Wins and losses aren't always a good indication of actual performance. Statisticians and casual fans have been aware of this concept for years.
But without the restrictions of stingy pitch limits, Ben Lively's numbers now are reflecting his strong start to life in pro ball.
The right-handed Cincinnati prospect struck out 10 batters and yielded just two hits over six innings Wednesday in Class A Advanced Bakersfield's 8-3 win over host Stockton.
"I was throwing everything where I wanted it and I was working both sides of the plate," said Lively, who sat between 89-94 mph with his fastball and 83-85 mph with his changeup. "I was locating the fastball and throwing the other pitches for strikes. It gave me a lot of opportunities to expand the strike zone. You have to pound the strike zone and let hitters get themselves out."
Lively (3-0) struck out two batters in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings and he bookended his night with one punchout in his first and last frame. The outing lowered his ERA to 0.53.
The University of Central Florida product allowed a one-out double to Matt Olson in the second, and after retiring 12 batters in a row, a one-out base hit to Aaron Shipman in the sixth. In three of the six innings, the ball did not leave the infield.
Selected by the Reds in the fourth round of June's Draft, Lively is one of 10 pitchers to start the year 3-0. He allowed one hit -- a solo homer -- in a win against Modesto on April 6 and he scattered four hits over five scoreless frames in San Jose on Friday.
Even though he was just as good last season, the win column didn't reflect it. A Pioneer League postseason All-Star, the 22-year-old right-hander had an 0-4 record in 13 starts in his rookie campaign. That's about as misleading a stat line as you'll ever see.
Pick virtually any metric and his body of work speaks for itself. He posted an 0.88 ERA between two levels, including an 0.73 mark that would have led the Pioneer League by more than two full runs had he pitched enough to qualify.
The 6-foot-4 Florida native struck out more than four times as many batters as he walked (56 to 13), held hitters to a .161 average, recorded a sub-1.00 WHIP and did not surrender a home run.
So why was he 0-4? Kept on a tight leash, the Reds simply didn't allow him to log many innings. He never pitched more than four frames in any of his 13 starts, and on 11 of those occasions, he was removed from the game after nine outs -- even in consecutive games in which he was perfect.
"They knew I was only going three innings," said Lively, who threw a team-high 106 collegiate innings with the Knights last spring before he was drafted. "You can't get the win. You can only get the loss. It was more of a learning experience, getting use to five days' rest."
But now things are different. He had three months off over the winter and he entered the season fresher than ever. He doesn't have any real expectations for 2014, though. The Reds didn't give him any indication of how many innings they expect him to throw and he only wants "a low number of losses and a low ERA."
So far, so good.