Opinion

Royals’ Chris Young doesn’t care about his victory, only the team’s

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Chris Young.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Chris Young. skeyser@kcstar.com

When it comes to the pitcher’s victory statistic, Chris Young voices a sentiment similar to baseball’s sabermetrics analysts.

That is, he doesn’t agree with it.

Take Game 1 of the World Series. Six Royals relievers combined eight innings, surrendering one run and five hits. Young, who threw the final three, was the winning pitcher.

“There are a number of pitchers that deserved to win in that game, I just happened to get it,” said Young, who will start Game 4 on Saturday. “Individual wins and losses are somewhat — I don’t know —it’s crazy for me to think that a pitcher gets an individual win and loss.

“When the Cleveland Cavaliers win a game, LeBron James doesn’t get a win. It’s the team. Baseball is the same way. It’s a team sport. It takes everybody to win these games.”

But credit for a victory by a pitcher has been part of the game’s statistical fabric since 1884. The loss came a few years later and in 1888 The Sporting News first printed a pitcher’s win-loss record.

A pitcher’s record became a bedrock statistic, notations for the back of baseball cards. The game’s devotees could recite Cy Young’s career total (511) and the last modern day pitcher credited with 30 victories (the Tigers’ Denny McLain in 1968, when he finished 31-7).

Position players had triple crown categories and pitcher’s had a won-loss records. And in the era of complete games and 300-plus innings, a record — a 20-win season — carried great meaning.

Not so much these days as pitching is the duty of a committee. The starter, the middle relievers, the eight-inning specialist and the closer. Over the past two years, few teams have role played from the mound better than the Royals.

Young has moved seamlessly between roles this season. He signed a free-agent deal with the Royals during spring training and spent most of the first six weeks in a set-up role. He moved into the rotation in mid-May and remained there until the end of July.

It was back to the bullpen, but as the Royals started to gear up for the postseason and set the pitching rotation, Young returned for pair of late season starts.

For the season, in the statistic he doesn’t care for, Young went 11-6 with a 3.06 ERA.

His first playoff appearance came in Game 1 of the ALDS when starter Yordano Ventura didn’t return after a rain delay. Young went four innings, surrendering one run.

Young was the ALCS starter in Game 4 in Toronto, pitching 4  2/3 innings of a 14-2 victory but because scoring rules say a starter must pitch at least five innings, Young wasn’t credited with the victory.

But he did for Tuesday’s performance, and didn’t care.

“I’m just happy to be part of a great team, a winning team and for the opportunity they’ve given me,” Young said. “And all the statistics, maybe one day I’ll look back on it and appreciate it. But if a win was defined a different way 150 years ago, I probably wouldn’t have had it.”

Young will be working on three days’ rest between appearances. He threw 53 pitches against the Mets, striking out the side in the 12th inning and finishing with four strikeouts and one walk. He’s not concerned about a short turnaround.

“No, I came in (Thursday) and got my normal routine in and am just treating it as normal start,” Young said. “Like I’ve said, I’m here to do whatever the team needs, whether that relieve or start. My body feels fine. I’m not worried about bouncing back.”

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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