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Blog Entry

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

Posted on: September 24, 2010 1:02 am
CC Sabathia
There has already been plenty of debate over the American League Cy Young Award race, and Thursday's results only made a murky picture murkier.

New York's C.C. Sabathia seemed to be holding a tenuous grasp on front-runner status, so what does he do? Of course, he goes out and gets blown up in a key game against the Rays, giving up seven earned runs and jacking up his ERA by a quarter of a point (from 3.05 to 3.26).

His counterpart in that game, David Price, is considered the solid-but-not-glamorous choice, and that's exactly the kind of game he pitched Thursday: six innings, eight hits, three runs, four walks, seven strikeouts. He got the win and looked good compared with Sabathia, but it wasn't exactly the commanding performance you'd hope to see from a Cy Young candidate in an important, stretch-run game.

And then there's Seattle's Felix Hernandez. All he did was pitch his sixth complete game (Sabathia and Price each have two), allowing two hits and one run. And he lost, 1-0, in yet another game in which his teammates might as well have been going to the plate wielding chopsticks. Seriously, watching Hernandez -- now 12-12 while leading the league in ERA, innings and strikeouts -- go out every five days has become like watching Charlie Brown line up to kick the football.

Expect to hear a lot more about the value of wins in evaluating a pitcher's season, but here's an angle I haven't seen elsewhere that would allow you to argue for Hernandez while using wins to bolster his case. The Mariners have only won 58 games this season, meaning Hernandez has been the winning pitcher in 21 percent of his team's victories. Sabathia has 22 percent of the Yankees' wins, and Price 20 percent of the Rays' wins. So Hernandez has been winning at a rate commensurate with his team's success, while leading the league in most major statistical categories. I don't have one of the 28 votes that will actually decide the Cy Young, but if I did, I'd have no qualms about listing Hernandez first on the ballot.

-- David Andriesen

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Since: Nov 13, 2006
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:05 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

If you are going by your logic by him pitching in the lowly AL West, let's consider these numbers: Against the Yankees Felix is 3-0 allowing 1 ER and striking out 31 batters and pitching 26 IP (2 complete games I might add). Against Boston 0-1, he only gave up 1 ER (2 runs) in 7.1 IP and lost the game 5-3. In his only start against Toronto he lost 1-0 while pitching a complete game. Against Baltimore he is 1-1 giving up only 1 ER and losing the other game by his bullpen and his offense (yet again) not showing up. So overall he is 4-3 against the AL East allowing only only 4 ER against the best league in baseball. His worst games have come against teams in the AL West, which means that he pitches better when he plays better teams. This is another case of a great pitcher playing for a horrible team (Zack Greinke with the Royals). A pitcher can only do so much and Felix has done quite a lot for the Mariners. It will be a shame if he does not get the Cy Young.

Since: Jun 11, 2010
Posted on: September 24, 2010 10:55 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

Ostafoma, welcome aboard! great point on strikeouts, just like saves not relevent,an out is an out, Wins, ERA and Innings pitched I think are the most important, Sabathia has the most wins in AL and Lester and Price have a better ERA but CC has more innings pitched. Felix has innings and ERA so pick your poison, I agree, too close to call at this point. now I do not agree with your point on good teams bad teams, because all teams that will win their respective divisions will lose 60 games plus, it depends when you pitch against them maybe they are on some type of losing streak, and flip that for the bottom feeders you may catch them on a hot streak (Baltimore) so any win is a good win. 

Since: Sep 24, 2010
Posted on: September 24, 2010 10:54 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

The reality is a pitcher can only control what he can control. a team's job is actually to win a game #1. The pitcher's job is to do everything he can to win that game, specifically give up a low number of runs. "Protecting the lead" is a meaningless phrase which essentially means pitching down to an opponent. What pressure is on CC when he has a 5 run lead, something Felix would never have? The stats really don't lie on this one. I've watched every start CC Sabathia has made this season, and I cannot identify a single situation where Sabathia "[did] things to protect the lead" that were the right baseball move, but inflated his ERA. Inducing a double play rather than trying to strike the batter out? Get real. This isn't how people pitch, and any stathead will tell you that is almost invariably the wrong baseball move.

1. Which is more pressure: (1) if you give up more than 1 or 2 runs, your team is destined to lose, or (2) you can give up more than 3 runs, and still end up winning the game? Felix is under way more pressure than Sabathia or Price ever will be. If he screws up just once (for example, giving up a solo HR to Jose Bautista), his team is likely to lose that game. That has basically never happened to Sabathia this season at all. Check the stats. And no, Felix's competition has actually been better than Sabathia's. Unlike CC, Felix has to face the most potent offense in baseball (the Yankees), and he's absolutely crushed them (3-0, 0.35 ERA). Against either playoff bound teams or contenders, Felix has outdone Sabathia in every category except wins. Go figure.

2. Strikeouts matter because they are one of the only metrics that measure acts attributable EXCLUSIVELY by the pitcher. There is no ballpark factor, team defense factor, and luck is minimized. A pitcher's strikeouts are an overwhelming percentage attributable to the pitcher, unlike a groundball, flyball, or any other ball put in play. By this logic, Trevor Cahill (with an absurdly low ~.220 BABIP) would be on the same level as Sabathia. No, Cahill isn't as good a pitcher as Sabathia. He just plays in a spacious ballpark and has a stellar defense behind him. Strikeouts help teams win games by making outs that don't create possibilities of errors, balls slipping through the infield, or other defense-dependent factors that impact games. It's a sexy stat because pitchers who strikeout more players tend to give up fewer runs.

3. Okay, let's do that. Felix Hernandez is 2nd in the AL in WHIP (1.06), Sabathia is tied for 11th (1.21), Price is tied 13th (1.22). Felix is 3rd in the AL in batting avg agains (.217), Sabathia is 13th (.242), Price is tied for 5th (.226). If those are the two leading stats for the award, then I'd give Felix the Cy Young faster than I would before.

Since: Sep 24, 2010
Posted on: September 24, 2010 10:05 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

While I used to just look at numbers like most fans do, reality is actually quite different.  A pitchers job is actually to win a game # 1.  Contrary to Felix's team who doesn't score runs, you could pitch for a team that scores a lot and there are circumstances where you do things to protect the lead, yada yada which could inflate your numbers. I'm not sure who I'd vote for yet, as it's still too close to call but please consider these things too:

1) Felix pitches in the American League West, with complety different pressure being on such a bad team in such a bad division, and he doesn't have to pitch against the American League East as much (I know he has pressure to do it all himself, but seperate point. While the Rays and Yanks are obvious, the Red Sox and Jays are actaully very formidable squads this year and Baltimore has one of the better records in baseball since getting Buck in there.

2)  Why do Strikeouts matter?  I know it''s a sexy stat, but how does that mean one pitcher is better then another? 

3) Furthermore, I don't know why there isn't more talk about it, but I think they should look at whip and BA against as 2 leading stats when looking at the Cy young too.

Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:28 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

Felix Hernandez is clearly in the lead. Wins are not relevant - they judge the TEAM, not the pitcher. The pitcher might get the credit/blame for the win or loss, but it is not a statistic to use when trying to judge their talent.

Who is more talented? A pitcher who goes 5 innings a game, gives up 6 runs a game, but who somehow gets run support in all his games and goes 20-0, or a pitcher that ends up 0-20, but goes 9 innings a start and only gives up 2-3 runs per start, but never gets any run support?  Sure, that's an extreme example, but I'm sure you get my point.

Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: September 24, 2010 8:33 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

Absolutely.  Is it the best pitcher or the most wins?  What does the CY Young mean to you?  Wins are important, but how many 1-0 or 2-0 losses has he taken?

Since: Sep 28, 2008
Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:48 am

AL Cy Young gets even tighter

i like the stat about what percent of wins each pitchers has for each team.  it shows exactly what kind of team Felix pitches on...  58 wins and no run support, yet leads in innings and strikeouts.  I say give it to him.

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