Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cy Youngs Follow Script

Scherzer was baseball's most winning-est pitcher in 2013 
To nobody's surprise, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw were named Cy Young winners yesterday.

Scherzer, who had never received any Cy Young consideration in any of his previous five seasons, steamrolled to the trophy on the strength of his 21-3 record and league-best 0.97 WHIP. Removing his stellar record from the equation still leaves him with impressive credentials: 240 strikeouts, a 2.90 ERA and 6.7 pitching WAR. Though he got off to a rocky start, he emerged as the favorite over the summer as his win total mounted (he won his first 13 decisions), the strikeouts piled up (he had eight starts with at least ten) and his ERA dropped with each passing month. He started the All-Star Game and delivered a scoreless inning, striking out Joey Votto and contributing to the American League's 3-0 shutout of the Senior Circuit.

Unlike many pitchers who put together excellent first halves, only to fall off after the All-S-Star Break (Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010, R.A. Dickey to some extent last year), Scherzer did not let up. After winning his 19th game on August 24th, though, it took him four weeks and six starts for him to earn win number 20 (on September 20th, fittingly enough). Though wins and losses are a terrible way to gauge pitchers, his record was a good indication of how well the Tigers played when he was on the mound. They were 25-7 (.781) when he started. That's the definition of an ace.

(For those who care about such things, Scherzer's winning percentage has gone up every year he's been in the big leagues, from his winless 2008 up to his ML-best .875 mark in 2013. I think it's safe to say that trend won't continue next year.)

What was odd about the American League voting was how the remaining pair of first place votes were split by Anibal Sanchez and Chris Sale, both of whom finished outside the top three (fourth and fifth, respectively). Whiff-machine and preseason award favorite Yu Darvish was runner-up largely because of his gigantic strikeout total (277 in 209 and two-thirds innings pitched, which translates to 11.9 K/9). Hisashi Iwakuma was third, posting excellent numbers across the board and leading all AL hurlers in pitching WAR. Other players receiving votes were Bartolo Colon, Koji Uehara, Felix Hernandez, Greg Holland, Matt Moore, and James Shields.
Kershaw's dominance is reminiscent of Sandy Koufax's run in the mid-1960s
Kershaw handily won his second Cy in three years (and probably should have won last year, too) with all but one first place votes going his way. Kershaw was an easy choice after leading the major leagues with a sparkling 1.83 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He also led the National League in strikeouts, shutouts, and pitching WAR. It seems safe to say that he's inherited the title of Best Pitcher on the Planet from Justin Verlander, who had a down season by his lofty standards and may not be the same now that he's on the wrong side of 30. That should help him in his quest to become baseball's first $200 million pitcher as he pursues a contract extension this winter.

The one dissenting first place vote went to runner-up Adam Wainwright, who topped both leagues in starts, innings pitched, and complete games but with an ERA (2.94) more than one full run higher than Kershaw's. Wainwright, who also won an NL-best 19 games, has managed three top-three finishes in his past four seasons but has yet to capture the award. NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez finished third. Matt Harvey and Craig Kimbrel tied for fourth, which means Cliff Lee's quietly outstanding season was not deemed worthy of a top five finish in the eyes of the voters. Jordan Zimmerman, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner and Francisco Liriano (he's back!) rounded out the voting.

No comments:

Post a Comment