Monday, October 19, 2009

BBA Topic: The Cy Young

One of the cool things that has happened to me over the four years of writing here is the chance to interact with other passionate fans of baseball. Recently I joined the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), which gives me the chance to interact with bloggers from across Major League Baseball, in addition to the knowledgeable Cardinal bloggers you're used to me talking about here.

The BBA is leveraging that knowledge to suggest winners of the various end of the year baseball awards, and posting those stories both on their home blogs, and at the Alliance web site. Already the group has discussed NL and AL Managers of the Year and Rookies of the Year. Next will be the Cy Young, and the MVP, of each league, and I have the opportunity to offer an opinion on both.

National League Cy Young

We'll start with the NL because that's the home league of this blog. I've long thought the NL Cy Young will be awarded to one of three men: Tim Lincecum of San Francisco, or Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright of St Louis. Looking at specific accomplishments and NL pitching statistics, Javier Vasquez of Atlanta was a surprise addition to the discussion. Let's get into the specifics, starting with the standard metrics.

Wainwright - 19
Carpenter - 17
Lincecum - 15
Vasquez - 15

Lincecum - 261
Vasquez - 238
Wainwright - 212
Carpenter - 144

Carpenter - 2.24
Lincecum - 2.48
Wainwright - 2.63
Vasquez - 2.87

If you needed another reason to think wins isn't a great metric anymore for deciding who the best pitcher in the league is, Bronson Arroyo finished with 15 wins. Anyway, using the standard measuring sticks, each of the contenders led in one of the categories. We're going to need some additional fidelity. The advanced statistics I looked at were ERA+, FIP, and WAR. ERA+ turned out to not be that great a choice, because the rankings using that metric matched those for ERA by itself. So what about Fielding Independent Pitching, and Wins Above Replacement?

Lincecum 2.34
Vasquez 2.77
Carpenter 2.78
Wainwright 3.11

Lincecum 8.2
Vasquez 6.6
Wainwright 5.7
Carpenter 5.6

Based on these two metrics, Lincecum was the best pitcher in the National League in 2009. Vasquez pitched better than his ERA would lead you to believe; his defense actually cost him (his ERA is higher than his FIP). So, in a bit of an upset for a Cardinal blogger, my NL Cy Young votes are Lincecum (1), Javier Vasquez (2), Carpenter (3), Wainwright (4).

American League Cy Young

Most observers think Zack Grienke was the best pitcher in the American League this year. Let's see if the same statistics back that up.

Hernandez - 19
Verlander - 19
Sabathia - 19
Halladay - 17
Grienke - 16

Verlander - 269
Grienke - 242
Lester - 225
Hernandez - 217
Halladay - 208
Sabathia - 197

Grienke - 2.16
Hernandez - 2.49
Halladay - 2.79
Sabathia - 3.37
Lester - 3.41

Grienke - 2.33
Verlander - 2.80
Halladay - 3.06
Hernandez - 3.09
Lester - 3.15
Sabathia - 3.39

Grienke - 9.4
Verlander - 8.2
Halladay - 7.3
Hernandez - 6.9
Lester - 6.0
Sabathia - 5.9

Lincecum may have been the best starting pitcher in the NL, but Zack Grienke was the best starting pitcher in baseball based on FIP and WAR. I think these selected statisics, when compared to the standard set, bring home how much of a penalty Grienke paid for playing on a lousy Royals team. Verlander had a better year than I thought, as did Jon Lester; Sabathia, who is a good pitcher, and is pitching well in the post-season, wasn't as good as the rest of the guys on the list.

I will give a little more weight to pitchers who worked for teams finishing below .500. Felix Hernandez had a phenomenal year for Seattle. If Halladay had continued to pitch as well after 31 July as he did before the All-Star break, this would have been a much closer vote for first. So, based on these numbers, my vote for 2009 AL Cy Young are Grienke (1), Hernandez (2), Verlander (3), Halladay (4), Lester (5), Sabathia (6).

Discuss amongst yourselves. I look forward to your comments.

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