clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Vidal Nuno's historic winless season

New, 22 comments

The history of baseball is long. It's not often a new record is set. But this afternoon in Minnesota, Vidal Nuno became the first starter in the National League ever to make more than 13 starts in a season, without a single W.

Harry How

What's particular striking is, Vidal Nuno hasn't pitched that badly. If you look at the list of other major-league pitcher had had seasons of more than 10 starts without a W, it's mostly because they sucked. Only two of the ten even reached an ERA+ of 80, with the previous high-water mark of 93, set by Steve Gerkin as he went 0-12 for the 1945 Phillies. Nuño entered today's game with an ERA+ of 100, and with his ERA having dropped a couple of points to 3.76, it certainly won't be increasing. So, what happened? It seems to have been a perfect storm of poor timing and a lack of run support. When he pitches well, the D-backs don't hit. When we hit, he doesn't pitch well.

Here's the log of all 14 starts made by Vidal this year, along with a percentage estimate of how likely he was to have got the W, based on his performance. That "no win percentage" for each game, is based off starts with the same Game Score, from the beginning of 2010 through last night. For example, there were a total of 179 starts with a Game Score of 77 over that period. The pitcher got the W in 141 of those, so it works out as a No Win % of 38/179 = 21.2%.

Date Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR GSc No Win %
Jul 8 MIA L,1-2 7.0 3 0 0 1 7 0 77 21.2%
Jul 13 @ SFG L,4-8 L(0-1) 5.0 6 4 4 1 4 1 42 82.6%
Jul 21 DET L,3-4 4.2 7 3 3 1 3 2 40 83.8%
Jul 27 @ PHI L,2-4 L(0-2) 6.2 4 4 2 3 5 1 56 61.7%
Aug 1 PIT L,4-9 6.0 3 1 1 2 5 0 65 43.2%
Aug 7 KCR L,2-6 L(0-3) 4.0 7 5 5 0 1 1 29 95.8%
Aug 13 @ CLE L,2-3 5.2 6 2 2 0 6 0 55 58.9%
Aug 18 @ WSN L,4-5 7.0 5 2 2 2 7 1 64 46.2%
Aug 23 SDP W,5-2 7.1 2 2 2 2 4 0 68 38.0%
Aug 30 COL L,0-2 L(0-4) 8.0 2 1 1 0 7 1 81 16.8%
Sep 5 @ LAD L,1-2 L(0-5) 7.0 7 2 2 2 5 1 58 59.1%
Sep 12 SDP L,5-6 L(0-6) 5.0 8 6 6 1 2 1 28 95.2%
Sep 18 @ COL L,6-7 5.1 8 3 3 1 7 1 46 78.2%
Sep 24 @ MIN
L,1-2 L(0-7) 5.0 3 2 2
4
6
0
53
63.8%
161.2 157 89 82 46 129

This shows there have been cases where Nuno has no-one to blame but himself - if you allow more earned runs than innings pitched, your chances of a win are pretty slim. However, there have been times where a similar performance has got the win, four times in five or more. His best start was the one in late August against Colorado at Chase, where he allowed one run over eight innings on two hits. Over the past five seasons, there have been 119 matching Game Scores of 81 - only three other times beside Nuño, did the starter get the L, with nine no-decisions (one of the latter being Brandon McCarthy's start for us on May 14, when his line exactly matched Nuno).

Of course, this is largely a poster child for not using W's to measure pitcher performance. But you'd think he'd have lucked into ONE win by now. And if you multiply all those non win percentages up, you can figure out the odds of him having ended up with zero victories over those 14 games, given his performances. It works out at 0.018%, or approximately one chance in 5,470. With those kinds of odds, you have to think Vidal smashed a mirror while walking under a ladder, on his way to see the Scottish play on Friday the 13th, because the black cat he was carrying started struggling and spilled some salt.

There aren't many starters who ever go 14 games in a row without a W. Today's outing mean Nuno is tied with Edgar Gonzalez (who went 3 1/2 seasons!) for the second longest winless streak of all time by a D-backs pitcher, trailing only Brian Anderson's 17 in 2001-2002. [Dontrelle Willis, Ian Kennedy and Russ Ortiz all had streaks of 15 or 16 games, between Arizona and another team] We'll have to wait until 2015 to see how long it takes Nuno to win. But there's still some way to go, since the record in the live-ball era is 28 starts without a W, held by Jo Jo Reyes and Matt Keough.

If Nuño makes the rotation next year, should be about the end of June for that. But it wouldn't surprise me, when the streak ends, if were to come with a win in a game like the one enjoyed by Pete Donohue of the 1928 Reds...