In the grand scheme of things, it was a seemingly insignificant result, a singular tally shifting from one statistical column to the next, presumably forgotten come season's end.
Still, an official scorer's decision to award Wandy Peralta the win in Monday night's New York Yankees-Tampa Bay Rays game, one that began with seven no-hit innings by Gerrit Cole, in an absolute masterpiece by the staff ace, stood out to affected fantasy managers because of how unusual -- and, argued by many, unfair -- it was.
To explain, after Cole departed, his Yankees up, 2-0, with Isaac Paredes on second base, Clay Holmes entered to attempt to record the game's final five outs. A double, RBI groundout and RBI infield single later, Holmes had blown the save and allowed the Rays to tie the score at 2-2, though he'd complete the eighth inning from there. The Yankees recaptured the lead in the top of the ninth inning, by a 4-2 score, and with the team concerned about Holmes' 25 pitches thrown in the eighth, they brought in Wandy Peralta to close things out, with Peralta successfully nailing down the victory.
Typically, because Holmes' Yankees took the lead with him in the game, the pitcher of record, he'd have been awarded the win, which would've been his fifth on the season, and as Peralta entered in a rulebook save chance, he'd have been awarded the save, which would've been his second. Only that's not what happened. Due to a little-known rule, 9.17(c) in the baseball rulebook, the game's official scorer decided that Holmes' appearance qualified as "ineffective in a brief appearance," and awarded the victory to Peralta. In defense of the move, there is also a comment under Rule 9.17(c) suggesting that, in the event of an official scorer invoking this clause, an "ineffective" reliever should be judged as having pitched less than one inning while allowing two or more earned runs to score (even if these are charged to a previous pitcher).
I've played fantasy baseball for quite some time now, and while this is hardly the first time this has ever happened, I can say that I neither recall the last time that it happened nor that I could count on one hand the number of times I recall it happening. And yes, this particular instance caught my eye in part because I roster Holmes in a league where I noticed it in my morning email scoring report. But let's face it, this one was probably noticed by and affected a whole heck of a lot more people than only me, considering Cole was rostered in 99.9% of ESPN leagues at the time, and presumably started in all of those, while Holmes was rostered in 83.2%.
This is the growing problem that fantasy managers -- especially commissioners -- have when evaluating the win category. As pitching workloads dwindle, and starting pitchers increasingly fall short of the five-inning minimum stipulated by Rule 9.17(b), more and more wins will not only fall into the hands of relief pitchers, who often haphazardly fall into cheap wins, but will also be subject to official scorers' judgment.
Not that there is anything wrong with the latter, but if a category is going to count in the fantasy baseball results, the criteria for earning it needs to be clear and consistent. Counter if you wish that official scorers also influence such things as hits, extra-base hits and RBIs, but the major difference between those and wins is that there is a finite number of the latter -- only one individual win can be accrued per game, and that means each one is more precious as far as influencing our final standings.