Who should win the Cy Young Awards for 2010?

The 2010 MVP races don’t excite me due to the ambiguity of the most “valuable” player — for what it’s worth, I’d probably go with Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto — but the Cy Young rule is clear: the honor goes to the BEST pitcher on ANY team in a season.

It’s always been my view that baseball writers — who have biases/grudges, and therefore probably shouldn’t vote on these awards anyway —  need to stop looking at wins, and realize the most important stats for Cy Young award choices are, in this rough order: ERA, WHIP, Complete Games (hereafter, CG), Innings Pitched (IP), Batting Average Against ( BAA), and strikeouts (Ks).

Wins are a very distant 7th in my book.

Bob Costas called these imperative stats “esoteric” during a telecast last week; that’s his way of telling us he acknowledges their importance. Whether or not he and Baseball’s Ruling Class will heed attention to this prism is another story.

National League

cy-young-preview-prediction-roy-halladayUbaldo Jimenez won 15 games in the first half of the season, and led the discourse through most of 2010. But Jimenez has been subpar since the break: 4-7 with a 4.15 ERA. Overall, he is no longer in the top 10 in ERA or WHIP.

So I think it’s a two horse race between 21 game-winner Roy Halladay of the Phillies and 20 game-winner Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals.

Halladay’s worked 20 more innings in the same amount of starts, and even though Wainwright is second in the NL in that important category, those innings are the equivalent of two-plus games. Roy also possesses a 9-5 lead in complete games over Wainwright, who’s second there as well (included for Halladay is a perfect game back in May).  Those two stats might swing the pendulum into Halladay’s favor. Also, Halladay’s K:BB ratio (7:1) is better than Wainwright’s (3:1).

What is in Adam’s favor is his batting average against and hits allowed are much lower. In fact, no pitcher in the National League has allowed more base hits than Roy Halladay’s 231.

But my vote would still go to the man who now “seems destined to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Oct. 6 at Citizens Bank Park.”

(Honorable mention to Mat Latos of San Diego, Roy Oswalt of Philadelphia and Tim Hudson of Atlanta.)

American League

cy-young-preview-prediction-cc-sabathiaC.C. Sabathia is the closest example to Jimenez we’ll find in the AL. Aside from a horrific May (ERA of 5.15), Sabathia has been consistently good all season. In fact, his 3.18 ERA is lower than his Cy Young season of 2007 (3.21).

Considering  most of the sports media’s headquarters are adjacent to Yankee country, I somewhat understand why he was considered the frontrunner much of 2010. But if our writers and talking heads — like Harold Reynolds of MLB Network —  would do three minutes of research like I have, might they discover that the big man is 7th in ERA, tied for 9th in WHIP and 12th in BAA.

Yahoo Sports’ Les Carpenter finally did last Friday, where he assessed what Sabathia’s disastrous start in a crucial loss last week to David Price and the Rays did to CC’s Cy Young chances.

Sabathia tops out in one area: wins, where his 21 lead the AL. But five of those were against the last-place Orioles and ten of his 21 wins were versus the cellar-dweeling Orioles, Royals and Mariners. Also, look at the Yankees’ stellar offense compared to Seattle’s (Felix Hernandez) or Oakland’s (22 year-old Trevor Cahill), among others.

The point here is that wins and losses are BY FAR the most overrated pitching stat. In fact, they’re mostly irrelevant. I’d personally take a 5-18 pitcher with an 2.8 ERA and a good WHIP, over an 18-5 pitcher with a 3.9 ERA any day. Last year, the writers agreed, as 2009’s Cy Young winners, Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum, won “only” 16 and 15 games respectively.
cy-young-preview-pick-al-nl-felix-hernandez
That “King” Felix Hernandez is being mocked for having a 13-12 record on a 61-96 team with baseball’s worst offense, is absurd. His typical stellar outing often results in a loss, as it did last Thursday , for example.

As Jess Coleman of Bleacher Report elucidated last week:

“Of all the stats we looked at, W-L records are the least representative of a pitcher’s ability. Why? Because a pitcher can pitch the best game of his life and still lose the game. It all depends on how good your team’s offense is (a factor you do not contribute to as a pitcher in the AL) and the pitcher you are opposing.

Clearly Sabathia is the beneficiary of the better offense. The Yankees have scored the most runs in the Majors, the Mariners have scored the least. “

Coleman also relayed that Seattle scores just over three runs in games Hernandez starts, while Sabathia enjoys a whopping six per game. Further, I’ll add that the Mariners have scored a paltry 14 runs in Felix’s 12 losses! Imagine Sabathia dealing with that futility? You cannot, as it’d never happen. New York also has a better bullpen to hold leads, and is simply a far superior team — 33 games superior in fact.

Coleman concludes well, so I’ll let him state the following:

“I would hate to see Felix Hernandez—the league leader in ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched—be stripped of an award he clearly deserves simply because he is on a bad team. Even if you consider wins, Hernandez outdoes Sabathia in nearly every pitching category.”

Hernandez plays on a terrible team, yet leads all of the Majors in ERA at a microscopic 2.27, strikeouts (232), and tops the AL in IP and BAA. He’s second in WHIP, complete games, has more quality starts (30) than any pitcher in nearly a decade, and also has fewer walks  than Sabathia and David Price. To top it off, Hernandez also went 3-0 versus the Yankees this season with an incredible 0.35 ERA, two complete games, and a shutout.

Confidently, my vote would go to Felix Hernandez. The 24 year-old Venezuelan, who’d likely have 24 wins if he played in New York,  might even deserve unanimous victory. I could probably make a better argument to vote Sabathia 5th behind Hernandez, Price (19 wins, 2.73 ERA; 4-0 w/ a 1.6 ERA in Sept.), Jon Lester (19 wins, 2.96 ERA) and Clay Buchholz (17 wins, 2.33 ERA) than second.

We shall see.

What are your 2010 Cy Young picks?

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About the Author

AJ Kaufman

A former schoolteacher and military historian, A.J. now works in public relations. As an MSF columnist since 2009, he supports anything baseball-related. Raised in San Diego, A.J. has since resided in numerous parts of America, including Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio and Washington State. After departing the coasts in 2005, he's traveled the back roads of all 50 states and prefers the Heartland. Married to Maria, A.J. is the author of three books and enjoys reading presidential biographies.