Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
AL Cy Young
2005-11-08 07:22
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

The Baseball Writers Association of America is off to a solid start this awards season, having chosen Hudson Street and Ryan Howard, two deserving candidates, as the Rookie of the Year in the AL and NL respectively. Of course, one need look no further than the second place finishers to see that those selections are not necessarily evidence of sound objective analysis throughout the BBWAA. Today, the American League Cy Young Award will be announced. So, before our ink and paper friends give us something to complain about, let's take a good look at the candidates.

Looking at the traditional "triple crown" statistics (wins, strikeouts, ERA), as many writers are sure to do, there is no clear favorite in the American League. The league's only 20-game winner, Bartolo Colon (21-8) struck out just 157 and posted a less-than-exciting 3.48 ERA. ERA leader Kevin Millwood (2.86) actually posted a losing record (9-11) for the 93-69 Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, strikeout leader Johan Santana won a "mere" 16 games.

Santana's win total is significant because no starting pitcher has ever won a Cy Young Award in a non-strike year with fewer than 17 wins, and only Randy Johnson in 1999 and Pedro Martinez in 1997, both in the NL, ever won the award with as few as 17 wins. In those two cases, Martinez struck out more than 300 with an ERA below 2.00, while Johnson struck out 364 men, 126 more than Santana did this year (238), with an ERA almost a half-run better than Santana's 2.87.

History aside, Santana, who won the award last year with a 20-6 record, was once again easily the best pitcher in the American League in 2005. Here's a look at Santana and his five closest competitors:

Johan Santana16-72382.871530.976.990.859.251.7573.039
Bartolo Colon21-81573.481201.168.691.056.351.7451.117
Jon Garland18-101153.501271.178.631.064.681.9150.126
Mark Buehrle16-81493.631431.189.130.765.671.5254.236
Kevin Millwood9-111462.861431.228.530.946.842.4452.326
John Lackey14-51993.441221.338.960.567.042.8850.313

Perhaps the saddest thing about this year's AL Cy Young race is not that the most deserving pitcher might not win it because his team's league-worst offense couldn't scratch out two more wins for him, but that the one pitcher who might have actually deserved to win the award over Santana, Roy Halladay, had his leg broken by a line drive just before the All-Star Game and didn't pitch at all in the second half.

Here's a look at Santana and Halladay together:

Johan Santana16-72382.871530.976.990.859.251.7573.03933231.21.182.21
Roy Halladay12-41082.411840.967.500.706.861.1452.73219141.21.682.77

If the writers do indeed refuse to give the award to the 16-win Santana, they just might decide to bestow the award upon a reliever. It's generally true that a secondary requirement for relief pitchers to win the Cy Young (the first, of course, is having an outstanding season), is a year in which there is no clear choice for the award among the starting pitchers. Ignoring for the moment the fact that Santana actually is a clear choice, the relief candidates are easily boiled down to two, future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and 2005 AL Rookie of the Year Huston Street:

Mariano Rivera7-4431.383230.875.740.239.192.0732.32778.1
Huston Street5-1231.722611.016.090.348.272.9933.32478.1

Aside from Street's slight lead in VORP, Rivera pretty much wipes the floor with the rookie. But, given the gaps in innings and thus VORP and RSAA, Santana is still the clear choice over Rivera:

Johan Santana16-72382.871530.976.990.859.251.7573.039231.2
Mariano Rivera7-4431.383230.875.740.239.192.0732.32778.1

Some writers might choose to place Mo first on their ballots by the logic that the selection would serve as some sort of lifetime achievement award for Rivera. This, of course, perverts the purpose of the award, but I can't honestly say that, as a fan of both Rivera and the Yankees, it would upset me very much to see Rivera win. After all, these awards are ultimately meaningless, arbitrary and, though they need not be, extremely subjective. Still, if the writers do the right thing, they'll choose Santana.

* * *

Update: Colon wins, Mo finishes second, Santana third. Clearly it's still all about wins. Cliff Lee, who went 18-5, but didn't have sufficient peripheral or advanced stats to even warrant a mention in the above post finished fourth. Sigh.

For what it's worth, here's Lee's line:

Cliff Lee18-51433.791081.228.640.986.372.3239.8RSAA

He was followed by Buehrle, Garland and Millwood.

2005-11-08 08:00:01
1.   Rich
Partially out of sentiment, but gotta go with Mo. He probably only has a season or two left at which he will remain at a high level. In close races like this one, past performance is a justifiable tie breaker.
2005-11-08 08:27:11
2.   Upperdeck
In over 20 years of watching baseball Mo is without a doubt my favorite player ever. That said, I get the feeling sentiment is building to pull an Oscar awards type move where writers realize they've never given this guy an award, so let's just give him one now. Even though he may not deserve it.
2005-11-08 08:31:39
3.   KJC
"In close races like this one, past performance is a justifiable tie breaker."

That's weak: in that case, do we bring Santana's 2004 stats into this? Mo's gonna be in the Hall of Fame -- that's his lifetime achievement award, not the '05 Cy.

2005-11-08 08:49:43
4.   susan mullen
I believe MSNBC reported that MLB has already
flown Colon in for the ceremony. Wouldn't that
say it's a done deal? Second, if this award
could be given just on certain numbers, why
isn't it done by computer? Why have people vote? Other late inning relievers have won the
award. And, unless you do some extra work, you
won't see that the player's manager can slide
in some extra wins for him. That's never been
the case with Rivera---he's been used to death
when they had to win. Wickman was only used for
1 inning or not at all in some of the late
crucial games by the Indians. Why? Because
they were afraid to use him. Mo has been used
for 3 consecutive innings even in sudden
death elimination post season games. To see
Huston Street compared to Mariano is quite
funny, and the kind of thing that gives stat
geeks a bad name.You don't have to make it
lifetime achievement, but unless voters are
allowed to consider Mariano's 11 consecutive
years and all the post season work (see all
the closers that everyone raved about who
fell apart in this post season), this award
should be done by computer. I will write to
MLB and suggest that.
2005-11-08 09:15:07
5.   Shaun P
Without looking his previous years up, my impression is that '05 could be considered the best year Mo has ever had as a closer. Maybe its not, but I bet that many of the voters are thinking the same thing (and may not check either). Combine that impression with a dose of "he should get one of these before he retires" sentiment, and Mo may win it.

I'd love to see that happen, but as Cliff points out, objectively, Santana 'deserves' the award. IMHO, though, the stats indicate that Mo rates a second-place finish. Mo was just that dominant.

If Colon has won it, that's a travesty. I'd rate Buehrle ahead of him as well.

Susan, I don't think a computer should select the award based on stats, and I doubt Cliff does either. I agree that the voters should take usage patterns and so forth into account. But I doubt that any of them do, at least based on an actual record of those patterns as opposed to what they remember happening.

2005-11-08 09:36:10
6.   Alex Belth
And the winner is...
2005-11-08 09:40:14
7.   jedi
Just wondering if the CY Young award is also based upon how their performances this year affected their team overall performance? Or is it just stat related?

Mo' would be a clear cut favorite for basically carrying the Yankee rotation and bullpen wouldn't it?

2005-11-08 09:56:14
8.   YankeeInMichigan
We can rant about the overemphasis of wins (and win-loss percentage -- see Clemens 2001) in Cy Young voting all we want, but this injustice will prevail. Fortunately, things tend to balance out. Clemens "stole" his trophies in 2001 and 2004 by means of extraordinary run support, but this year, the Rocket will the one to be robbed.

Speaking of awards, kudos to The Sporting News for naming Mark Shapiro as Executive of the Year. Shapiro showed the world that preemptive rebuilding can work, and he his the father of the modern "fire sale" (note that, unlike other fire sales such as Charles Finley's 1975 closeout, Shapiro's sale was not an act of "bailing" but rather the implementation of a carefully planned rebuilding strategy).

Shapiro is successfully implementing the "inside out" approach to team building, where a ballclub cultivates a core of young two-way players at the up-the-middle positions (Martinez, Belliard, Peralta, Sizemore) and then plugs in replaceable pieces at the corners. This approach has been previously used by the Tigers of the eightees (Parrish, Witaker, Trammel, Lemon) and the Yankees of the ninetees (Posada, Knoblauch/Soriano, Jeter, Williams). According to Steve Goldman, there are no other examples, so Shapiro is joining elite company.

2005-11-08 11:09:31
9.   yankee23
well hey, at least Mo didn't finish third this time, huh?
2005-11-09 19:58:56
10.   Stormer Sports
ERA of 3.48.

Clearly it is all about the W, not the O, or the E, or the SO, or the.... may sue the BBWAA for Trademark.

If not Mariano Rivera, either Santana or Millwood would have made better choices, well, if effective pitching has anything at all to do with the award.

2005-11-09 20:05:30
11.   Stormer Sports

You didn't push it far enough. Every pitcher on the White Sox staff was better than Colon!

1. M Buehrle
CWS 16 8 3.12 33 33 3 1 0 0 236.2 240 99 82 20 4 40 149
2. F Garcia
CWS 14 8 3.87 33 33 2 0 0 0 228.0 225 102 98 26 3 60 146
3. J Garland
CWS 18 10 3.50 32 32 3 3 0 0 221.0 212 93 86 26 7 47 115
4. J Contreras
CWS 15 7 3.61 32 32 1 0 0 0 204.2 177 91 82 23 9 75 154

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