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Joe Morgan's opinion about the Cy Young debate is exactly what you'd expect

Sep 14, 2010, 4:48 PM EDT

During his ESPN.com chat today Joe Morgan was asked to comment about the ongoing debate surrounding Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, the Cy Young award, and the importance of win-loss records.
His response was exactly what you’d expect from Joe Morgan, to the point that it almost reads like parody:

I think it’s a joke to have that kind of debate. What Sabathia has done is be the best pitcher in the AL from opening day to this point. I don’t buy into the point that if Felix is pitching for someone else he’d have more wins. They said that about Cliff Lee when he left Seattle, but he’s lost more than he’s won since he left Seattle. The name of the game is to win and he’s won. And if you’re looking at a second guy, it has to be David Price. It’s amazing to me that we have let computers define him rather than performance. His job is to win the game, not just pitch 5-6 innings. I don’t think there should be a debate between Felix and Sabathia.

That includes non-sequiturs, leaps in logic, the bashing of things he doesn’t understand, and some amusing anti-computer rhetoric. My favorite part is the “his job is to win the game, not just pitch 5-6 innings” comment, because, you know, Felix Hernandez leads the league in innings pitched. And in ERA. And in Quality Starts, strikeouts, and batters faced.
My hope is that enough logical evidence has been presented here and elsewhere to convince most rational people that wins are a terrible way to determine “best pitcher” and Hernandez has been better than Sabathia at things he actually controls. However, for anyone still on the fence about the whole thing simply wanting to be on the side opposite Joe Morgan should be enough to sway you.

  1. Kevin S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Is ESPN still having Rob Neyer follow Morgan in the chat lineup? And are readers still taking egregious statements from Joe, posing them as questions from names like “Kent Rem” and having Neyer shred the horrific logic?

  2. Ace2000 - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    For more fun with doddering old fools complaining about how new-fangled technology is ruining the awards season, check out Murray Chass’ latest ramblings. Again, exactly what you’d expect:
    http://www.murraychass.com/?p=2361

  3. Kevin S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    Somebody got it in – fantastic.

  4. Panda_Claus - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    I’m hoping Felix Hernandez has a couple of more 4-5 ER appearances like his last one, and a few more losses. That’s the only way this site will accept someone else ascending to the Cy Young throne.
    Why should wins or losses matter? That’s the basic gist of HBT’s stance. Forget what Joe Morgan says or that the award is named after a guy with 511 wins.

  5. geoknows - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:23 PM

    But see, Joe, here’s where your argument falls apart: Clearly neither Sabathia or Price has what it takes to be a Cy Young winner. I mean, look at last night’s game. Neither of them could come through with a W. These guys just don’t know how to win in a big game.

  6. PhilA - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:30 PM

    Aaron, in your rush to judge Hall of Famer Joe Morgan for not understanding the statistical side of baseball, you’re batting below the Mendoza line in reading comprehension:
    “My favorite part is the “his job is to win the game, not just pitch 5-6 innings” comment, because, you know, Felix Hernandez leads the league in innings pitched.”
    Morgan was referring to David Price, who is averaging around 6.65 innings per game.

  7. easports82 - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    Most blogs are taking the same stance because pitchers (especially in the AL) do not have control over W’s and L’s since pitchers typically do not generate offense. Based on old logic, Brandon League is the 2nd best pitcher on the Mariners because he has the second most wins (9). So, League, who’s pitched about 150 innings less than Felix is pretty damn close to being the best pitcher on the M’s because he’s inherited (or created) situations where he would get the W.
    It’s 2010, there’s better metrics to define who’s doing the best job. While pitchers can lose games on their own, they are very rarely in a position to win them on their own.

  8. Reflex - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Why should ‘this site’ or any other accept an obviously inferior pitcher winning the award? And if you think the award was named for Cy Young only because of his Wins totals, then why don’t we award it purely on that stat and call it good so that places like this can simply campaign for a different top pitcher award to replace the obviously useless Cy Young?

  9. Kevin S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:39 PM

    6.65 is above 5-6.

  10. Panda_Claus - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    All I’m saying is that all the love of Felix’ stats seems to overlook wins entirely. All things being equal or close to it, wins should matter at some point. Not as the only factor, but A factor. Could you honestly overlook wins so much that you’d give it to a guy tied for 21st in the league for wins?
    David Price deserves the award more than Hernandez.

  11. Reflex - Sep 14, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    Just to take it a step further: Cy Young is also the all time Losses leader. Should we give the award to whoever has the most losses? How about the fact that he’s the all time leader in innings, batters faced, games started, complete games, hits and earned runs.
    Of the positive stats, Felix wins several of them, including innings pitched, batters faced, and games started. Wins are only one of several stats Cy Young was famous for. People view him as not just the winningest pitcher, surely a partial product of the fact that he played for powerful Cleveland and Boston teams for the bulk of his career, but also as a pitcher who threw 22 years with a *career* ERA of 2.63.
    He was consistantly a great pitcher, year in and year out, and when he was lucky enough to be on good teams he tended to win a lot of games. Like almost any great pitcher.

  12. Reflex - Sep 14, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Wins matter as a team stat. The pitcher has little to nothing to do with Wins. Quality Starts are a measure of the pitchers performance.

  13. Kevin S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    No, they should not be a factor. In no way, shape or form should they be a factor. A pitcher’s “ability to pitch to the score” has been debunked, thoroughly and repeatedly, and to judge a pitcher based on something that his offense and bullpen heavily contribute to when we have a plethora of better stats to judge a pitcher based only on what he’s done is stupid.

  14. Tim's Neighbor - Sep 14, 2010 at 6:03 PM

    By only using a pro-noun there, Morgan was non-specific and would definitely get a point marked off in the entry level college course that I taught. It’s Morgan’s fault he was non-specific, not Aaron’s fault for interpreting ‘correctly.’
    See, not only has Morgan rendered some baseball games unwatchable (ok, unlistenable, thank God for the mute button), but he’s also encouraging lazy essay writing by our youth.

  15. Md23Rewls - Sep 14, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    As I said in another thread, I have no problem with wins being at least taken into account. Hernandez deserves the award, no question in my mind, but to act like Sabathia’s win total or team success is meaningless overlooks a large portion of what’s going on. Sabathia’s pitched in meaningful games, high pressure games, games that effect the standings, games that effect whether the Yankees get homefield advantage, etc.. These are all things that DO matter, or should matter anyway, and they’re all things that Hernandez (despite his stellar season) has not had to deal with. When’s the last time he pitched in a game that mattered? Unless he’s facing a playoff team, he doesn’t have to worry about it. Going to one extreme or another is never a handy strategy, and it seems that that’s what is happening in this debate. It’s either, “Sabathia’s wins and team success are all that matter” or “The peripherals are all that matter.” Shockingly, I go for the middle ground. How very moderate of me…
    Also, Joe Morgan is dumb, but we didn’t need more evidence of that. ;)

  16. Reflex - Sep 14, 2010 at 7:31 PM

    As pointed out in previous posts, when Sabathia has been in such situations he’s been no better than he has been in other situations, and arguably worse. Furthermore, Sabathia has never had to face the Yankees.

  17. Tall Paul - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    I’ll bet Joe Morgan has forgot more about baseball than you and I know. Nothing against Bochy, but did the Gints ever try to get Joe to manage at some point?

  18. Brian S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    Joe Morgan never ceases to amaze, does he?
    In an age where we have so many more tools that render meaningful statistical analysis, there are so many people that use arguably the most useless tool of all of them to determine their vote: Wins. There are so many factors that are out of a pitchers’ hands in deciding whether he wins a game or gets a no decision. If a pitcher exits a game with a 2-1 lead, and a reliever subsequently allows the tying run to score, he won’t win that game despite pitching, in all probability, extremely well.
    How about, instead, we look at things that a pitcher can almost always control: K/BB rate, WHIP (although this is influenced by his defense somewhat, the statistic is usually a good performance indicator), and Quality Starts. How about Runs Allowed, or Home Runs Allowed? You don’t have to be a sabermetric junkie to know what those stats mean and how they more effectively evaluate the performance of a pitcher. Anyone who denies that is simply too lazy and/or stupid to learn what they mean.
    The sad fact of the matter is the people with Cy Young votes look first to the win column, sometimes at the exclusion of all else. With the amount of data we have available today that can be found with quick, simple research, this is inexcusable.
    I would not call myself a sabermetric stat guy,

  19. ThatGuy - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    Your right, Sabathia has put the Yankees in a good position to win games, and has been a great pitcher this year. Top 5 for sure, that makes him a valuable member of the Yankees TEAM. Wins is a TEAM stat. A pitcher cant win a game without any runs, and its hard for a team to win a game if the pitcher gives up 10 runs. Cy Young is an INDIVIDUAL stat, awarded to the best individual pitcher in the majors. No one has ever argued that wins are meaningless for a team, just as individual pitcher stat.

  20. Brian S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:13 PM

    Last line should read: I would not call myself a sabermetric stat guy, but you don’t really have to be to form a much more educated opinion on whom to vote for.

  21. Kevin S. - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:16 PM

    Joe has probably forgotten more about *playing* baseball than you or I have ever known. But about *evaluating* baseball? When he has been demonstrably wrong about what helps teams win games repeatedly, he loses all benefit of the doubt.

  22. Md23Rewls - Sep 14, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    And like I said MULTIPLE times in my post, Hernandez deserves the Cy Young. To act like the games that Sabathia and Hernandez pitch in are equal, though, isn’t really fair. If he pitches well, it doesn’t matter. If he pitches poorly, it doesn’t matter. He’s having a great season for a team that hasn’t mattered since April. Nothing he does matters to anything outside of his own personal numbers, whereas what Sabathia does matters to whether the team wins the division, secures homefield, etc.. AGAIN, I think Hernandez deserves the Cy Young. I just don’t like people pretending that these players exist in a vacuum, because they don’t.

  23. Reflex - Sep 14, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Why do you think the games Felix is in do not matter? Judging by his performance, they matter a whole lot to him. As has also been demonstrated statistically multiple times, games that ‘count’ and so-called ‘clutch’ performances do not exist. A professional is a professional and I have zero doubt that Sabathia would have been just as good this season if he’d been playing for the Royals. Heck, I know he would judging by his performance with the Indians for years. To say that somehow a player steps up only when the games ‘have meaning’ demeans the athletes.
    If anything its the other way around. The teams the Mariners play against have a reason to play well, they are often playing for a chance at the post season. And yet Felix shuts them down consistantly well, despite playing for a team going nowhere and knowing full well that he’s unlikely to get any serious offensive support.

  24. matt - Sep 14, 2010 at 10:04 PM

    morgan has had this type of thinking for years. I remember about 10 years ago or so on a telecast where he and his partner were debating 2 pitchers. I forget who they were but one was a top flight pitcher pitching for a bad team but had an incredible ERA, strikeputs, etc. The other guy was a total stiff playing for a run scoring machine type of team and had like a 17-10 record with an era close to 5 and his argument was that somehow the bad pitcher with the better record was somehow able to pace himself and work just hard enough to secure the wins, and if the score was closer, he would somehow become a better pitcher and ratchet it up a notch to secure the win. It was a total garbage argument but Joe morgan stands by that philosophy. My thing is, the better pitcher is always good whereas when the bad pitchers team stops scoring all the runs you’ll never be able to count on him to gring through a 2-1 game.

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