By In Stuff

The AL Cy Young Vote

Both of my daughters still love that game when you are given two pictures, and you have to find five things that are different about them. When the girls were little, the pictures were a lot simpler and the differences were pretty easy to find — one picture had a giant gorilla rampaging on top of the building while the other one had a chicken playing a violin — but as they got older things started to get more nuanced, differences started becoming more and more subtle until, finally, they all but disappeared.

We will spend a ridiculous amount of time now trying to figure out the differences between two pictures that are, really, exactly the same — “Wait, is her fingernail chipped on that one on the right? Oh, no, I think that page is just slightly discolored.”

Yeah, this year’s Cy Young voting was like that. There was no way at all to find the differences between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young voting this year.

Oh, well, there were DIFFERENCES. Hernandez has the lower ERA. Kluber had the lower FIP. Hernandez had the lower WHIP. Kluber had the higher strikeout percentage. Hernandez had the better ERA+. Kluber had a higher WAR. And so on.

But as far as find the difference that would determine which one deserved the Cy Young Award … that was absurdly difficult to find, by far the toughest baseball vote I’ve ever hard. Then again, at the same time, it was was absurdly easy and the easiest baseball vote I’ve ever had. They both thoroughly deserved it. I believe I saw someone write this on Twitter: You couldn’t get it right and you couldn’t get it wrong. That about sums it up.

In the end, I voted Kluber because I valued his slightly superior strikeout rate and lower home run rate just a tiny bit more than I valued King Felix’s better run prevention. The Mariners seemed to me a better defensive team than Cleveland, and Safeco seemed to me a little bit better pitcher’s park, and so that was the call.


Remember that race between Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing?

Yeah, for me, it was that close.*

*By the way — that’s Phelps on the left. He won the race. It still doesn’t seem possible.

I was having a conversation about the Cy Young award with a friend the other day … and we both SEEMED to be in agreement that either pitcher would be a worthy winner. But then he started to make the argument for Kluber. And as he made the argument, he became more animated and more sure he was right. I didn’t tell him that I had voted for Kluber, but I did say: “Look, don’t you think they both deserved the award?”

“No,” he said five minutes after saying “Yes,” and he rattled off 10 reasons why Kluber deserved it and, and he started getting preemptively mad because the voters were clearly going to rob Kluber, and by the end, he seemed to be comparing Felix Herndez to Bruce Berenyi.

This stuff gets so emotional. Yes, that’s part of what makes it fun. But it also gets silly. We don’t have baseball so wrapped up that anybody can definitively tell you than Corey Kluber was a better pitcher this season than Felix Hernandez or vice versa. We can only take what we know, analyze it best we know how, and make a call. I chose Kluber. I wish I could have chosen Hernandez too.

For the record: I wrote this post BEFORE the Cy Young voting came out, back when I thought Felix Hernandez would win.

As for the rest of the ballot: I voted Chris Sale third — incredible season, for me he was just a few innings shy of top two form.

I voted David Price fourth — really tough call with Max Scherzer and Jon Lester and Phil Hughes. All had great seasons. But what a fantastic year Price had. How about a 271-to-38 strikeout-to-walk? Of course, Phil Hughes’ 186-16 is otherworldly too …

Fifth, I voted Wade Davis. I can see a powerful argument against picking a 70-inning reliever over those great starters — this was a really was a special year for starting pitching — but my feeling was that Davis had a historic season. He had that record 45 2/3 innings without giving up an extra-base hit. He did not give up a single home run all year — only the 17th pitcher since 1950 to pitch more than 70 innings without allowing a homer. He set the team record with 33 consecutive appearances without allowing a run.

I don’t know if that trumps the great season, say, Jon Lester had. There is only so much a man can do in 72 innings. But the way I looked it, Davis’ was a better season than the one Dennis Eckersley had when he won the Cy Young and MVP award. And it was about as good as any of Mariano’s best seasons. I gave him the vote.

14 Responses to The AL Cy Young Vote

  1. Mike says:

    Did I read it right? Steve Kluber? Twice?

  2. Josh says:

    Typo, you have Steve Kluber instead of Corey, darn good take on the issue though

  3. Sam Lub says:

    Who is ‘Steve’ Kluber? I’d consider this a weird typo, but you did it twice!

    Totally agree though…in a perfect world, they would have tied for the award.

  4. ABH says:

    Heh heh. Bruce Berenyi. This Mets fan thanks you for the reference to an obscure and truly lousy pitcher.

    • David G says:

      Reds fans and Mets fans view Berenyi totally differently. He was the number 2 starter on the Reds for a couple years and was slightly above average despite that horrific won-loss record. The entire Reds team was pathetic and he was one of the few bright spots. On the Mets he just stunk.

    • mwarneridx says:

      Well, I’m a Mets fan and I *loved* Bruce Berenyi. I still feel deep in my heart that if he’d been able to stay healthy he would’ve been a really good pitcher for us. Remember we were coming off years of enduring guys like Mike Torrez and Jackson Todd — Berenyi looked like Cy Young to me.

  5. MikeN says:

    I think Aaron Crow was the real Cy Young winner.

  6. flyingdonut says:

    Because of that comment, we’re all winners.

  7. KHAZAD says:

    I think we have gotten to the point where K rate and FIP are a bit overvalued, and I think that gave Kluber the nod.

    I would have gone with Hernandez, but it was close. On the surface, factoring in CS and GIDP, Kluber allowed 33 more net baserunners while getting 4 more outs. I have a metric I use to determine runs “deserved”, and based on the raw data, Hernandez should have allowed 0.65 less runs per nine. However, when you factor in park effects and the team’s defense, that shrinks to 0.13 runs per nine, which is only about 3.4 runs for the season, and that is pretty damned close.

    Chris Sale would have been third. He was the best starter per nine, but only pitching 174 innings is too big of a penalty. I would have had Davis at #4. You can’t really put a relief guy in the top 3, but there should be some recognition of perhaps the best short relief season ever.

    I would have gone with Price over Lester at #5, but Lester was close, and had a fine season. He would have been next if I had not chosen to recognize Davis.

  8. royalguy says:

    I went out and did a lot of research on historic seasons of relief. I found that I felt that the only season better than Davis’ was Eric Gagne in 2003. He won the Cy Young that year as an 80 IP pitcher. Granted walking up to home plate gave you a 44% chance to strike out. Mind you this is 2003 middle of the steroid era. I think credit for Davis was due in this instance.

  9. zeke bob says:

    This is the exact way I felt about the AL MVP votes between Trout and Cabrera the past two seasons before this last one (which was clearly Trout only). But the other two times, I honestly felt you couldn’t go wrong with picking either guy, and it’s kind of funny to me to see Joe be so sanguine about picking between Kluber and Hernandez when he often comes across that it was some kind of travesty that Trout didn’t win over Miggy.

    Oh well, to each their own battles I guess.

  10. Robert says:

    “…only the 17th pitcher since 1950 to pitch more than 70 innings without allowing a homer.” That’s some fine statistical cherry-picking you did to justify your vote for Davis. I’m sure it has nothing to do with him pitching for “your” Royals…

  11. Brett Alan says:

    If it’s that close, I have absolutely no problem with giving it to the guy who’s never won before over the guy who has.

    I mean, if someone clearly is more deserving, such considerations go out the window. If Clayton Kershaw keeps doing what he did this year, let him win a roomful of the things. But when it’s really too close to call, why not spread the wealth a little bit? So for that reason, I’m glad Kluber won.

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