Year-end Awards Part I (Managers of the Year and NL Cy Young)

I have no problem with Maddon’s selection as the AL manager of the year—he took a young, unproven team with no closer and a history of ineptitude rivaled only by FEMA under Mike Brown and won the most challenging division in baseball. I am not as convinced, however, that Piniella was the most deserving manager in the National League. While the Cubs won 12 more games this season than last, Piniella’s selection is probably due more to the fact that the talent-laden Cubbies did not find a way to implode. The Cubs are arguably the best offensive team in the NL (the Phillies and the Mets are in that discussion as well) and may have the best pitching, especially after getting Harden mid-season. My vote would have been for Fredi Gonzalez. After the Marlins unloaded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Wills to Detroit, I think many fans looked at Florida’s roster and thought “who are these guys?” Somehow “those guys” went 84-77.

The NL Cy Young award voting makes no sense to me. Lincecum’s selection is not a surprise, but what was surprising was the margin by which he won and that Webb, and not Santana, finished second (full disclosure: Lincecum and Hamels formed a formidable 1-2 punch for the second place Cereal Killers this year and I maybe the only person in the New York metropolitan area with a Johan Santana Minnesota Twins shirt). I thought the race between Lincecum and Johan would have been closer. When I look at a pitcher’s performance I focus on (i) walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP or Ratio); (ii) ERA; (iii) quality starts and (iv) innings pitched. I don’t believe that wins are an accurate measure of a pitcher’s performance. The obvious goal of any pitcher is to minimize the other team’s opportunities to score—that is why WHIP should be considered first because if hitters are not getting on base, they are not able to score. Second, even if a pitcher allows baserunners, he may have the skill set to minimize the damage. A power pitcher who can get the strikeout with men on base or the ground ball pitcher who can induce a double play can make up for a less than stellar WHIP—that is why ERA must be considered. Consistency also separates a decent pitcher from a great pitcher and quality starts should be the determinant when judging consistency. I favor using quality starts over wins because wins are too arbitrary, as there are too many elements outside the pitcher’s control that can decide a game, like hitting, a Jose Canseco-aided homerun or the bullpen. Innings pitched are less important than the other factors, but are still relevant as you want your ace to go out each fifth day or so and go deep into the game to take the burden off the bullpen. Let’s compare Lincecum, Webb and Santana in the above-referenced categories:

WHIP / ERA / Quality Starts / Innings Pitched

Lincecum: 1.17 / 2.62 / 26 / 227.0
Webb: 1.20 / 3.30 /24/ 226.2
Santana: 1.15 / 2.53 / 28 / 234.1

Santana also went 9-0 the last three months of the season. In August, his ERA was a ridiculous 1.91 and in September, when the Mets were in the playoff race, it was even more impressive—1.83. Number 57 would have received my vote.

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