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Tag:Cy Young Award
Posted on: November 17, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Kershaw latest youngster to dazzle

Clayton Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

When it comes to young pitchers and dominating seasons, many of us think back to Dwight Gooden in 1985 and Roger Clemens in 1986 -- but both of those seasons were before 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was born. Kershaw is the youngest Cy Young winner since Gooden in 1985, but he isn't the only player of his age to dominate baseball since Gooden and Clemens.

So, which pitchers age 23 or younger have put together the best pitching seasons since Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988?

• Mark Prior, 2003: In his second season and just 22, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA with an amazing 245 strikeouts for the Cubs. He not only threw 211 1/3 innings during the regular season, he also threw 23 1/3 innings in the postseason, including the infamous Game 6 of the NLCS against the Marlins. Prior finished third in the Cy Young voting behind runaway-winer Eric Gagne, who finished with 55 saves, and San Francisco's Jason Schmidt (17-5, 2.34 ERA). The 2003 season would prove to be the best season of Prior's career. He went just 18-17 with a 4.27 ERA over the next three seasons and has battled injuries and minor leaguers since then.

Felix Hernandez, 2009: The year before winning the Cy Young with a 13-12 record, a 23-year-old Hernandez led the American League with a 19-5 record and also put up a 2.49 ERA. Hernandez finished second in the Cy Young voting in 2009, losing to the Royals' Zack Greinke. Hernandez went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA as a 24-year-old in 2010. "King" Felix was 14-14 with a 3.47 ERA in 2011, but is still one of baseball's best pitchers.

• Jake Peavy, 2004: Peavy won an ERA title in his third year in the majors, going 15-6 with a 2.27 ERA as a 23-year-old in 2004. That didn't garner him any Cy Young votes -- Roger Clemens claimed his seventh, and final, Cy Young that year. Peavy would win the Cy Young in 2007. 

• Joe Magrane, 1988: As a 23-year-old, Magrane led the National League with a 2.18 ERA, but had just a 5-0 record in 24 starts. The left-hander didn't receive any votes for the Cy Young, but did finish fourth (behind Mark Davis, Mike Scott, Greg Maddux and tied with Orel Hershiser) the next season when he went 18-9. Magrane was never the same after an elbow injury in 1990 and retired in 1996 at 32.

• Carlos Zambrano, 2004: With a 16-8 record and 2.75 ERA, the right-hander finished fifth in Cy Young voting, striking out 188 batters in 209 2/3 innings. Zambrano didn't lead the league in any categories other than hit batters (20), but was otherwise very good. Since then he's had a roller-coaster career, but from age 22-27 he was 91-51 with a 3.39 ERA, making at least 30 starts in each year from 2003-2008.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 17, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 4:17 pm
 

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young Award

Clayton Kershaw

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw added the National League Cy Young Award to his pitching Triple Crown on Thursday, beating Phillies' right-hander Roy Halladay to win his first Cy Young.

The 23-year-old Kershaw led the National League with 21 wins, a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts. He also led the league with a 0.977 WHIP, was named to his first All-Star team and won the Gold Glove -- in all, a pretty good year. He received 27 of the 32 first-place votes in voting done by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Halladay received four first-place votes, while fourth-place finisher Ian Kennedy received the other. Halladay's teammate, Cliff Lee, finished third, but didn't receive a first-place vote.

Halladay, 34, missed out on his third Cy Young Award, winning it in 2010 for the Phillies and in 2003 while in Toronto. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA and 208 strikeouts, leading the league with eight complete games. He also led the National League in ERA+ with a 164. ERA+ measures a pitcher's ERA against the league average and takes park factors into effect.

Three Phillies finished in the top fiive, with left-hander Cole Hamels finishing fifth. In all, four Giants received votes, with Tim Lincecum finishing sixth, Matt Cain eighth and Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong tying for 11th with one fifth-place vote each.

In the end, though, it came down to Kershaw and Halladay. Either was a good choice, but Kershaw's Triple Crown may have pushed him over the top. He was one of the bright spots -- along with Matt Kemp -- of a pretty dark year for the Dodgers. Even though Kershaw made his first All-Star team with a 9-4 record and 3.03 ERA in the first half, he won the Cy Young in the second half, when he went 12-2 with a 1.31 ERA. He also dominated at Dodger Stadium, going 12-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 starts at home, with his only home loss coming on April 16, his second home start of the season.

"I always dreamed about playing in the big leagues. I never dreamed about doing anything special in the big leagues. I don't think any kid ever does," Kershaw said. "The people I'm now associated with, just by having this award, is something that I never thought would ever happen."

It is the 10th time a Dodgers pitcher has won the award, joining three-time winner Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Mike Marshall, Fernando Valezuela, Orel Hershiser and Eric Gagne. Being left-handed, the comparisons to Koufax have naturally come up, though Kershaw said he was uncomfortable with the comparison.

"I'm still uncomfortable with it. I don't want to have any disrespect for Mr. Koufax. He did it for a long time. He won a lot of awards and he won World Series. He threw no-hitters. Just a lot of things I'm not anywhere close to accomplishing yet," Kershaw said. "I have tremendous respect for him and would never want to ever put myself in the same category as him." 

Previous Cy Young Award winners.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:35 pm
 

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


Justin Verlander is coming off one of the most successful seasons of his career -- or really, of any pitcher's career. The right-hander unanimously won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday.

Verlander's credentials to win the award lie on his low ERA, his dazzling strikeout numbers and the ability to pitch deep into games. But he no problem showing up in the wins department for those who still value wins. His 24 victories are the most since Randy Johnson won 24 in 2002. Before that, you have to go all the way back to John Smoltz in 1996, who also won 24.

Award Season
Verlander
Verlander's dazzling season handed him the AL Cy Young Award victor for the first time in his career.
Read>>
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Johnson, of course, is a member of the 300-win club, winning his 300th as a member of the Giants two seasons ago. But through his age 28 season, Johnson had won just 49 games. Verlander? He's sitting pretty at 107. That seems to suggest Verlander has a very real chance at 300 victories, but there's a lot more to winning 300 games than just comparing Verlander and Johnson's win totals.

(Earlier this summer, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler discussed the possibility of 300 wins with Verlander -- click here to read).

There are several reasons why Johnson won 300 games, and a large part of it is his dominance extending into his later years. The man won four straight Cy Young Awards from age 35-39, and he was a feared pitcher until the day he retired, also racking up 4,875 strikeouts. He pitched until he was 46 before finally hanging it up, more than offsetting his slow start to his career. But Johnson is the exception -- there aren't many pitchers out there who don't separate themselves as an elite pitcher until their late 20s or early 30s, then morph into one of the best pitchers in history throughout his 30s. Johnson is the exception, not the norm.

Verlander is the norm -- a dominant pitcher who debuted at a young age and has held that dominance through his prime years. A better comparison might be Nolan Ryan, who tucked 105 victories under his belt through his age 28 season. But Ryan was another pitcher who pitched late into his career, hanging up his spikes at the age of 46. It's impossible to predict if Verlander will be pitching 20 years from now, let alone 10, but like Ryan, Verlander boasts no-hitter stuff, with each pitcher tossing multiple no-hitters in their career.

Roger Clemens had 134 wins in his career by the age of 28, but he also pitched late into his career, ending his career at age 45. And of course, there's the possibility that Clemens helped himself along by using steroids once he joined the Blue Jays.

One thing's clear -- if Verlander hopes to reach 300 victories, he's going to have to stay elite well into his 40s. If you do a simple projection of doubling his wins along with his years of service, Verlander will be sitting at 214 wins come age 35. He'd need at least five more seasons to reach 300, putting him into his 40s.

But can one even predict 214 wins in the next seven seasons? Fortunately, the argument about whether a pitcher's wins are a value state is largely dead. Most people these days understand that a win is not an acceptable way to judge pitchers. Baseball clubs moved on from wins quite a while ago, and most of the media has come around in recent seasons. You can't judge a pitcher on wins because it is so heavily dependent on the team. How is their defense -- can it prevent balls from dropping in or unearned runs from scoring at a clip enough to harm the pitcher? Is the bullpen good enough to hold leads? Does the manager have a quick hook? Is the offense capable of supporting the pitcher?

The fact that Verlander has 107 wins at this point in his career is rare, no matter the pitcher, because of all the variables that go into winning a game. Verlander has lucked out in pitching for a contender his entire career, and within that, having his team rack up the victories for Verlander. That's not easy to do. For comparison, let's look at a list of players since the new millennium that reached 100 or more wins by the age of 28, just like Verlander:

CC Sabathia, Carlos Zambrano, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Pedro Martinez, Andy Pettitte.

Other than Sabathia, none of these players are thought to have any shot at winning 300. The latter two, of course, are now out of baseball and thus have zero chance. The 90's are kinder to Verlander's chances. Those pitchers who won at least 100 games by age 28 in the 90s are: Mike Mussina, Ramon Martinez, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen and Clemens. Madduz and Glavine have won 300 along with Clemens. Glavine needed into their 40s to get win No. 300, while Maddux grabbed his at age 38... and he is a transcendent pitcher in baseball history. When you're talking about a starting pitcher with tons of miles on his arm pitching at an elite level into his 40s... it's simply too unpredictable to guess whether or not Verlander will get 300 -- or if he'll even still be playing.

If Verlander stays healthy, if he stays elite, if he lasts into his 40s and if he continues to pitch for a contender the majority of his career, the odds do seem good that Verlander will win 300. But that's a lot of ifs. Too many ifs, actually. Right now, let's bask in Verlander's historic season, the likes of which haven't been seen since the mid-1980s, and worry about Verlander's chances to win 300 in a decade.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 2:00 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 5:39 am
 

It's unanimous: Verlander claims AL Cy Young

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


In a season for the ages, Justin Verlander took home the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday, winning the award unanimously, just the fourth pitcher in the AL to do so.

It was a no-brainer decision for voters after Verlander racked up a 2.40 ERA, good enough to lead the American League. He did so in 251 innings, which led all of baseball. Verlander's accomplishments don't stop there -- he also led baseball in wins, racking up 24 against five losses, and also was tops in the game in strikeouts (250) and WHIP, sinking under 1.00 and finishing at .920.

The last pitcher to have a WHIP under 1.00 and strike out at least 250 batters was in 2004, when three pitchers accomplished the feat in Ben Sheets, Johan Santana and Randy Johnson. But if you add in at least 250 innings pitched, there have only been two pitchers since 1986 to accomplish that feat. Curt Schilling with the Diamondbacks in 2002 is the only other man left standing with Verlander.

Award Season
Brunell
Can Justin Verlander reach 300 wins in his career? Evan Brunell examines his case. Read>>
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Once you factor in ERA, Verlander stands alone in how dominant he was. Schilling's 3.23 ERA was very good for the offensive climate of 2002, but even Schilling doesn't compare with Verlander in how dominant over and above the average pitcher Verlander was. Mike Scott in 1986 and Dwight Gooden in 1985 are the only pitchers since the 1970s to put together a total package of accomplishments like Verlander did. In fact, Verlander is now the first AL pitcher to win both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young in a career. The feat has been accomplished five times in the NL, but it is an AL first.

While Gooden didn't toss any no-hitters during his transcendent season, Scott did, blanking the Giants on Sept. 25. Verlander can match that feat, as he tossed his second career no-hitter on May 7, taking out the Blue Jays. Verlander walked just one and faced the minimum 27 batters. In his next start, he had a no-hitter until the sixth inning. In total, Verlander had 15 2/3 innings of consecutive no-hit ball. It wasn't the last time he would flirt with a no-hitter, taking one into the eighth inning on June 14 and July 31.

Verlander's victory gives the Tigers their first Cy Young since 1984, when closer Willie Hernandez took home the honor. Verlander's unanimous selection marks the 18th such time in baseball it has occurred. The first time it happened was with a fellow Tiger, with Denny McLain the obvious victor in 1968, two years after baseball decided to give the award to one pitcher in each league. The Cy Young had previously been awarded to one pitcher upon inception in 1956. The NL also made its first unanimous selection in 1968, handing the distinction to Bob Gibson.

With Verlander, there are six pitchers who can boast unanimous victories in the AL, with Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana all winning the award unanimously twice. McLain and Ron Guidry are the other AL hurlers with unanimous selections. Verlander will earn an additional $500,000 on top of his $12.75 million salary as a result of the victory.

The Angels' Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41) finished second with 97 points, the only other pitcher to be named on each ballot. James Shields of the Rays had 66 points, finishing third. He is followed by CC Sabathia of the Yankees with 63 points, and Tigers closer Jose Valverde rounded out the top five with 28 points.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: September 7, 2011 1:09 pm
 

Verlander leads candidates for AL Cy Young Award

Verlander, Shields, Weaver

By Evan Brunell

During the week, Eye on Baseball will be profiling candidates to win baseball's major awards after the season. Today: the AL Cy Young Award winner.

View contenders for the: AL MVP | NL MVP

The AL Cy Young is pretty much a foregone conclusion as Justin Verlander continues to run away with the award. But the ballot gives you five names to put in, so Verlander won't be the only one getting votes. Let's take a look at the top five candidates alphabetically:

Josh Beckett, Red Sox: Beckett has two things working against him in consideration for the award -- that being his recent injury derailing him and possibly costing him a chance at 200 innings pitched. When you compare that to the four other pitchers on the list, that will be a significant issue. In addition, while pitcher wins are an irrelevant statistic when it comes to actually evaluating performance, there are still plenty of voters who believe in it. Beckett's 12-5 record won't do him any favors despite a 2.49 ERA. One thing working in his favor is that Beckett has showed up against the Yankees or any other team with a record over .500, as his 2.06 ERA in 16 such starts indicates.

CC Sabathia, Yankees: Sabathia is no Verlander, but he's racked up the second-most wins thanks to pitching behind New York's offensive, gifting him a 19-5 record. He's also already logged 218 1/3 innings and his 2.97 ERA as-is would be his best mark as a Yankee. Oh, and Sabathia leads all AL pitchers in Wins Above Replacement, so there's that. The reasoning behind that is that Verlander has pitched behind a tight defense that has only allowed 23.5 percent of batted balls to fall in, while the Yanks' defense is at 31 percent, making Sabathia and Verlander's ERA difference greater than it should be.

James Shields, Rays: Shields used to be known as Big Game James. It's Complete Game James now, as the righty has dazzled baseball with 11 complete games, four of them shutouts. He's come close a couple other times to complete games and/or shutouts as well, and has racked up 218 innings pitched over 29 starts, checking in with a 2.77 ERA and 14-10 record. The last time a pitcher had at least 11 complete games in a season was Randy Johnson (a name you will hear again in this space) back in 1999.

Justin Verlander, Tigers: It would be a surprise if Verlander didn't win the award unanimously after the year he's having. He's already notched 21 wins and is on pace to throw over 250 innings, which would be a career high. Add in 226 strikeouts in 224 2/3 innings currently with a 2.40 ERA leading the league and there simply isn't any other checkboxes one can tick off in stating a Cy Young Award case. This will very likely end up a career year for the 28-year-old ... not because he can't keep it up, but because he's had a perfect storm of a year. The last pitcher to win more than 22 in a season was Randy Johnson in 2002, when he came away with 24.

Jered Weaver, Angels: Up until a recent hiccup, Weaver was keeping pace with Verlander in the Cy Young Award race. After his Aug. 5 start against the Mariners, Weaver had a 1.78 ERA in 24 games started, posting a 14-5 record in 176 2/3 innings. Add in 150 punchouts and four complete games, and it's easy to see why some thought he could mount a challenge to Verlander. Fast-forward a month later and the righty is still having a strong year, but is solidly behind Verlander at this point with a 2.49 mark in 206 1/3 innings. There might even be an argument that Weaver was a better pitcher in 2010.

Who is the best candidate to win the AL Cy Young Award? We'll answer that later in the year, but have your say in the comments.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: August 24, 2011 3:52 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 4:00 pm
 

Should a pitcher be eligible for the MVP?

Halladay

By Evan Brunell


Here's an easy question: Who are the MVPs in the AL and NL?

Not so easy, right?

There are plenty of candidates for the award, players you've certainly heard of before. Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury in the AL. Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder in the NL. All good players.

All position players.

What about pitchers? Justin Verlander is having a sublime season for the Tigers. Roy Halladay is nailing down his reputation as one of the best pitchers to ever take the mound. Yet, pitchers are rarely considered for the MVP award, with the last victor coming in 1992 with Dennis Eckersley. The closest since was Pedro Martinez in 1999, when he lost out to Ivan Rodriguez because two sportswriters left Martinez off their ballot completely. Never mind that one of the sportswriters, George King of the New York Post, had Rick Helling and David Wells on the ballot the year before. (In fortuitous timing, Marc Normandin of SB Nation wrote Wednesday about Martinez and how Halladay and Verlander will have an uphill battle if Martinez couldn't even win the MVP.)

"It really made [writers] all look very dumb," Buster Olney, who covered the Yankees for the New York Times at the time, told Baseball Digest. "People were operating under different rules. The question of eligibility is a very basic thing. People were determining eligibility for themselves."

1999 is a long time ago, but Olney's sentiments could be repeated today. Voting for the MVP is a mess, as everyone comes to it with their own preconceived notion of who qualifies for the MVP award, and one of the bigger touchstones of the argument is whether a pitcher should be eligible. For the purposes of this discussion, we're not going to debate the merits of Verlander as opposed to Jose Bautista, or even to Jered Weaver. What we want to learn here is if pitchers should be on the MVP ballot, and if so, how important they should be weighted.

Taken straight from the actual MVP ballot, as was e-mailed to C. Trent Rosecrans when he voted for the NL MVP in 2010, are the following guidelines:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
While the latter three points are irrelevant to the debate, we immediately run into an issue to start. The first guideline is that the value of a player on offense and defense need to be considered when voting, which would seem to exclude pitchers, even though the ballot takes care to mention that pitchers are included. Where the heck is the pitcher supposed to contribute? One could argue that a pitcher's value can be considered part of defense. I polled several colleagues of mine in baseball, the vast majority contending that a pitcher's value should be considered part of defense. Take the definition of defense a step further, and the inclusion of pitchers becomes clear: "defense" can really be thought of as "run prevention," which is the primary (and really, only) job of a pitcher.

So a pitcher counts, even if he might be dinged for his lack of offense.

What about the next point, though? "Number of games played."

Most starting pitchers are lucky to get to 33 games started. That's just 20 percent of the entire season's 162 games. Relievers play in far more games, but even then, the percentage isn't anything to get worked up about. Dennis Eckersley, the last pitcher to win a Cy Young Award and did so as a closer, appeared in 65 games, or 40 percent of the entire season. That percentage would plummet below starting pitchers if you changed the scaling to total innings in a season, not games, so no matter what, a pitcher is not even close to being responsible for half the team's games.

That's a pretty damning guideline against pitchers, but guidelines are just that -- guidelines. If a pitcher is extraordinarily valuable to his team, that should outweigh the amount of games he's appeared in, especially given precedent has already been established with 20 pitchers winning the award. Those who want to adhere to the guideline strictly are welcome to do just that and ding pitchers for their contributions in that department, but it should not by any means prevent a truly great pitcher from snagging the award.

Take Roy Halladay, for example. He's a starting pitcher who has appeared in 26 games to date, yet he outpaces everyone else in the NL in Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs version). Halladay's 6.9 WAR stands above Shane Victorino and Justin Upton's 6.2, with Upton playing in 128 games, or almost five times as many games as Halladay. Yet, it's hard to argue against Halladay having been the most valuable player in the NL, and he's a pitcher. Can you really hold games played against Halladay? No, you can't.

But should we really be comparing games played? Isn't a better way to compare hitters and pitchers to look at plate appearances? After all, if someone pinch-hit in all 162 games and received exactly one plate appearance per game and registered a hit in each one, his batting average would be 1.000... and yet, not qualify for the batting title. And this is someone that, by the guidelines of games played, should be considered over a pitcher.

Looking at plate appearances, last year's NL MVP award winner in Joey Votto walked to the plate 648 times. How many batters did Halladay, the 2010 NL Cy Young Award victor, face? That would be 993, or 53 percent more times Halladay faced a batter at the plate than Votto walked to the plate.

Aside from the guidelines, the most popular argument against pitchers winning the MVP centers around pitchers having their own honor in the Cy Young Award, and it makes sense that people would treat the MVP and Cy Young as two separate awards for two separate pools of talent. But that's just not the case. The MVP award is open to all players, pitchers included. You want an award just for hitters? Feast your eyes on the Hank Aaron Award, given annually to the best hitter (so defense doesn't count). The award isn't well-known, perhaps due to the award only starting in 1999, or because it's not part of the awards that the Baseball Writers Association of America gives out (the Cy Young Award and MVP award are part of the BBWAA's domain), but it's there. Hitters are not being penalized by having to share the MVP with pitchers.

The debate on whether or not pitchers should win the MVP contributed to robbing Pedro Martinez of his rightful award in 1999. Let's not make the same mistake in 2011.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com