Why Did Madison Bumgarner Get The Save And Not The Win?

Illustration for article titled Why Did Madison Bumgarner Get The Save And Not The Win?

Caveat: this couldn't possibly matter less. It's a footnote to a footnote. The win is the most arbitrary and least informative stat in baseball, rivaled only by the save. But the decision to grant Madison Bumgarner a win, and then to reverse course nearly an hour after the final out, is worth examining if just because it feels like the rare instance of an official scoring decision erring on the side of poetry.


During the Fox broadcast, Joe Buck relayed the news that the official scorers would be awarding the win to Bumgarner rather than to Jeremy Affeldt. But about 50 minutes after the end of the game, it was announced that there had been a reversal, that Affeldt was the winning pitcher and Bumgarner received a save.

Starter Tim Hudson wasn't eligible for the win because he didn't leave with a lead, and because he went fewer than five innings. That left Bumgarner and Affeldt. The comments to MLB Rule 10.17(b) contain the instructions for deciding between the two.

It is the intent of Rule 10.17(b) that a relief pitcher pitch at least one complete inning or pitch when a crucial out is made, within the context of the game (including the score), in order to be credited as the winning pitcher. If the first relief pitcher pitches effectively, the official scorer should not presumptively credit that pitcher with the win, because the rule requires that the win be credited to the pitcher who was the most effective, and a subsequent relief pitcher may have been most effective. The official scorer, in determining which relief pitcher was the most effective, should consider the number of runs, earned runs and base runners given up by each relief pitcher and the context of the game at the time of each relief pitcher's appearance. If two or more relief pitchers were similarly effective, the official scorer should give the presumption to the earlier pitcher as the winning pitcher.

Though Affeldt was the pitcher of record when the Giants took the lead for good, the rulebook says that's only a starting point for determining who should get the win.

Broken down, the question the official scorers debated was which Giants reliever was "the most effective." Was it Affeldt, who came in with men on base, got out of trouble, and went two and a third innings of one-hit ball? Or was it Bumgarner, who entered with a lead and pitched five innings of two-hit ball?

(Update: I initially misrepresented the rule at issue here. 10.17(a) explicitly says the pitcher of record when the Giants took the lead (Affeldt) should get the win unless, per 10.17(c), that pitcher was, in the official scorers' judgment, "ineffective." One of the official scorers believed that 10.17(c), which also mentions picking the reliever that was the "most effective," applied in this situation. Under this circumstance, he applied the blockquoted 10.17(b) criteria above to determine who to give the win.)

It was a judgment call in the hands of the three official scorers. (For the World Series, MLB uses three instead of one.) In this series, the scorers were David Boyce, formerly of the Kansas City Star and currently the Royals' usual scorer; Jose de Jesus Ortiz Jorge L. Ortiz of USA Today; and Jeff Passan of Yahoo.


In theory, a simple majority of the triumvirate makes the scoring decisions. In practice, it's not so simple as that.

We are told that the three scorers did not agree on who deserved the win, and that they canvassed the press box for opinions. The reporters polled overwhelmingly (though not unanimously) supported awarding Affeldt the win. Their thinking was that there being so little to separate Affeldt's and Bumgarner's performances, Affeldt deserved it by virtue of appearing first—the tiebreaker specifically cited if pitchers were "similarly effective."


Despite the lack of consensus—and, perhaps, because one of the official scorers, to whom the other two were willing to defer, indicated a willingness to force the issue—word spread in the late innings that Bumgarner would be named the winner if the Giants maintained their lead. That information made it onto one of the in-game box scores run off by MLB's communications staff and distributed to the press, and was announced on-air by Joe Buck.

It was only after the game—and after a phone call with the Elias Sports Bureau—that the scoring decision was changed. Affeldt was formally credited with the win, and that freed up Bumgarner to get the save.


Bumgarner would have joined history either way. Had he gotten the win, he would have been the first pitcher since Christy Mathewson to record three wins and a sub-0.50 ERA in a single World Series. As it is, he holds the record for the longest World Series save, and joins Cincinnati's Rawly Eastwick as the only man to record two wins and a save in a World Series.

The ultimate ruling was the correct one, no matter how haltingly the official scorers arrived at it. Affeldt was every bit as effective as Bumgarner, and shut things down at a time when the game seemed destined for fireworks. But even more than the letter of the rulebook, the decision seems right by the spirit of history. No one's going to remember or care about Bumgarner's effectiveness compared to Affeldt. They're only going to remember that he came on in the fifth inning, and was so dominant that he never had to be pulled. If the useless stat that gets slapped on his performance is the one that indicates he finished the game off, I'm quite all right with that.