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First-third awards: 2011 NL Cy Young

Jun 1, 2011, 2:00 PM EDT

Roy Halladay AP

Following up yesterday’s look at the AL Cy Young race one-third of the way through the season, here’s the rundown on the NL.

First, the top 10 starters by ERA:

1. Jair Jurrjens (Braves): 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 38/11 K/BB in 65.2 IP
2. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56/20 K/BB in 60.1 IP
3. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 7-2, 2.13 ERA, 47/15 K/BB in 80.1 IP
4. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 5-4, 2.22 ERA, 79/24 K/BB in 77 IP
5. Charlie Morton (Pirates): 5-2, 2.51 ERA, 37/29 K/BB in 68 IP
6. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 7-3, 2.56 ERA, 91/13 K/BB in 91.1 IP
7. Anibal Sanchez (Marlins): 5-1, 2.57 ERA, 74/23 K/BB in 73.2 IP
8. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 6-3, 2.62 ERA, 87/24 K/BB in 79 IP
9. Tommy Hanson (Braves): 5-4, 2.80 ERA, 65/21 K/BB in 64.1 IP
10. Shaun Marcum (Brewers): 6-2, 2.80 ERA, 67/17 K/BB in 70.2 IP

That’s everyone in the NL with a sub-3.00 ERA to date. Cole Hamels is 11th at 3.01.

Moving on to the Baseball Reference version of WAR:

1. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 3.6
2. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 2.9
3. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2.8
4. Jair Jurrjens (Braves): 2.6
5. Cole Hamels (Phillies): 2.4
6. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 2.3
7. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 2.2
8. Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks): 2.1
9. Anibal Sanchez (Marlins): 2.1
10. Jonny Venters (Braves): 2.1

Yes, that’s a reliever sneaking in at the end there. Venters has been incredible, giving up just two runs while working 33 2/3 innings, almost all of them in close games. He’s picked up three wins, and he’s only blown one lead all year, that coming when he entered a game with a two men on and none out.

Moving on to Fangraphs’ WAR. Since it’s based on strikeouts, walks and homers allowed, and not those pesky hits, it produces substantially different results:

1. Roy Halladay (Phillies): 3.3
2. Cole Hamels (Phillies): 2.4
3. Matt Garza (Cubs): 2.3
4. Daniel Hudson (Diamondbacks): 2.2
5. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers): 2.1
6. Cliff Lee (Phillies): 2.1
7. Tim Lincecum (Giants): 2.1
8. Kyle Lohse (Cardinals): 1.9
9. Jaime Garcia (Cardinals): 1.8
10. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 1.8

FIP thinks Venters has been terribly lucky when it comes to allowing hits, so he’s at just 0.9 WAR here, ranking him slightly behind strikeout-happy teammate Craig Kimbrel.

Hamels posted strong showing in both WARs. His ERA is higher, but he has an exceptional 78/15 K/BB ratio and he’s yet to allow an unearned run.

I also like to check out quality of opponent here. Let’s run through the average OPS for hitters faced for the top contenders:

Johnson: .744
Jurrjens: .742
Sanchez: .741
Halladay: .729
Lohse: .728
Lincecum: .726
Kershaw: .724

That doesn’t really settle things, though it does make Jurrjens look like a stronger candidate.

Regardless, I do agree with WAR here: Halladay is the choice to date. He’s not quite there in ERA, but he’s pitched 11 more innings than anyone else. The Phillies are 9-3 in his starts, and they’ve scored a total of three runs in the losses. Four times already this year, they’ve scored three runs or fewer and come away with a victory with Halladay on the mound.

After that, it a tougher call. Johnson is probably the NL’s second-best pitcher, but he’s thrown just 60 innings. Jurrjens, the ERA leader, is at 66. Lohse and Kershaw are both around 80 innings. Neither has allowed an unearned run all year (Lincecum has given up five, Jurrjens one, Johnson two).

It’s close enough that I want one more stat.  I’m going to look at the team’s record in games pitched by each, and the team’s record in those games while scoring three or fewer runs.

Hamels: 9-2, 4-2
Johnson: 6-3, 2-3
Jurrjens: 7-2, 2-2
Kershaw: 7-5, 1-4
Lincecum: 7-4, 3-3
Lohse: 7-4, 1-2
Sanchez: 7-4, 3-2

That looks pretty good for Hamels. The Phillies have won 82 percent of his starts despite scoring more than five runs in just two of those games. On the other hand, the Cardinals have lost a couple of Lohse’s starts in which they scored five runs. One of those was Lohse’s fault, the other the bullpen’s when Lohse came out after six.

Anyway, there’s not a whole lot of margin here. I’m favoring Jurrjens second and Hamels third, but we’re still early enough that any of these guys could be second next week.

NL Cy Young
1. Halladay
2. Jurrjens
3. Hamels

  1. cup0pizza - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    Kershaw.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Jurrgens
    Johnson
    Halladay

    Doc hasn’t been himself this year. Too many hits. He’s been himself getting out of jams, but he usually doesn’t get into them to begin with. Have to give credit where it is due…Jair has been dealing.

    • bleedgreen - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      Thats not really true. When he got here, I remember thinking ‘this guy gives up a bunch of hits’ and we were told by the media that ‘he gives up hits. he doesn’t give up runs.’ I think we’ve been spoiled by the fact that thats changed a bit since he’s been on the Phillies. He’s been a strike out pitcher. Not as much as Hamels or Lee, but his game has evolved.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:25 PM

        Yeah, checking the numbers more closely, you’re probably right there. He just doesn’t seem his dominant self this year. Of course, it could be that I have both him and Cliff Lee on my fantasy team sucking the life out of my WHIP and ERA every week so I am noticing a little more.

      • seattlej - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:45 PM

        You must play in the shallowest league ever if a 2.56 ERA and 1.07 WHIP is “sucking the life out of” those categories…

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      Just because Halladay may not be pitching the best he ever has, that doesn’t mean he’s not pitching better than everyone else. The guy’s a beast. His 91K and 91 IP vs Jurrjens’ 38K and 66 IP tell me he’s doing a lot more to dominate opposing hitters, and getting outs by himself, while pitching much deeper into games. Right now, I’d have to give it to Halladay.

      • CJ - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM

        Part of that is accounted by different styles of pitching, and that Jurrjens missed a couple starts early due to an injury I believe in spring training. If you factor in that Jair is pitching this well coming off a recent injury and the Braves liekly had a stricter pitch/inning limit on him early on, it evens things out a bit.

        If not sways it in his favor altogether.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        Jurrgens was hurt and missed some time, thus the innings difference. If this was the “Best Strikeout Pitcher Award” then it would clearly go to Halladay. Alas, it is the Cy Oung award, and it’s Jurrgen’s for the first third of the season in my humble opinion.

      • mercyflush - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:04 PM

        Jurrjens being hurt for how long he was, that takes points away from him. Yeah he’s been dominant in his 66 innings, but Halladay has a thrown 25 more innings. that’s like 3 full extra games, which means his value over the season so far has been that much more, thus the higher WAR rating.

  3. spudchukar - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Not to take anything away from Halladay, if I had my choice I would prefer him on my team than the ones I am going to suggest, but in my book Lohse, Jurrjens, and Hamels have had better seasons to date.

    • heyblueyoustink - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:37 PM

      I’d lean towards Hamels over halladay for the first third as well……If not for that first game Cole’s numbers would be right there…..

      Overall though, Jurrjens is in the lead for right now…..i’m hoping he pulls a Jimenez personally…

      As far as Lohse goes…..well…..cough cough cough fraud cough cough cough…

      • rebarratige - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        Jair Jurrjens has given me so much joy so far this season that it hurts to say it, but I think we can anticipate either a flame-out or a gradual decline – even assuming he stays healthy. His performance is so much more impressive across so many metrics that every one of his starts feels like a brand new Ferrari bought on high-interest credit.

        That being said, even a significant decline would still make this a great year for him.

      • grizz2202 - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:55 PM

        Oh, check it! Probably another shitty Reds fan!

        How is Lohse a fraud? Who is he defraduing? How is he cheating anyone? Out of what is he cheating them?

      • spudchukar - Jun 1, 2011 at 6:33 PM

        You can dis Lohse all you care to. He certainly does not have the track record of the others. But just to remind you this post was in regards to the 2011 Cy Young award which does not factor in past performances. You can make the claim that you doubt Lohse will continue on his present pace, but this was supposed to be who would be most deserving at the 1/3 mark in the season, and for one Lohse leads the majors in WHIP, and deserves to be the conversation.

  4. Jonny 5 - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Matt, what is your opinion of SIERA ?

    http://crashburnalley.com/2011/05/31/cole-hamels-is-phillies-best-starter/

  5. mercyflush - Jun 1, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    BABIP Through May31st:

    Halladay .311
    Hamels .290
    Kershaw .282
    Lincecum: .264
    Jurrjens .262
    Johnson .239
    Lohse .230

    Since the avg BABIP is usually about .300, history tells us that Lohse Jurrjens Lincecum Johnson will come back to the norm as the season progresses. Food for thought.

    I expect Halladay to win the Cy at the end of the season, with Johnson (if healthy) and Lincecum close to him, and Kershaw and Hamels as dark horses to make a run for the award.

    • nps6724 - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      Career BABIP

      Halladay .294
      Hamels .290
      Kershaw .289
      Lincecum .299
      Jurrjens .287
      Johnson .301
      Lohse .305

      It looks like Lohse and Johnson are simply getting far luckier than everyone else on the list, followed by Lincecum. Jurrjens and Kershaw are both fairly close to their career BABIP and Hamels is right on his. Halladay is the only unlucky one of the group, but it’s not too far off.

      I think Halladay will end up winning it. I mean, how do you doubt the guy? It’s like picking someone other than Greg Maddux to win the Cy Young in the mid-90s.

  6. Jonny 5 - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    Matthew, How legit do you feel SIERA is in ranking pitching? I posted this earlier with a link but it vanished, or went to Valhalla, or purgatory or something….

    • Matthew Pouliot - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:49 PM

      Not sure where it went.

      SIERA has it: Hamels, Halladay, Lee, Kershaw, Lincecum.

      I like SIERA as an advanced FIP. I like it less as a method for rating past performance than as a predictor, same as FIP.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:31 PM

        What would be the best way to rate pitching performance so far in your opinion? Being that WAR seems to be confused mostly between Baseball reference and Fangraphs. FIP as you said you like it less as rating past performance. xFIP , I assume would be in that boat. ERA and WHIP are more team oriented obviously..If you had to pick one, what is it?

      • Matthew Pouliot - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:52 PM

        I’d favor RA, or better, RA+. I prefer to rate them according to what did happen as opposed to what “should” have happened, which is what I think FIP and SIERA are trying to do.

        But that’s just for quality. There needs to be a quantity component too, and that’s why I tend to go to WAR in the articles.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 2, 2011 at 8:10 AM

        Thank you for the feedback.

  7. 12strikes - Jun 1, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Hey what about Wilson Valdéz?!
    Undefeated with a 0.00 era, 0.1 WAR. Granted his has more HBP then strike outs and walks combined.

  8. CJ - Jun 1, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    given that my fantasy league rotation consists of Jurrjens, Lee, Hamels, Marcum, and Garcia, I’m a pretty happy person with those lists in general.

    I had Josh Johnson too but dealt him for Bautista. sucker.

  9. macjacmccoy - Jun 1, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    I dont think the ops arguement really means anything. It doesnt mean the hitters that faced a pitcher were better or worse then the ones that faced other pitchers. It could just mean the players that pitcher has faced have also faced better pitchers in the other games. Resulting in a lower ops. Take Hamels for example of course the batters he faced are going to have a lower ops then other pitchers bc those batters would have had to have faced Halladay Oswalt and/or Lee. That will make any teams ops go down.

    It pretty much makes opponents ops irrelevant. Unless you factor in every pitcher that faced every team that faced the pitcher your trying to rank. Which you cant.

  10. dirtyharry1971 - Jun 1, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    What? No Cliff Lee? Come on now!!!

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