Win/Loss Stats Paint a Poor Picture

If the saying “There is no I in team” is taken to be true then why do three of the four major North American pro sports assign the blame for a loss, or credit for a win, to one person? 

Watching football today I saw the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Denver Broncos.  Yet what the stat sheet will say is that Alex Smith lost to Peyton Manning.  Is this really a fair assessment?  Smith did everything he could to help his team win, yet his wide receivers consistently dropped catchable balls and put the team in bad situations.  Why don’t we say that Donnie Avery lost to Peyton Manning?  And for that matter why does Manning get credit for a win, and a come from behind one at that, when his two interceptions allowed 14 points to the Chiefs to begin with?  Still Manning today has his 13th ten win season as a starter.  Apparently this achievement is his alone and those wins would have happened regardless of the presence, or lack thereof, of players such as Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Demarius Thomas, Dallas Clark, or anyone from the defenses that kept people from outscoring him at least ten times for the last 13 years.

Hockey and baseball are no better, assigning win credit to a goalie and a pitcher respectively.  If a goalie stops every single shot in a game for years do you know what the best guaranteed outcome he could expect was?  A tie.  That’s right, he could be literally perfect at his job and still his team could avoid a win.  In baseball if a pitcher is perfect for eight and two thirds innings only to lose when he isn’t even pitching any longer if a player on the bases who scores is “charged” to him.  Please note that doesn’t mean he failed when that player got on base, it could have been an error by his short stop that allowed the man on, but it’s still his fault when someone else lets the runner he had no power over keeping off the bases score.

One might think this doesn’t matter, however it does, because as long as we attach a value to statistics that players do not impact we will continue to see overpaid athletes who put their team in bad positions financially.  Joe Flacco signs a 120 million dollar contract because HE won the Super Bowl.   Now his team is 6-6 and in danger of not even making the playoffs in part due to his contract causing them to jettison talent off their roster.  As for Flacco?  His 78.5 QB rating ranks him 29th in the NFL amongst starting quarterbacks…out of 32.  If HE won the Super Bowl to deserve this impressive contract shouldn’t HE be capable of carrying the team to victory on his broad shoulders alone?  Of course not, there are ten other guys on the offense, 11 on the defense, a kicker, a punter, twenty backups and all contribute to the team’s record.  Yet by assigning too much value to wins and losses for an individual player has caused Flacco to bear the blame. 

Again in hockey and baseball things are even worse.  At least when you search for quarterback rankings the first way to rank them is not by wins and losses.  When you read a stat sheet for pitchers or goalies let to right it typically lists wins, losses, and then any other relevant stats after that.  So before you even see how a player has actually performed by seeing how many runs he gives up on average or how many shots he stops percentage-wise your view of his success is already clouded by thinking, “Well, he’s lost more than he’s won, so he can’t be that good.” 

Sports history is littered with teams making bad salary choices and failing because of them, putting on an inferior product for the people paying those salaries, the fans.  With this in mind shouldn’t we as fans speak out and demand owners stop overvaluing worthless stats and quit giving the money they make off our backs to guys who don’t deserve it?  You might think that the guys in charge don’t overvalue these stats but making a guy who was 12th best in QB ranking last year a 120 million dollar man seems to show otherwise.  We won’t stop watching sports, we all know it, but as fans we have a voice and should use it to speak out about our dollars are spent.