Thursday, January 2, 2014

Questionable Cy Youngs: 1960-1969

1967 was the first year two Cy Young awards were handed out--one for each league--and in retrospect it appears the writers got them both wrong. Go figure. Sandy Koufax had been making it too easy for them, I guess.

1960 Vern Law over Ernie Broglio
Law won 20 games and completed 18 starts--most in baseball--for the World Series champion Pirates, but didn't lead the league in anything else. He was better than runner-up Warren Spahn, but not third-place Broglio (who would be traded for Lou Brock in 1964). Despite making just 24 starts (in addition to 28 relief appearances), Broglio still managed to pitch 226.1 innings and was baseball's most valuable pitcher with 7.2 bWAR. His 21 wins, 148 ERA+ and 6.8 H/9 rate led both leagues. In his defense, Law pitched 45 more innings, completed twice as many starts and posted a better WHIP and K/BB ratio, but Broglio's edge in run prevention and overall dominance makes him the more worthy candidate in my eyes.

1967 AL Jim Lonborg over Joe Horlen
The ace of Boston's Impossible Dream team, Gentleman Jim was just as instrumental to the Red Sox's miracle run as league MVP/Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski. Lonborg's 22 wins were most in the majors, and his 246 strikeouts topped the American League. But while he compiled some impressive counting numbers, his peripheral statistics weren't as strong as runner-up Joe Horlen. Horlen's league-leading 2.06 ERA was more than a full run below Lonborg's 3.16. Lonborg did pitch 15.1 more innings, but that's not enough to overcome such a large disparity in run prevention, with Lonborg's 112 ERA+ paling in comparison to Horlen's league-best 146. What's more, Horlen's six shutouts led both leagues, as did his 0.95 WHIP. Horlen's superiority is further reflected in his WAR advantage, 5.5 to Lonborg's 4.1. But with Horlen's White Sox faltering at the finish line, Lonborg effectively sealed the award with a complete game victory on the season's final day, delivering the Red Sox their first pennant since 1946.

1967 NL Mike McCormick over Jim Bunning
McCormick's 22 wins tied Lonborg for most in the majors, but he failed to lead the league in anything else and was worth about four and a half wins. Bunning, the runner-up, was worth nearly eight despite his voter-unfriendly 17-15 record. The future Hall-of-Famer pitched 302.1 innings, most in baseball and 40 more than McCormick, with a 2.29 ERA that was second in the league behind Phil Niekro's 1.87 but more than half a run better than the winner's 2.85. Additionally, Bunning's 253 punchouts and six shutouts led both leagues. Bunning was better than McCormick by almost every conceivable metric, and therefore deserved that year's Cy Young.

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