Black Jack

What's wrong with the CY Young picture?

  Hey everyone, I've been away for a while but now that the postseason awards are upon us and teams will reboot themselves, it's time to get after it again.
  So Tim Lincecum and Zach Greinke win Cy Youngs with 15 and 16 wins respectively.  That is fine with me.  I may have steered toward Carpenter in the NL, but I guess you can't complain about either choice.  

   The slippery slope we must watch out for is starting to de-emphasize wins vs "stuff."  Obviously both Cy winners would have benefitted and probably pushed their win totals into the 20's with more offensively productive teams behind them.  But we'd better make sure the Javier Vasquez scenario doesn't overtake the voters in the future.

   Now that they have officially allowed full season 15 game winners to represent the best in the game, you start to worry about perennial low ERA, high strikeout guys like Vasquez being propelled to the highest level of respect...when they shouldn't.  What is the difference how many strikeouts a guy has if they can't ultimately win games?

   I'm definitely not swaying fully to the wins total leader taking all the prizes, but that is the thing starting pitchers get paid for.  All this year's awards do in my mind is hammer the ridiculous fact the you just need to be a 6 inning pitcher to be in the conversation!  There is absolutely no need for the workload of starters to be dropped as dramatically as they have over the past decade.

 

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14 Comments

eriqjaffe said:

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Lincecum average 7.03 innings per start, Grienke 6.95.

Just sayin'. ;)

Jack McDowell said:

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I never disagreed with the awards...just warned about the slippery slope of non-sense stats.

fan-exchange.com said:

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They both had ERAs close to 2 and WHIPS close to 1. So they were no slouches.

isaac said:

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Sure, pitchers are paid to win. However wins may be the most obvious thing that a pitcher has very little control over. At least in the AL and even in the NL if you are just looking at the pitching aspect of things, a pitcher has no control over the hitting of the team behind him or the fielding of that team. That's two of the three aspects of the game. Greinke for instance, received the lowest run support in the AL. He also had the worst fielding team playing behind him. CC, as an example, got over 3 more runs of support per game. Even if CC had won more games and been closer to 3.00 with his ERA, does he really deserve credit for being the better pitcher? I'd have a hard time accepting that. The Cy Young is for the best pitcher period. The only way you can see who was is by using statistics that aren't dependent on something out of the pitcher's control. Why isn't this obvious?

palehoze said:

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I don't recall Javy ever having that low of an ERA. I think that the CY young results are encouraging. Wins are important for a TEAM, but a pitcher isn't in control of how many runs his team scores. Grienke may have won 25 with the offensive production of the Yankees behind him. I do agree with you that strikeouts shouldn't matter in Cy Young voting...an out is an out, and the goal is to limit your opponents scoring. But when two pitchers face the same competition it is ERA that tells you who had the better individual season (assuming the defenses are equal) more so than the number of wins they were able to acquire. My opinion is that in CY voting a pitcher shouldn't be punished for being on a bad team, which is why I like some of the new statistics that are being measured now to "level the playing field" and compare the performances of individuals more fairly when they are on teams with vastly different talent levels.

jwb said:

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"There is absolutely no need for the workload of starters to be dropped as dramatically as they have over the past decade."

So says the guy who threw 135 innings with a 5.50 ERA after his age 30 season. . .

jwb said:

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"Now that they have officially allowed full season 15 game winners to represent the best in the game, you start to worry about perennial low ERA, high strikeout guys"

like that no-account, low ERA, high strikeout Seaver guy in 1973. Ron Bryant was robbed! He had five more wins!
http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_1973.shtml#NLcya

Oddly enough, Ron Bryant also threw 135 innings after that season (with a 6.30 ERA).

Jack McDowell said:

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Seaver 40 more innings, one and a half runs less ERA, 7 MORE complete games, 100 more K's. That's far more dominating over Bryant than either CY guy this year was to his.

gspira said:

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The reality is that pitchers are not paid to win games. And it's a good thing, too, because no pitcher has ever won a baseball game. Teams win games. If you put a major league pitcher all alone in the field and let him provide all the offense as well against a major league baseball team, I guarantee the other team will win. Awarding a team win to an individual player is philosophically indefensible; the win has to go to one or the other. Now, the starting pitcher is the most important player on the field when he starts, but his importance to the outcome of that game is still only about 30%, with the other 70% responsibility being assigned to the offense, defense, bullpen, and manager.

Back in June of 1993, there was a certain White Sox starting pitcher who was being touted as a Cy Young candidate (and later on went on to win the BBWAA award voting that year, though today's voters would choose Kevin Appier, a pitcher who then was in a very similar situation to Zack Greinke's current situation) despite having a high ERA at the time. His high ERA was being ignored because of a high win total and some commentators claimed his ERA was that high because he was "pitching to the score" To test this assertion, I looked at the context of every run that pitcher had allowed so far that season, and this is what I came up with:

4/6/93 - Chicago scores 3 in the top of tje 1st. Starter X blows the lead by allowing 4 runs in the 1st and 3rd innings. Chicago scores 6 in 4th. Starter X pitches 6 innings, gets the win.

4-11 - Starter X allows 1 run in the top of the first. Chicago scores 1 in the bottom of the first. Starter X allows 2 runs in the 5th.Chicago scores 4 in the 6th. Starter X allows 1 in 7th, is taken out, and gets the win.

4-16 - Chicago scores one in top of the 2nd. Starter X allows 2 in bottom of the 2nd. The Sox score one in the top of the 3rd, tying it. Starter X allows 2 in the bottom of the 3rd. Chicago scores 7 rest of game. Starter X pitches 7 innings, gets the win.

4-22 - Starter X allows 1 run in the 2nd inning, 1 more in 6th. Chicago scores 3 in 8th and 9th innings to give Starter X the victory.

4-27 - Starter X allows 3 runs in the 2nd. Chicago scores 9 in next 5 innings. Starter X allows 1 more run in the 8th, but wins.

5-2 - Starter X allows 3 runs the first two innings. Chicago scores 1 in the 6th. Starter X allows 3 more runs in the 7th, gets the loss.

5-8 - Chicago scores 5 runs in the 1st. Starter X gives up 6 runs in the 2nd and 3rd. The White Sox score 5 more in the 4th and 5th innings. Starter X allows one more in the 6th, finishes and gets the win.

5-14 - Starter X pitches 9 innings, shuts out the Rangers, and wins. Chicago scores 3 in the first two innings and another in the 8th.

5-19 - Chicago gets shut out. Starter X allows 2 in the 8th and loses.

In these 9 starts, Starter X allowed the go-ahead run to score *10* times. Six times Starter X had at least a 3-run lead, and 1 of 2 things always happened - either he blew the lead, or he shut the other team down by allowing only one run or none. Not once did he get a large lead and then allow the other team some runs but not enough to catch up - his ERA with large leads that he didn't blow is miniscule; 30 of the 33 runs he allowed enabled the opposition to either catch up or take a bigger lead over the White Sox. Not only is that not "pitching to the score," but it's the exact *opposite*. Only if you believe that Starter X was psychic and knew that it didn't matter if he put his team three or five runs down, or blew a lead, that his teammates would come back, can you argue that Starter X was "pitching to the score" - the score that would be, that is.

One addendum: I don't mean to argue that pitchers don't change how they they pitch based on the score; they definitely do. But that change doesn't have a significant change on how many runs the pitcher gives up on the season, just how those runs are given up. With a big lead, pitchers throw more strikes. They walk less batters and give up more solo home runs. They allow more individual runs while avoiding some big innings. In the end, their runs allowed total ends up the same.

Jack McDowell said:

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I have to disagree with Appier. 238 innings pitched vs 256 for me and 255 for Randy Johnson. Both the Unit and I averaged almost a full inning more per start which effects your team tremendously over the course of the year. Both of us had 10 CG's to Appier's 5 which allows a complete days rest to all other pitchers on the staff. Completely overlooked stat today.

If you had argued Johnson, I'd have no argument. 19-8 with 10 CG's and 308 K's!! I got the nod from the previous year when they gave it to Eckersley, plus the fact that I won 22 games, innings, CG's etc.

It's not pitching to the score, it is pitching in a pennant race all year long, knowing that you'll need to be the last man standing on the mound because nobody is gonna throw those last 3 innings for you. That is overlooked as well.

By the way, the 9 games you "breakdown" out of my 34 starts that year. They seemed like pretty decent starts. By the way...who mentioned pitching to the score?

Brian said:

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First of all, Jack has a little more knowledge than any of us on what a pitcher is paid to do. And if you want to go through someone's game logs from 16 years ago to prove a point, go ahead. Pitcher X also pitched the Sox to a division title that year.

As far as how the writers vote, I think this is the best job they have done. A few years ago, Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young with a 21 - 8 record, a 3.48 ERA, 157 Ks in 222 innings, and a WHIP of 1.16. That same year, Johan Santana had a 16 - 7 record, a 2.87 ERA, 238 Ks in 231 innings, and a WHIP of 0.97, and he came in 3rd in Cy Young voting. Would the writers give Colon that award this year? Probably not, and that's a good thing. Santana was the most dominating pitcher in the game that year, but didn't take home the award. The writers are starting to look past the wins total, which is great. They are looking at the numbers that show who was the best pitcher in the game.

Wins and saves are arbitrary numbers. What Jack did back in '93 may not have been too pretty, but it was effective. Colon pitched the Angels into the playoffs in 2005, where they lost to the Sox. If you asked the Sox players who they would have rather faced that year, Colon or Santana, I am guessing Colon would be the guy they would rather have faced. He put the Angels in a position to win, but Santana did that on a more regular basis that year and the Twins weren't a good enough team to capitalize.

It would have been a shame if Zach Greinke didn't win the Cy this year. It's not his fault no one on the Royals can get on base and score some runs. The fact that he won 16 times for a team that finished with 16 wins is pretty impressive.

The Cy Young is for the best pitcher in the game. This year the writers got it right. They picked the best guy based on what he did not on the amount of wins he had.

Jack McDowell said:

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Santana and Colon...5 wins is a SHITLOAD of wins! That's a big difference, bottom line. Plus the Twins were 16 games out which means these games for Santana didn't mean anything and had no playoff meaning or pressure of a pennant race...again, another very overlooked part of the game.

Brian said:

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You bring up a good point about Colon pitching in a pennant race, although they won the division pretty easily, too, by 7 over Oakland. But the Cy Young is for the best pitcher in the league, not the most valuable pitcher. Santana dominated the league that year. Sure he pitched on a mediocre team that was never in contention, but the fact that he won 16 times for this team shows how good he was that year. And if you compare the stats for these two, doesn't it appear that Santana had the better year?

I do have a question for you. I understand that stats don't tell the entire picture in an award such as the Cy Young. But if you were to vote on the Cy Young, as a former pitcher, what would you be looking at to help with your vote? CC and Roy Halladay had great years, but did either of them have the year that Greinke did? But Greinke didn't have to face the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Jays all year, either.

Who would you have voted for and why? CC? Roy? Greinke?

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