Nov 19, 2009, 11:45 AM EDT
Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce their choice for NL Cy Young, but first here’s how my ballot would look:
1. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco
2. Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
3. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
4. Javier Vazquez, Atlanta
5. Dan Haren, Arizona
This is a tight race, so it’ll be an interesting test of whether the BBWAA has truly moved past focusing on win-loss records to evaluate pitchers or if they were merely willing to do so with Zack Greinke because he was so clearly the best guy in the AL.
Adam Wainwright led the NL with 19 wins and had a great year, posting a 2.63 ERA and 212/66 K/BB ratio in 233 innings. He also just wasn’t as good as Tim Lincecum, who had a 2.48 ERA and 261/68 K/BB ratio in 225 innings. Wainwright logged eight more innings than Lincecum, but allowed six more runs with 20 percent fewer strikeouts and the same number of walks, and his opponents’ batting average was 40 points worse. We’ll see how many voters focus on that rather than Lincecum’s modest 15 wins.
And then there’s Chris Carpenter, who led the league with a 2.24 ERA and ranked second to Wainwright with 17 wins. At first glance that would make him the favorite, but it’s important to note that Carpenter logged only 193 innings to rank 26th in the NL. Is the difference between his 2.24 ERA and Lincecum’s 2.48 ERA bigger than the difference between his 193 innings and Lincecum’s 225 innings? Or put another way, if Carpenter tossed 32.2 more innings with a 3.85 ERA he’d match Lincecum in innings and ERA.
Certainly a 3.85 ERA in 32.2 innings isn’t dominant pitching, but it does have value and that gap between Lincecum and Carpenter makes it worth examining workloads along with ERAs. Lincecum was second-best in the NL at preventing runs with an ERA that’s 10 percent higher than Carpenter’s, but he threw 20 percent more innings. He also led the NL in Zack Greinke’s new favorite stat, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and saved slightly more runs than Carpenter compared to a replacement-level pitcher.
This is a very tight race and my guess is that Carpenter will win the award because of his lower ERA, higher win total, and a dramatic comeback from arm injuries making for a much better story, but Lincecum is the reigning Cy Young winner and was actually better than last season even if his win total kept many people from realizing it. He gets my nod for the best pitcher in the league, just barely over Carpenter, because of a higher workload and more dominance with similar overall run prevention.
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