Monday, November 08, 2010

IBA Ballot: Cy Young

For the Cy Young award, I generally do not consider hitting, although this is more sheer laziness than any strongly held belief that non-pitching aspects of the game shouldn't count towards the Cy. For the majority of pitchers it doesn't really matter (and fielding is at least included in Run Average, even if jumbled up with the other eight guys' glove work).

My suspicion is that the AL Cy will be the award for which my choices most differ from the sabermetric consensus, as I don't make DIPS metrics a primary consideration. My #1 choice is not one of those differences, though. I'll get into the other candidates a bit below, but assume for the sake of argument that the top two candidates are Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia. Hernandez bests Sabathia in every single category I list on my pitcher report, albeit not always by significant margins:

* Hernandez pitched more innings (249.2 to 237.2)
* Hernandez had a lower ERA (2.34 to 3.12) and a lower RRA (2.96 to 3.39)
* switching to the more traditional RA estimators, Hernandez had a lower eRA (2.97 to 3.48) and a lower dRA (3.50 to 3.82)
* using batted ball inputs, Hernandez had a lower cRA (3.56 to 3.61) and a lower sRA (3.36 to 3.91)
* Hernandez also had a higher percentage of quality starts, which considering it's quality starts and doesn't include a park adjustment isn't something I'd stress, but he leads Sabathia 85% to 76%.
* So of course Hernandez has the margin in RAA (41 to 28) and RAR (76 to 61)

After Felix, it gets a little less clear--Sabathia leads a pack of five pitchers (Jered Weaver, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Justin Verlander) separated by just five RAR, with two other pitchers cited as candidates (Cliff Lee and Jon Lester) within another five runs of them. Since a lot of saber-minded people consider similar metrics, I added a dRAR column, based on dRA (my BsR application of DIPS). It requires a new innings pitched figure, dIP, which can be figured as (1 - e%H - %W - %HR)*PA/2.84 (see this post for an explanation of the inputs):



I'm sure you'll see a lot of sabermetric ballots that list Felix #1, but then turn to Lee and Liriano due to their strong showing in the DIPS metrics. For me, they are a secondary consideration, enough to move a pitcher ahead of one a few RAR better, but not enough to turn the ballot upside down. Actual runs allowed contain many biases, but they also carry real and important data (at least from a retrospective value perspective) about sequencing (in addition to the more muffled signals about BABIP). It is also worth noting that when batted ball data is considered (another potential minefield, certainly), a pitcher might give back the advantage dRA indicates (Verlander is the best example here, as his sRA (SIERA-style) is 4.09). Weighing all of the metrics very unscientifically, but giving preference to RAR based on actual runs allowed, this is how I see it:

1) Felix Hernandez, SEA
2) CC Sabathia, NYA
3) Jered Weaver, LAA
4) Cliff Lee, TEX
5) David Price, TB

In the National Leauge, I expect to see much more of a consensus as many of the top candidates have peripherals less impressive than their actual runs allowed rate. Unlike the AL in which pitchers like Lee and Liriano have much better DIPS numbers, in the NL a lot of the top starters move in the same direction. Roy Halladay dRA may be .84 runs higher than his RRA, but Adam Wainwright's is .72, Ubaldo Jimenez's .52, Tim Hudson's a whopping 1.87, Roy Oswalt's .84, Matt Cain's .87, Cole Hamels' .83...this allows us to sideline the ideological debates to a greater extent.

Roy Halladay is the obvious #1 choice, trailing only Josh Johnson in RRA while pitching twenty innings more than anyone else and 67 more innings than Johnson. Not that he should care, but this is actually the first time I've personally ranked Halladay as the top starter in his league. When he won the Cy in 2003, I favored Pedro Martinez or Tim Hudson. In 2005 he was on his way to another Cy Young when he was injured; pitching just 141 innings he still would have ranked second on my ballot. In 2006 he lost a few starts in September and was again second to Johan Santana by my reckoning (although unlike in 2005, Santana was still on pace to earn my vote without Halladay's injury). In 2008 he was second by a slim margin to Cliff Lee, a pitcher he'd eventually become inextricably linked to. In 2009 he had a season so good it would almost always win my vote, but Zack Greinke had to go and turn in the season of the decade.

None of that is to put down Halladay, or say that the 2003 award the BBWAA bestowed upon him was a poor choice (while I favored Pedro, Halladay was a thoroughly defensible choice as well). Rather, it should serve to illustrate how consistently good he's been, and how close he has come to winning three or four Cy Youngs.

After park adjustments, Wainwright and Jimenez are impossibly close--they have the same RA (2.74), nearly the same RRA (2.74 to 2.68), similar ERAs (2.50 to 2.67), the same QS% (76), the same RAA (41) and essentially the RAR (72 to 71). Jimenez looks a little better in the traditional peripheral RAs, while Wainwright looks better in the (not park-adjusted) batted ball RAs. Flip a coin, because you can't go wrong.

Tim Hudson actually has a below-average dRA thanks to a .249 BABIP, but his batted ball metrics look a little better and there's no obvious candidate to replace him. Josh Johnson had an outstanding year, but pitching forty innings less than his competitors consigns him to fifth place:

1) Roy Halladay, PHI
2) Adam Wainwright, STL
3) Ubaldo Jimenez, COL
4) Tim Hudson, ATL
5) Josh Johnson, FLA

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