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Busting the "he just knows how to win" myth for CC Sabathia

Sep 7, 2010, 4:47 PM EDT

Last season’s Cy Young voting was a major step in the right direction when it comes to no longer judging starting pitchers on wins and losses, but Felix Hernandez still seems likely to lose votes this year because the Mariners’ pathetic offense has left him with an 11-10 record despite a 2.30 ERA and league-leading 219.1 innings.
Several prominent columnists and reporters have already started making noise about CC Sabathia having an edge over Hernandez due to his 19-5 record, but Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times provides a thorough analysis of why the notion of Sabathia “knowing how to win” is all kinds of wrong.
Hernandez has a 2.30 ERA in 219 innings. Sabathia has a 3.02 ERA in 203 innings. If you’re making an argument that Sabathia is deserving of the Cy Young award at this point … well, you’re doing something other than picking the best pitcher. Check out Baker’s article for more on why that’s the case.

  1. andrewlw - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:00 PM

    Everyone who has a vote should have to read that analysis.

  2. Largebill - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    Part of “knowing how to win” has to include recognizing that NYY will spend more than almost any two other teams. So by signing with the stink’n Yankees Sabathia demonstrated that he he “knows how to win.”

  3. Maxa - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    That was even easier than I thought it would be.

  4. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    Or even just looking at peripherals:
    Pitcher A: 3.02 ERA 191IP, 8.5 H/9, 0.7 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 7.0 K/9, 2.71 K/BB
    Pitcher B: 3.02 ERA 202IP, 7.9 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 2.9 BB/9, 7.3 K/9, 2.54 K/BB
    Pitcher A: 10-7
    Pitcher B: 19-5
    Pitcher A is Brett Myers, Pitcher B is CC. Would love for CC to get another Cy (this time as a Yank), but King Felix deserves it hands down.

  5. geoknows - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    I agree 100%…unfortunately, I’m afraid that the voters aren’t going to buy on Felix this year the way they did with Greinke and Lincecum. CC’s going to win 20 for sure and Felix will be lucky to have 12 or 13. I think that’s going to wind up being too large a chasm to overcome.

  6. AdamK - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM

    amen brother. and add to Baker’s Cy Young credentials: FIP, xFIP and K/9

  7. IdahoMariner - Sep 7, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    here’s an even better\, and more clear, analysis:
    http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/09/07/1812069/the-real-deal-on-the-al-cy-young.html

  8. quint - Sep 7, 2010 at 6:09 PM

    thats the only arguement for ‘knowing how to win’ – either that in signing to play in the NL.

  9. Maxa - Sep 7, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    I think that what’s noteworthy about this analysis is that it uses the very metric which Sabathia-supporters are leaning on (that is, wins) against them. That’s not to say that Baker’s argument is circular–it isn’t. But Baker manages to show that even if you do take wins to be the end-all, Sabathia still hasn’t been better than Felix. I haven’t read enough of Baker’s columns to know if he’s saber-friendly, but in any case it surely helps from a rhetorical standpoint that he doesn’t rely on any more sophisticated metrics.

  10. Proudly Canadian - Sep 7, 2010 at 7:51 PM

    A very interesting analysis as far as it goes. I did not see any analysis of quality of opponents. As Sabathia pitches in the AL East, I have to assume that he has faced significantly tougher opponents than has Hernandez.

  11. adash7 - Sep 7, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    Read the Miami Herald article IdahoMariner pointed out. It addresses that issue and Felix still comes out on top.

  12. poet1958 - Sep 7, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    king felix [b]hasnt pitched in even one high pressure game[/b] this season
    that alone takes him out of the discussion

  13. Bobby - Sep 7, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    Are we not recognizing that CC pitches in the hardest division in all of sports?!!! Felix would probably be 6-13 with a 3.70 ERA pitching vs Tampa/BoSox/Toronto all the time. As we talk about this, my team, the Orioles are pounding CC. Simply put, I hate CC, but he deserves the Cy Young

  14. walk - Sep 7, 2010 at 9:53 PM

    Baseball is a team sport with a large number of individual awards. I can understand that hernandez might be a better pitcher right now than cc but if i had a vote i would find it hard to vote for a guy who was a couple losses from having a losing record. CC’s era is hurt by the dual sword that is the softball park in the bronx. He does get run support but he also gives up homeruns on balls that hernandez gets easy outs on. I am undecided who i would vote for if i had a vote but im really leaning towards cc. I am sorry folks i am agreeing if i had to pick i would take hernandez to build around but i can overlook the wins that cc’s team has helped him get. Cc’s team backed him up more than king felix and in this instance i guess im going to accept that im stuck on old school wins over quality of felix’s starts.

  15. Professor Dave - Sep 7, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    Also he’s not the clutchiest clutch clutcher in clutchy clutchlike clutch games. Sabathia is clutchier than the clutchiest clutch clutcher ever!
    Oh, wait, that’s nonsense. Just like Poet1958′s post.

  16. Professor Dave - Sep 7, 2010 at 10:01 PM

    For you, not so much with the thinking. It’ll only hurt the ball club.
    Bronx as HR park is highly over-rated, especially for a LH pitcher.

  17. Professor Dave - Sep 7, 2010 at 10:21 PM

    It’s more than balanced out by the execrable nature of the Seattle offense.

  18. Brian S. - Sep 7, 2010 at 10:27 PM

    In 2009, Jason Marquis won 15 games yet his ERA was 4.04, gave up better than a hit per IP (for a WHIP of 1.38) and a paltry 1.4 K/BB rate. But, since he won 15 games, he’s a better pitcher than someone who didn’t win as many but had far better peripherals?
    Your insistence that you are stuck on wins instead of clearly better pitching numbers is a mindset that is still present among Cy Young voters, unfortunately. Wins and losses are about the most useless way to evaluate a pitcher.

  19. diehardcubbiefan4life - Sep 7, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    There should be a stat for hard luck wins like 1-0 and 2-1 wins as well as losses. With the staggering difference between both offenses, wins CANNOT be counted. I mean, hell, CC got a W when he gave 5 ER! If king felix pitched for the yanks then he would have somthing like 0-4 losses and maybe 20+ wins already. In cy young voting, if the voters look at wins/losses and see a dramatic difference, then they should 1st look at run support per 9 innings for that pitcher. If you ask me, that should be a major stat.

  20. cusoman - Sep 7, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    I think we should just scrap the whole voting thing and base the award on who can cock their hat in their player profile picture more. I’d say it’s a tossup.

  21. pcrm - Sep 8, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    Sabathia has faced an opposition with a sub .500 record 19 times this year, and an opposition with a +.500 record 11 times.
    Felix is split 15 time to 15 times over sub .500 opposition and + .500
    So that argument is a complete non-starter.

  22. quint - Sep 8, 2010 at 2:08 AM

    by that reasoning, CC is disqualified because he hasn’t pitched against the best offense in the league, the Yankees.
    By the way – Felix is 3-0 vs the Yankees this year, 1-0 vs the Red Sox, 1-0 vs the O’s and hasn’t pitched against Tampa.
    Felix would be 30-0 in 28 starts if he was on the Yankees and that isn’t a misprint, he would find a way.

  23. Benny Blanco - Sep 8, 2010 at 8:37 AM

    Quality starts would be a better way to gauge their pitiching considering one has the Yankee lineup behind him and the other has Seattle.

  24. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 8, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    Cy Young is for the best pitcher, not the Most Valuable Pitcher. Therefore, a guy like Hernandez should be ahead of CC. CC probably shouldn’t be a top-5 guy in the voting if they went purely on best pitcher. I’d also take Buchholz, Price and even Cahill over CC in Cy Young voting this year. Now most valuable…that’s another debate.

  25. quint - Sep 8, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    I just did a quick calculation on Felix’s record if you compare how many runs he and his bullpen gave up in the games he started and gave the Seattle offense the number of runs the Yankees scored that night (literally that night) in 26 games, Seattle would have won 19 of them, with 2 tied (same runs scored) (thats not Felix win/loss record but the teams – I am guessing he would have won plenty)
    That along disproves the know how to win, it would be fun to do it the other way around and see Sabathia’s record if you gave him Seattles offense on the nights he started.

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