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NL Cy Young
2005-11-10 07:15
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

As went the American League Cy Young Award, so shall go the National League Cy Young. Last year's winner was clearly the best pitcher in the league, but won't win the award due to an unsatisfactory win total:


NameW-LSOERAERA+WHIPH/9HR/9K/9BB/9VORPRSAA
Roger Clemens13-81851.872211.016.430.477.882.6480.653
Andy Pettitte17-91712.391741.037.610.696.921.6672.443
Chris Carpenter21-52132.831511.057.600.677.931.9068.446
Dontrelle Willis22-101702.631531.138.110.426.472.0968.150
Pedro Martinez15-82082.821480.956.590.788.631.9566.132

There are two reasons that Roger Clemens not winning this award will be less troubling than Johan Santana not winning in the AL. The first is that, while both pitchers took home the award in 2004, only Santana deserved it. Randy Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the National League in 2004, but, as we learned when discussing Santana's case this year, his 16 wins simply weren't enough. Instead the award went to the 18-4 Clemens, marking the second time this decade that Clemens had won a Cy Young award that should have gone to someone else (the other being the 2001 AL award, which Clemens won with a 20-3 record despite being clearly inferior to the 17-11 Mike Mussina). As a result, I won't cry any tears over the fact that the Rocket won't win his eighth Cy Young when he should only be winning his sixth.

What also makes Clemens not winning this award easier to take than Santana not winning in the AL is that the NL race is much tighter. Eliminating Clemens from the discussion, a solid case could be made for any of the remaining four pitchers on the chart above. Pettitte is second in ERA, ERA+ and VORP and leads in BB/9. Pedro Martinez leads in WHIP and K/9. Carpenter leads in strikeouts and is second to Pedro and Pettitte respectively in K/9 and BB/9. Willis leads in wins and HR/9 and is a surprisingly close second in RSAA, he also lead the majors with five shutouts and seven complete games.

Of course, wins are a team-dependent stat, and Willis's HR/9 is a result of pitching in an extreme pitchers park. His RSAA is attractive, but he's worst on this list in loses, Ks, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. Martinez, meanwhile, is worst in ERA+ (again due to pitching in a pitchers park), HR/9, VORP and RSAA.

Eliminating those two boils it down to Carpenter and Pettitte. Of the two, Pettitte has the better VORP, Carpenter the better RSAA. Their WHIPs, H/9, HR/9, and K/BB (4.17 and 4.18) are all nearly identical. Pettitte has a clear lead in ERA and ERA+, but Carpenter has the more attractive record and the even more eye-pleasing triple crown stats that all start with 2s (20 wins, 200 Ks, sub-3.00 ERA). Carpenter also tied Willis with 7 shutouts and finished one behind Dontrelle with four shutouts. The temptation is to favor Pettitte because he pitches his home games in an extreme hitters park, but shockingly the Juice Box played as a slight pitchers park this year (park factor of 98 to a 101 for Busch in its final season). With that in mind, it's really a coin flip as to who the second best pitcher in the National League was this year. I'm fairly certain the writers will choose Carpenter. If so, I won't complain.

Comments
2005-11-10 10:46:06
1.   YankeeInMichigan
You imply that, in the AL, their was a clear #2. You probably mean Buehrle. But although Buehrle's RSAA pulls him away from the pack, most other Sabermetric and traditional stats (including VORP) put Buehrle in a pretty tight bunch with Colon and several others.
2005-11-10 10:56:58
2.   Alex Belth
Checking in with just five minutes before the winner is announced, I'm going to say that voters will give it to Dontrelle (though Cliff is probably right that Carpenter will win it). Dayn Perry thinks Andy Pettitte should be the winner;

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/5062700

2005-11-10 11:03:01
3.   Cliff Corcoran
YanksinMI, where do I imply that? That certainly was not my intent. In the AL there was Santana and everyone else. And Rivera would have been my #2 choice.
2005-11-10 11:34:13
4.   Alex Belth
Carpenter got it. D-Train second, Rocket a distance third.
2005-11-10 13:18:18
5.   Cliff Corcoran
Pettitte got a single third place vote. Wow. And Willis came darn close to winning it. This was easily the closest ballot yet.
2005-11-10 14:10:42
6.   strangeluck
Cliff, I think your comparison is missing an important stat which does lessen the argument for Clemens somewhat; innings pitched. Whether or not the extra innings pitched by Carpenter(30.1), Willis(25) or Pettitte(11), are enough to make up for the difference in rate stats is debatable, but it certainly ought to be mentioned.

Also, VORP probably isn't the best idea here, as it does include a player's batting performance, and I've always believed that the Cy Young should go to the best pitcher, not the best player. Taking out the hitting component and using PRAR might be a better idea, which makes the four look like this:

Willis - 108
Pettitte - 96
Clemens - 94
Carpenter - 89

Still looks like the wrong guy got the award, but now it looks like the right one isn't someone who can go home and surround himself with seven Cy Youngs for comfort.

2005-11-10 14:21:13
7.   Cliff Corcoran
Strangeluck, I'm hesitant to correct for small variations in playing time. I'm not going to penalize a guy for missing a start or two with a sore hamstring or because his team has a strong bullpen or a manager with a particularly quick hook.

As for an offense-independent pitching stat, that's why in put RSAA in the chart. Curious that that and PRAR differ so much. I must admit I have yet to really settle on a favorite advanced pitching stat. In many cases I resist some of the Baseball Prospectus stats because they have such unhelpful names. Runs Saved makes more sense than Pitching Runs. What the hell is a pitching run? Sigh. My dirty little secret: ultimately I'm more writer than number cruncher.

2005-11-10 15:29:43
8.   strangeluck
Its a fair point about the small variations (though 25 innings is three or four games), and I can respect that you don't like to penalize a guy for that, especially regarding the bullpen. Personally, I don't see it as a penalty for Clemens' minor ailments, but as a bonus for Willis' durability, but I've always been a sucker for workhorses.

Regarding the difference between RSAA and PRAR, there are three factors. First, there's the difference between an average pitcher whose 2005 RA would be 4.57, and a replacement level one, whose 2005 RA would (assuming I'm reading BP's definition right) be 6.21. There is a pitching runs above average stat at BP, in which Clemens holds a slight advantage over Willis, with Pettite not far behind and Carpenter falling even farther back (42, 40, 37 and 27 respectively).

Second comes the difference between runs saved and pitching runs, which is that the latter is BP's attempt at being defense-independent. They also have a runs above average stat, where Clemens retains his lead, and Pettite keeps pace while Willis falls behind to be slightly better than Carpenter (45, 42, 34, and 33, respectively).

Finally, the difference between RSAA and RAA is that BP's stat is win adjusted, which is a complicated adjustment that includes park and league factors, strength of opposition, and some fancy stuff involving running through the pythagorean formula forwards and backwards (I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of that last bit is).

Like you, though, I've always been a little resistant of BP's stats, though less because of the obscurity of the names and more because I'm always skeptical when I can't see the process behind something. That said, I suppose my point was just that if you're going to use a replacement level stat (or, for that matter, a BP stat), then PRAR would be a better choice.

2005-11-11 18:27:02
9.   Rich Lederer
I won't cry any tears over the fact that the Rocket won't win his eighth Cy Young when he should only be winning his sixth.

Hold on here, Cliff. I agree that Clemens didn't deserve the hardware in 2001 and 2004, but he definitely got hosed in 1990 and a strong case could be made for him winning in 1992, too. As such, I think he has the right number of Cy Youngs on his trophy mantle.

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