The AL Cy Young Award went more or less as expected, with the very deserving Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals running away with it, nabbing 25 of 28 first-place votes. This is a small victory for those of us pushing for rational evaluation of players in postseason awards; the Cy Young Award has historically been "The Guy With the Most Wins Award" and, while I suppose that's somewhat fitting (Cy Young did win a few games himself), the point of the award is to honor the best pitcher in each league, and that is frequently not the guy with the most wins.
I've been asked a few times recently why I hate the win statistic for pitchers. In a nutshell, whether or not a pitcher gets a win in a specific game is more a function of things beyond his control (run support, defense, bullpen) than things completely or partially in his control (how well he pitches, when he's pulled from the game). If the question is which pitcher helped his team the most, the answer is not in the pitcher's win column. It's spread across a few other statistics. But the guy with the most wins probably just played on one of the best teams -- and the American League's best pitcher happened to pitch on one of the worst teams this season.
Two voters voted for Felix Hernandez, the second-best pitcher in the AL this year; one of those, Mark Feinsand, gave a detailed explanation of his ballot and emphasized that win total was only a minor criterion for him, if one at all. He dings Greinke's candidacy for Zack's good fortune in missing the Yankees all year, but of course, Greinke had the bad fortune to make just as many starts (zero) against the Royals' hacktacular lineup. He also argues that Greinke was "pedestrian" for a 15-start stretch in the middle of the year, a stretch in which Greinke was victimized by bad defense (a .338 BABIP) but didn't pitch badly himself (101 strikeouts, 26 walks, 10 homers in 98 innings); I think the bigger issue is that we all get into trouble (myself included) when we start breaking down seasons into smaller samples, often finding "meaning" in normal fluctuations in the statistics.
The inexplicable vote comes, once again, from Michigan. It was a repeat of the 2007 MVP voting, where the two voters from the BBWAA's Detroit chapter picked local guy Magglio Ordonez over the superior option (Alex Rodriguez); A-Rod swept the rest of the country, so the Detroit writers' homerism stood out. Steve Kornacki of Booth Newspapers put Justin Verlander at the top of his list and explains it by way of wins and "toughness."
That Greinke wasn't unanimous is an academic problem; you win or you don't, and there really aren't style points for running the table. Verlander had an excellent year, finishing second in the AL in wins above replacement and fourth in the AL in VORP. The criticism of Kornacki's vote is that he chose the local guy he saw often, ascribing to Verlander qualities that are equally present in other candidates and again raising the question of whether local writers can choose objectively when they require access to some of the candidates to be effective at their jobs.
Credit goes to both writers for explaining their ballots. Transparency is a good thing.
Tyler Kepner writes about Zack Greinke, stats geek:
- "That's pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP [Fielding Independent Pitching] as low as possible," Greinke said.
If the pitcher who won the award is focused on FIP, the voters should as well.
Joe Posnanski approves of the results, pointing out that Greinke also led the majors in the context-dependent stat Win Probability Added. Royals Review disappointed me with just one exclamation point in their headline.
• The BBWAA will announce the winners of the Manager of the Year awards today. I'm going to guess that Ron Washington and Jim Tracy win, although I could see Ron Gardenhire or Joe Girardi sneaking in on the AL side. I'm just glad I didn't have a vote on this one -- since the winner is usually the guy whose team beat preseason expectations by the widest margin, whether or not the manager had anything to do with it, it seems like a particularly pointless award for which to cast a ballot.
• Yesterday I linked to a brief piece by J.C. Bradbury on player aging. Fangraphs' Colin Wyers disagrees with Bradbury, raising questions about the sample Bradbury used and adding the issue of defensive position to the equation. Bradbury then responds here.
• There's a petition going around asking the MLB Network to find and air footage from Dock Ellis' 1970 no-hitter. If people want to see it because it's a historic game and one that's been rarely (if ever) seen since it was played, that's great. If this is just a bunch of kids giggling because Ellis threw the no-hitter while high on LSD, then it's probably time to grow up.
• Joba Chamberlain still hasn't heard from the Yankees whether he'll work in the rotation or in the bullpen in 2010. I was fine with the so-called "Joba Rules" when they were just a question of managing his workload to protect his shoulder, but at the end of the year, the kid looked like he didn't know whether he was coming or going when he pitched.
• Peter Schmuck talks about the Orioles' needs at third and first base. He pushes for Adrian Beltre, but with Josh Bell coming quickly, I don't see the point in Baltimore giving a multi-year deal to any third baseman. First base is a little more muddled, but they may end up with Nolan Reimold there, and Brandon Snyder has shown flashes of promise with the bat after injuries moved him off third base. Blocking prospects before they even get a chance to succeed (or fail) in the majors isn't the way to build and compete in the AL East and would be uncharacteristic of GM Andy MacPhail, whose greatest contribution to Baltimore so far may be his patience.
• Baseball Prospectus has some advice for people trying to fabricate trade rumors. My advice would be more strident: Don't waste our time.
• Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals are interested in John Lackey. While I certainly approve of their taste in starters, a team coming off a last-place finish with a good two to three years to contention probably shouldn't be investing in high-end, long-duration free agents just yet. Lackey would help, given how bad their 2010 rotation looks on paper, but he's going to get five years at the least, and given the risk inherent in signing just about any free agent pitcher, it makes more sense for a team trying to contend in the next year or two to sign him.
• Hideaki Wakui won the Sawamura Award, Japan's equivalent to our Cy Young. Nice to see that the fetish for pitcher wins isn't only an American phenomenon.
• Just eight days till Thanksgiving, so start planning those menus. Sweet potato pie, anyone?