Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IBA Ballot: Cy Young

Disclaimer: Presented below is my ballot (and some justification) for one of the categories in the Internet Baseball Awards hosted at Baseball Prospectus. I’m just one person, and the whole point of having a vote like the IBA is to get a wide variety of (intelligent) perspectives, and so I will not feel in the list bit slighted if you don’t give a flip about this. You've been warned. Also, the RAA and RAR figures that will be cited are my own estimates, detailed here. Any Leverage Index, WPA, or UZR figures cited are from FanGraphs; any quality of opposition or baserunning figures are from Baseball Prospectus.

In the American League, the top spot is a no-brainer. Zack Greinke was just eleven innings off the league lead (ranking sixth) and lead the AL in RA, ERA, eRA, dRA, RAA, and RAR. His +91 RAR was the highest for any pitcher season since 2001.

Behind him, the race for second is close as both Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez had tremendous seasons that are hard to tell apart at first glance--their RAs differ by just .03 with a 1/3 inning difference. Hernandez had a lower ERA and eRA, but their dRAs were just about equal. The deciding factor for me is Halladay's slightly higher quality of opposition--5.1 to 4.9 in RG, a difference of around 4 runs over a full season. You can't go wrong choosing between these two.

Justin Verlander is a fairly clear #4 for me, leaving two rival lefties to duke it out for fifth--Jon Lester and CC Sabathia. I went with Lester, but that's another race that is too close to call. Sabathia has the innings edge, but Lester has a lower RA and the peripherals are split (Lester had a better eRA, Sabathia a better dRA):

1) Zack Greinke, KC
2) Roy Halladay, TOR
3) Felix Hernandez, SEA
4) Justin Verlander, DET
5) Jon Lester, BOS

In the National League, it's the race for the top that's too close to call. Either Tim Lincecum or Chris Carpenter would be very deserving should they win. Carpenter had a lower RA, but Lincecum pitched a lot more. The net difference between the two is an extra 18 runs in 32 innings (a RA of 5.06). That level of performance is close enough to replacement level that Lincecum's RAR lead is just two, which is by no means conclusive.

Their eRAs are about equal; Lincecum has a clear advantage in dRA. Carpenter has the better win-loss record, which I mention although I put no stock in it. They are about equal in quality start percentage. Quality of opposition is no help, as Lincecum's opponents combined for a 4.5 RG and Carpenter's 4.4. With so little to separate them, I stick with the RAR order, but this is certainly a race that could go either way--just like Lincecum v. Santana, 2008.

Adam Wainwright and Dan Haren take positions 3 and 4, while I went with Javier Vazquez and his superior peripherals over teammate Jair Jurrjens and Matt Cain, as all of them are separated by just 2 RAR. But no one really cares about fifth-place on an IBA Cy Young ballot:

1) Tim Lincecum, SF
2) Chris Carpenter, STL
3) Adam Wainwright, STL
4) Dan Haren, ARI
5) Javier Vazquez, ATL


  1. It's your blog and your vote, so you obviously can vote for whomever you want, regardless of opinion.

    But without Carpenter, the Cardinals don't make the playoffs.

    With Lincecum, the Giants weren't even close.

    Doesn't winning (not wins) count for anything?

    Just curious. Because getting into the postseason is usually the objective of the season.

  2. Ron, my philosophy on individual awards is that they should be based on individual performance and not the quality of teammates. Other people use different standards which is fine by me, and in this case, since the two are so close, I could certainly understand if one chose Carpenter due to the Cards' success.

    Incidentally, while my viewpoint is probably a minority one when applied to MVP voting, I believe it is the conventional take on the Cy Young. Rarely, even in mainstream media analysis of the candidates, is team performance referenced in Cy Young debates (outside of W-L record, which of course indirectly pulls team quality into the discussion). Lincecum won last year despite the Giants being even less of a player in the race than they were in '09, and Greinke will win in the AL this year, Cliff Lee won in the AL for a .500 team last year, etc.


I reserve the right to reject any comment for any reason.