Tango: Lincecum, Cy Young and the Oscars

March, 6, 2010
3/06/10
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In case you didn't know, the Academy Awards use a voting system known as an instant run-off. In the spirit of Sunday's festivities, I thought it would be fun to see how last year's MLB awards would have looked had they used the same system. Most notably, I'm interested in examining the controversial National League Cy Young voting.

The run-off system works like this. You have a group of say five candidates, and whichever one gets the fewest first place votes ends up bowing out of the race. Then people who voted for that candidate shift their support to one of the remaining four. And the process repeats itself until someone gets more than 50 percent of the vote. Basically, an instant run-off system simply means you have to rank your favorites beforehand, so that the whole process can move along faster. Rather than deciding after the fact which politician you will support after your favorite has been removed, you decide before.

What if we applied this system to the baseball awards? With Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer being unanimous or near-unanimous winners, this system would give you the same result. How about with the Cy Young? As we know, there was a lot of buzz around last year's NL award, which went to Tim Lincecum. In case you've forgotten, Chris Carpenter finished second even though he was left off of two ballots in favor of Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez. And teammate Adam Wainwright finished third even though he received the most first-place votes. Would the results have changed with an instant run-off system?

The first round of balloting goes in order of first-pace votes. However, since there are 32 voters, you need 17 votes to win, and no one reached that mark in the first round:

Wainwright 12
Lincecum 11
Carpenter 9

No one else received a first place vote. And with 17 needed for a win, we need to go to a second round. Therefore, we knock Carpenter from the list, leaving us with Wainwright and Lincecum. Of those nine writers who voted for Carpenter first, we look at their next preferred pick between Wainwright and Lincecum. Seven of those nine preferred Lincecum, while the other two went with Wainwright. The updated tally would become:

Lincecum 18 (11 + 7)
Wainwright 14 (12 + 2)

And so, under the instant run-off system, Lincecum still gets to be the Cy Young winner.

Tom Tango writes for Inside The Book.

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