011
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7 Ind. Games
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3 BOS
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2011
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7 Ind. Games
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4 NYM
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2011
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6 Ind. Games
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5 MIL
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2011
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5 Ind. Games
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6 CHC
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2011
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5 Ind. Games
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7 TOR
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2011
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4 Ind. Games
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8 ARI
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2011
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4 Ind. Games
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9 OAK
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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10 NYY
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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11 MIN
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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12 KCR
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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13 BAL
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2011
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3 Ind. Games
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14 STL
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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15 SFG
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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16 SEA
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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17 SDP
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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18 PHI
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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19 CIN
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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20 CHW
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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21 ATL
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2011
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2 Ind. Games
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22 WSN
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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23 TEX
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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24 TBR
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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25 LAD
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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26 LAA
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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27 HOU
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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28 FLA
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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29 CLE
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2011
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1 Ind. Games
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Provided by Baseball-Reference.com
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: View Play Index Tool Used
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Generated 10/5/2011.

The top 4 teams all were much more noted for their hitting than their pitching, so they are not too surprising. It is quite interesting, however, that the A’s and Twins each had as many DLWs as the Yankees, and that the high-powered, pitching-deprived Reds had just 2 DLWs, the same as the all-pitch, no-hit Giants.

I also think it’s pretty great that Verlander and Halladay had more DLWs than 9 teams, including the Rangers. No team at the bottom of the list surprises me more than the Texas team. I knew that their pitching was pretty good this year, but I figured that with their home ballpark, they would have lucked into at least a few DLWs. But instead they just had one, and that didn’t even come in Arlington, but on the road (against the Mariners at Safeco Field of all places). Very odd.

You may have noticed that only 29 teams made the list. The one team to go DLW-less this season? The Pittsburgh Pirates. Maybe next year that poor fanbase will be treated to a bit more dumb luck.

If you’re curious, the team that lost the most games to pitchers who got DLWs was (who else) the Astros, with 8. The Orioles led the AL with 7. All 30 teams were on the losing end of at least 1 DLW, but 8 teams experienced that unique pain just once: the Braves (to Jonathon Niese), the White Sox (to Nick Blackburn), the Marlins (to Joe Saunders), the Angels (to Penny), the A’s (to Wade Davis), the Phillies (to Harang), the Giants (to Clayton Mortensen), and the Rays (to Luke Hochevar). If you ever want someone to understand what type of pitcher is most likely to get a DLW, by the way, you can just read them that list of pitchers.

Finally, let’s wrap this review up by naming the Luckiest Win of the Year. There were many contenders this year, but only 3 pitchers managed to win a game while giving up more earned runs than innings pitched, striking out 2 or fewer, and decreasing his team’s win chances by at least 30%:

  • Ivan Nova, 8/16 vs. the Royals: 5.1 IP, 7 ER, 2 K, and a whopping -0.587 WPA (by far the lowest of any winning pitcher)
  • John Lackey, 4/8 vs. the Yankees: 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 2 K, and a -.338 WPA
  • Alex White, 9/10 vs. the Reds: 5.0 IP, 6 ER, 1 K, 5 HR, and a -.349 WPA

Of these, I’d say Nova’s game is the worst, if only because of that terrible WPA. In fact, that is the 5th-worst WPA by a winning pitcher ever (in the WPA era, which is since 1950). Nova’s win was the worst (by WPA) since Woody Williams won with a -.698 WPA in 2001. The record-holder is Dave Stewart, who had a -.723 WPA in a win in 1998. The full list is here

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.

Of course, Alex White’s game was also historic. He became one of only 10 pitchers in MLB history (since 1919) to give up 5+ homers and win. He’s not the record-holder–3 pitchers, including Tim Wakefield, allowed 6 homers and still won–but he’s close. Check out the full list here

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; it features The Ugliest Player of All Time (Don Mossi), plus Ralph Branca, Mike Mussina, a guy named “Sloppy,” and one of the Jeff D’Amicos.

Still, I’d have to say that Nova’s game was worse, based on the huge WPA difference. Remember, the way WPA works, any losing team has a total of -.5 WPA (since they start at 50% win probability and end at 0%). Nova’s WPA was worse than that all by himself, yet his team won!

Congratulations to Ivan Nova, owner of the Luckiest Win of the Year for 2011. Here’s hoping the rest of his life is half as fortunate.

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