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SB Nation Awards: Cy Young

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The Cy Young may be considered among the most straightforward of all the awards. For MVP, there's no clear-cut definition of what "Most Valuable" means; for Rookie of the Year, there's debate over whether Japanese players should be considered, whether playing time is imporant and if it's future potential or current numbers that matter; and even for Manager of the Year, you can argue over how much it's an award for front-office work, in constructing a roster, and how much credit should be given to the man in the dugout. The Cy Young, however, is for the best pitcher: surely not much room for argument there.

Well... That might be the case in the American League this season, but in our league... Not so much. After the jump we'll see how the definition of "best" isn't so clear-cut as one might think.

Rk Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
1 Tim Lincecum San Francisco Giants 18 13 - 129
2 Chris Carpenter St. Louis Cardinals 9 4 7 64
3 Adam Wainwright St. Louis Cardinals 4 4 10 42
4 Javier Vazquez Atlanta Braves - 5 7 22
5 Dan Haren Arizona Diamondbacks - 3 4 13
6 Ubaldo Jimenez Colorado Rockies - 1 1 4
7 Cliff Lee Philadelphia Phillies - - 1 1
8 Jair Jurrjens Atlanta Braves - - 1 1

O RLY? I'm pretty surprised by the landslide in favor of Timmeh. CC - Carpenter, not Sabathia - was a clear victor in ERA+, and to me, that's easily the most important category. In the absence of any significant mitigating factors, stopping the opposition from scoring runs is what good pitching is all about, and Carpenter was the best in the National League at doing that. For your interest, I pulled the relevant statistics for each nominee out of Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index v2.0 [even more lovely than before: you can now pick columns and do all manner of cool stuff], and they're shown below. Well, except for Cliff Lee, who pitched less than eighty innings. Quite how this qualifies him for the Cy Young escapes me - but apparently, one voter felt otherwise...

Rk Player ERA+ W L IP H R ER BB SO ERA HR OPS
1 Chris Carpenter 185 17 4 192.2 156 49 48 38 144 2.24 7 .581
2 Tim Lincecum 173 15 7 225.1 168 69 62 68 261 2.48 10 .561
3 Jair Jurrjens 160 14 10 215.0 186 71 62 75 152 2.60 15 .660
4 Adam Wainwright 158 19 8 233.0 216 75 68 66 212 2.63 17 .646
8 Javier Vazquez 145 15 10 219.1 181 75 70 44 238 2.87 20 .612
10 Danny Haren 143 14 10 229.1 192 83 80 38 223 3.14 27 .635
14 Ubaldo Jimenez 130 15 12 218.0 183 87 84 85 198 3.47 13 .635

I voted Carpenter, Lincecum, Jurrjens - straight ERA+ - and while I expected a few voters to be bedazzled by the gaudy bauble of Lincecums strikeouts, as opposed to Carpenter's better ERA and WHIP, I didn't think the margin would be 2:1. Nor did I expect 35% of voters to ignore Carpenter entirely,. I'm wondering if perhaps the St. Louis vote was somewhat split between Carpenter and Wainwright, with the latter's league-leading total in wins and innings distracting voters from CC? Personally, when you get up beyond about 180 innings, I don't think you can use this as a yard-stick, as the number thrown begins to depend on things like managerial style, bullpen strength, and in any given NL start, when the pitcher's spot is due to bat.

I couldn't quite bring myself to vote for Haren. If the ballot had been held at the break, he'd have been my sure-fire choice for #1 - and he got jobbed for starting the All-Star game. But a 4.62 ERA in the second-half [and later performances are always weighted more heavily by voters] dropped him out of contention. Not, however, as low as Ubaldo Jimenez. Russ and Rox Girl of Purple Row have already 'fessed to having been the votes; I think we should charitably assume it's a result of them being so used to pitching mediocrity at Coors. Since 1993, 131 qualifying NL starters have had a bettter ERA+ than Jimenez this year. One played for Colorado (Joe Kennedy, 134 in 2004).

Over in the American League, it was almost a unanimous decision for Zack Greinke, with only one stubborn voter holding out for Roy Halladay. Can't argue with the choice there, because since the game became integrated, only three AL pitchers have had a better ERA+ than Greinke's 203: Martinez (1999, 2000, 2003), Clemens (1990, 1997) and Ron Guidre (1978). If I had a vote, I'd probably have put Halladay ahead of Verlander, due to his far superior ERA+ (157 vs. 132), but there's not really too much to argue with here.

Rk Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd Pts
1 Zack Greinke Kansas City Royals 28 1 - 143
2 Felix Hernandez Seattle Mariners - 17 6 57
3 Justin Verlander Detroit Tigers - 8 9 33
4 Roy Halladay Toronto Blue Jays 1 2 11 22
5 CC Sabathia New York Yankees - 1 2 5
6 Jon Lester Boston Red Sox - - 1 1

Finally, Baseball Prospectus unveiled their Internet Baseball Awards, which are an open ballot, in which anyone can vote. This leads to some results best described as "interesting": for example, I'd like to thank Mrs. Gutierrez for making her son Juan #1 on her NL Cy Young ballot. And all hail Miguel Montero, =90th for NL MVP! But perhaps the most amusing numbers can be found at the bottom of the Manager of the Year ballot, where someone voted Bob Melvin as Manager of the Year. Boy, those 29 games must have really impressed someone. Diamondhacks, was that you? :-)