Who should win the Cy Young Awards? And who will?
With the regular season ending on Sunday and almost all of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. Today and tomorrow we will spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: the Cy Young Awards
Who should win the AL Cy Young Award?
I used to like these sorts of posts more when there were actual clear-cut answers. But apart from NL MVP this year, there aren’t. Really, it’s madness how close these things are this year and it’s quite possible AL Cy Young is the closest.
Like the AL MVP, it’s hard to see how there are more than two top candidates: Dallas Keuchel and David Price. Their numbers are close to identical. Here are their lines without their names:
- 19–8, 213/49 K/BB ratio in 226 IP, 2.47 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 164 ERA+
- 18–5, 225/47 K/BB ratio in 220.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 161 ERA+
If you haven’t paid all that close attention you’d be forgiven for being unable to tell them apart. But I’ll tell you: the first is Keuchel, the second Price. Price’s won’t change because his regular season is over. Keuchel has one more start Friday evening against the Dbacks.
Keuchel, therefore, could get to the magic 20 wins but who cares about win totals? Maybe the separator will be that he will have a few more innings and, if they’re excellent innings, the Astros will win the game and that’s a big deal for a team in their position right now. Of course he could also get blown the hell up. It may come down to that start, to be honest.
Soft factors: Price spent over half the year with the Tigers which could hurt. Or it could help as people may argue that he came in and helped save the Jays’ season. Worked for Rick Sutcliffe back in 1984. Didn’t work for Randy Johnson in 1998. Could cut either way here. Keuchel has that crazy 15-0 home record which could help if voters look at that as some sort of weird “protecting our house!!!” narrative. Or it could hurt if they say “jeez, why did you wilt on the road, Dallas?”
I have no idea. I think if Keuchel pitches well tomorrow, in a big game, it’s his. Not because of “big game” dynamics by itself, but because it will also give him a greater innings and, in all likelihood, rate-stats advantage over Price than he currently has. Not big in an absolute sense, but bigger.
So I guess it’s a provisional vote for Keuchel, with the same caveat applying here that applies to the AL MVP: if you go the other way it’s hard for me or anyone else to call you crazy.
Who will win the AL Cy Young Award?
I figure Keuchel will unless he has a meltdown on Friday night. He and Price are close enough to where I think the one start will matter for a whole lot of voters for the reasons mentioned above. Big Game Dallas.
Who should win the NL Cy Young Award?
The “Pitchers Triple Crown” is not as noted or rare a feat as the batting Triple Crown, but it’s a thing people talk about. Its elements: wins, ERA and strikeouts. Like the batting Triple Crown, not all three of these stats are created equal, of course. They’re just thrown together because of a long history of the stats being considered the most important. In reality they are weighted in actual value:
- Think of Wins being like RBI: a stat which suggests more about how one’s teammates performed than how the actual player performed. The worst of the three in terms of telling you anything about the player in question;
- Think of ERA like batting average: more useful than the previous stats mentioned but flawed and potentially misleading. It’s simultaneously overly-broad and too narrow in that is has a lot to do with the fielders behind a pitcher which can exaggerate a pitchers’ effectiveness or prevent us from seeing some flaws in his game. Like batting average it says something, but not as much as some people like to think.
- Strikeouts are like home runs I guess. Each one is an absolute good thing which measures an instance of the player doing something by himself and minimizing margin for error. Maybe a K is not quite as definitive a thing as a HR is -- there is no outcome in any at bat better than a dinger while, in some cases, it may be better to induce a grounder than it is to strike a guy out -- but it’s the same general idea.
At the moment we have three different pitchers leading in the three different pitcher Triple Crown categories in the NL: Jake Arrieta has the market cornered on wins, Zack Greinke leads in ERA and Clayton Kershaw leads in strikeouts. All three of them, of course, are having fantastic seasons, and not just because of those old Triple Crown stats. Rest assured all three are among the leaders in just about all of the more esoteric pitching metrics, though a good number of them favor Kershaw because of how strikeouts tend to get weighted.
I am partial to that kind of weighting. I think that when you strike a dude out, you’re eliminating so many bad things that can happen. Crash Davis may call strikeouts fascist, but I think they’re just smart. At least if those strikeouts don’t needlessly tire a pitcher out. They haven’t tired Clayton Kershaw out. He leads the NL in strikeouts by a considerable margin and leads the league in innings as well. His slow start to the season is why he has fewer wins and a higher ERA than his teammate Greinke and his counterpart Arrieta and his home run rate is higher, but I think that if you take a step back he’s simply been the best pitcher in the game this year.
Kershaw would have my vote.
Who will win the NL Cy Young Award?
Thinking Arrieta will get it. A lot of it is because of how great he’s been down the stretch. Arrieta had a big start against the Pirates last week that will serve as a narrative-builder in the runup to the Wild Card game. Not that that it was any kind of one-off. He has allowed an earned run in just three of his last 11 starts and his ERA is getting so low that Greinke is looking like less of an outlier, undermining Greinke’s “ERA Freak” case. Arrieta looks more like a horse than Greinke has looked and has a shinier win total and ERA than Kershaw and, no matter how flawed those Triple Crown stats are, I think winning one, coming pretty darn close on a second and not being the reigning Cy Young winner like Kershaw is -- voters like new blood - will give Arreita the edge.
Which, like just about every other award, won’t be a travesty, even if it’s not my particular choice.