Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Internet Baseball Awards: Cy Young

Last year, neither pitcher who I chose for the Cy Young won the actual award. In the NL, Chris Carpenter won, while I favored Roger Clemens (although certainly Carpenter had a strong case). In the AL, Bartolo Colon won the Cy on the strength of his wins, while Johan Santana was again the AL’s top starter.

And now the AL mistake grows in magnitude, because Santana should now be polishing his third trophy. There is little doubt that he will win all polls this year, as he won the pitching triple crown. Had Roy Halladay not been felled in September by an injury, he actually would have given him a run for his money. Santana pitched 233 innings with a 3.05 RA (+82 RAR); Halladay 220 with a 3.26 (+72). The peripherals all favor Santana, but Halladay was once again outstanding as well.

Beyond them, it gets a little murky. The next three pitchers on the RAR leaderboard are Chien-Ming Wang (+57), Curt Schilling (+53), and Barry Zito (+53). All of them have shortcomings in the peripheral measures; Wang’s GRA is 4.64, Schilling’s eRA is 4.62 with a 4.04 GRA, and Zito’s eRA is 4.76. Wang fares decently in eRA (4.07)--his poor showing in GRA is likely due to his groundball tendencies. eRA as I am figuring it now incorporates actual doubles and triples allowed, while GRA assumes that balls in play will become hits at an average rate and the type of hit will be average as well. Likely due in large part to his groundball ability, Wang gave up the third-lowest Isolated Power on balls in play in the AL. Schilling managed to be “run lucky” but also “hit unlucky”, allowing a .327 %H, and thus I see his performance as a washout and revert to the run-based measure.

After them is Francisco Liriano (+53), brilliant in a brief campaign. After them is John Lackey and the previously discussed rookies Weaver and Verlander.

I have to whittle the ballot down to five; and I have not mentioned the two relievers who had dominant seasons, BJ Ryan and Jonathon Papelbon. Giving each of them a little extra credit for high leverage justifies moving them past the second tier of starters, and into third and fourth on the ballot. Which spot for each though? Ryan worked more games (65 to 59) and more innings (72 to 68). Papelbon leads in RA and ERA (.91 to 1.33 in ERA and a similar margin in RA). They are very similar in terms of inherited runners per game (.45 for Ryan, .41 for Papelbon). Both were very effective at keeping them from scoring, although more so for Ryan, bringing his RRA to .41 versus .52 for Papelbon. Ryan leads in eRA (1.29 to 1.52) and they are in a dead heat in GRA. I give the edge, ever so slightly, to Ryan. And so my AL Cy ballot falls into place:

AL Cy Young
1) Johan Santana, MIN
2) Roy Halladay, TOR
3) BJ Ryan, TOR
4) Jonathon Papelbon, BOS
5) Chien-Ming Wang, NYA

In the National League, a popular pick among the traditional punditry seems to be Trevor Hoffman. I’ll have some of what they’re having. Hoffman got a lot of (well-deserved) attention for breaking the saves record; he truly is one of the best relievers of all-time. But his 2006 season was hardly Cy worthy, even in rudimentary measures like saves; 46 saves in 51 chances is great, but not historic by any means. Hoffman benefited from a .247 %H, and worked only 63 innings. +25 RAR is nothing compared to the +47 put up by Cy-discussion worthy BJ Ryan in the AL.

In fact, no NL reliever had a good enough campaign to crack by ballot. Takashi Saito was the most impressive (+31 RAR, 2.02 eRA), but giving him as much of a leverage bonus as Ryan or Papelbon is tough to do when he was not the closer for the entire season (he has around a 1.5 LI according to Fangraphs, while Ryan is near 1.7 and Papelbon 1.9).

So it comes down to the starters, not the most impressive crop either. The three I’ll look at for the honor are Roy Oswalt, Chris Carpenter, and Brandon Webb. Carpenter, the defending winner, had another fine season (221 IP, 3.33 RA, 3.38 eRA, +64 RAR). Webb bested him across the board, although not by large margins (235, 3.29, 3.20, +70). Oswalt matched Webb in RAR while pitching 220 innings, but his 3.92 eRA is significantly higher then the other two pitchers.

Looking at wins and losses, they are almost identical; Oswalt and Carpenter 15-8, Webb 16-8. Run support? You guessed it, they’re a match; Oswalt 5.22, Webb and Carpenter 5.40. However, bringing park adjustments into play (Arizona is a strong hitter’s park at 106, HOU moderate at 101, St. Louis 99), Webb’s win-loss mark is 5.8 wins better then a replacement versus 5.1 for Oswalt and 4.5 for Carpenter.

The three are close enough that you can reasonably argue for all of them, but I will go with Webb, who is tied with Oswalt in RAR while besting him in peripherals and posting the best W-L mark. After them, the surprising (and over his head) Bronson Arroyo and John Smoltz round out my ballot. Roger Clemens might be in the mix had he pitched a full or close to it season--he was +41 RAR in 113 innings with a brilliant 2.68 RA and 2.83 eRA.

NL Cy Young
1) Brandon Webb, ARI
2) Chris Carptenter, STL
3) Roy Oswalt, HOU
4) Bronson Arroyo, CIN
5) John Smoltz, ATL

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