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My ballot: American League Cy Young

Nov 17, 2009, 11:45 AM EDT

Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for AL Cy Young, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Zack Greinke, Kansas City
2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle
3. Roy Halladay, Toronto
4. Justin Verlander, Detroit
5. CC Sabathia, New York
Zack Greinke was the best pitcher in the American League this season, but because some people misguidedly still focus on win-loss records to evaluate such things you can blame his Royals teammates when it’s not a unanimous vote.
Greinke’s league-leading 2.16 ERA is the AL’s lowest since Pedro Martinez in 2000, and over the past 20 years only Martinez and Roger Clemens have a better mark. Greinke also ranked among the league’s top three in opponents’ batting average, OPS against, strikeouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, complete games, and shutouts while throwing 229 innings, so the fact that he was “only” 16-8 with little offensive, defensive, or bullpen support from a team that was 49-89 when he didn’t get the decision is hardly important.
Consider that in his losses and no-decisions Greinke went 0-8 in 17 starts despite posting a 3.34 ERA that would have ranked fourth in the league ahead of CC Sabathia at 3.37 and Justin Verlander at 3.45. He lost twice when giving up one run and got stuck with no-decisions six times when he allowed two or fewer runs, including once when he tossed seven shutout innings. Give him better teammates and Greinke wins 20 games, but that doesn’t change how well he pitched.
In many seasons Felix Hernandez’s performance would have been worthy of the award, because 239 innings of a 2.49 ERA is damn impressive. However, he allowed 17 more runs than Greinke in just nine more innings, and also benefited from a vastly superior defense and pitcher-friendly ballpark. Roy Halladay also had a Cy Young-caliber season with a 2.79 ERA in 239 innings, and then there’s a pretty clear gap between the Greinke-Hernandez-Halladay trio and the next tier that includes Verlander and Sabathia.
Or at least there should be. In terms of runs saved compared to a replacement-level pitcher–that is, the caliber of arms readily available at Triple-A–Greinke was worth 88 runs, followed by Hernandez at 75 and Halladay at 74. Verlander was fourth at 61, with Sabathia and Jon Lester tied for fifth at 55. When the actual ballots are revealed later today there’s no doubt that Verlander and Sabathia will claim plenty of top-three votes, but that has far more to do with their 19 wins than their actual pitching.

  1. Old Gator - Nov 17, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Well, as long as we’re trying to expel the element of human folly from the voting procedure in spite of what Mark Twain has already warned you about statistics, I think all the major awards, as well as the league status, should be based on an English Premiership football type scale. Any team that spends less than a set amount in payroll in any given season or loses 100 games or more should drop into Triple-A ball competition exclusively and its players should be eligible solely for minor league awards. What’s the point of rewarding cheapskate owners by calling attention to and publicizing their players when they’re only stuffing money in their pockets instead of investing it in the team? >Phooey!

  2. EvilEmpirE2009 - Nov 17, 2009 at 1:32 PM


  3. dl3 - Nov 17, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    Grienke took it ( by a landslide…good for him and for the writers overlooking his record.

  4. Bill@TDS - Nov 17, 2009 at 2:26 PM

    Why Almost Everyone Hates the Yankees (and You Should, Too!), Ex. A

  5. Alan - Nov 17, 2009 at 6:53 PM

    Not almost everyone, we love the Yankees here and we live in California. I’m also glad God made me a Yankee fan. There are more Yankee fans here than you can imagine. Evilempire2009 is correct, the only award that counts is winning the World Series. Who really cares about the Cy Young award? What does it really mean?

  6. Old Gator - Nov 17, 2009 at 9:43 PM

    This is bringing back memories that haven’t happened yet, or something like that. You may not be old enough to remember the days when the Borg used the Kansas City A’s like their AAA+ farm team. The Cy Young Award is useful in that it helps Cashman and the Steinbrenners take note of promising pitchers who can be made Borg in the future. If Greinke keeps it up, he will eventually be wearing pinstripes as surely as Sarah Palin will be out slumming with Paris Hilton next week.

  7. Dusti Flavell - Feb 3, 2010 at 5:38 AM

    Hello there, great post, I really enjoyed reading it. This blog gave me the momentum to attempt my own blog, please check out my post by clicking my name at the top of this article, cheers

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