Baseball BeatNovember 06, 2006
Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Selections
By Rich Lederer

I made my MVP picks over a month ago but never followed through as promised with my Cy Young and Rookie of the Year selections. The National and American League Rookies of the Year will be announced on November 13, while the NL and AL Cy Young Awards will be revealed on November 14 and 16, respectively. (The MVP winners are scheduled for November 20 and 21.)

CY YOUNG AWARD

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Johan Santana is a no brainer. He led the majors in wins, ERA, and strikeouts - the Triple Crown of Pitching. If Santana doesn't win the Cy Young Award unanimously, they should hold an investigation. He is simply the most deserving honoree of them all. The gap between Santana and the next best pitcher is much wider than the top two candidates for the NL CYA, the AL/NL ROY, or the AL/NL MVP.

I realize that the Cy Young isn't a lifetime achievement award, but I still found the following research from Lee Sinins of the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia of interest:

Santana became the 10th pitcher to lead the league in Runs Saved Above Average for at least three consecutive years:

1901-03 Cy Young      
1910-16 Walter Johnson
1911-13 Christy Mathewson
1915-17 Grover Cleveland Alexander
1928-32 Lefty Grove   
1945-47 Hal Newhouser 
1990-92 Roger Clemens
1992-95 Greg Maddux
1999-02 Randy Johnson
2004-06 Johan Santana

Roy Halladay, who was heads and shoulders above everyone except Santana, would get my second-place vote. A number of pitchers can stake a claim for third but my choice would go to C.C. Sabathia. The Cleveland lefty was third in ERA (3.22), ERA+ (139), and FIP (3.37). He also finished in the top five in RA (3.88), WHIP (1.17), and K/BB (3.91).

I don't quite understand the support for Chien-Ming Wang. Although he tied for the league lead in wins (19), his numbers were generally no better than teammate's Mike Mussina, who doesn't seem to have garnered any attention at all.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Over in the NL, like most people, I believe the award comes down to choosing among last year's winner Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt, or Brandon Webb. After slicing and dicing all the numbers, I would go with either Oswalt or Webb, although I wouldn't be terribly disappointed if Carpenter won again.

Oswalt led the league in ERA (2.98) and RA (3.10) while placing second in ERA+ (152) and FIP (3.32). Webb led the league in ERA+ (154), FIP (3.20), and RSAA (45). Make me pick between the two and I would lean ever so slightly toward Webb.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

AMERICAN LEAGUE

I wrote an article for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007 (have you ordered your copy yet?) entitled "The Year of the Rookie." I covered the Fab Four of Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Papelbon, Justin Verlander, and Jered Weaver in depth, and spotlighted Joel Zumaya as well.

Fully aware that a case could be made for any of the top three, I would tend to vote just as they are listed above. Yes, alphabetical order seems to be as persuasive as Win Shares, WARP, or any of a number of other measures. Kenji Johjima was clearly the best position player, but I would have a hard time elevating him above Liriano, Papelbon, Verlander, or Weaver.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Just as with the NL CYA, I believe there is a trio of players worthy of consideration. While the AL was led mostly by pitchers, the NL was paced by three position players. My vote would go to shortstop Hanley Ramirez (.292/.353/.480), followed by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman (.287/.351/.471) and second baseman Dan Uggla (.282/.339/.480). Ramirez ranked in the top 10 in the NL in games (158), at-bats (633), runs (119), hits (185), doubles (46), triples (11), and stolen bases (51).

Josh Johnson, Matt Cain, and Takashi Saito deserve recognition as the best rookie pitchers. There were several other hitters and pitchers who put up good numbers but none were in the league of those mentioned above.

How would you have voted?

Comments

NL Cy Young: Webb - For the reasons Rich listed above.
AL Cy Young: Santana - there is no justifiable argument for anyone else.
NL ROY: Ramirez/Uggla- either Marlin is good for me.


AL ROY: Papelbon - I think it's neck-and-neck with Liriano. Papelbon had a higher K/BB (5.78 to 4.5) and BAA (.167 to .205) and lower WHIP (.78 to 1.00). And yes, I know I am handpicking stats, but it's hard to compare a closer to a starter.
How about this abusive interpretation of stats?
---Papelbon pitched roughly 57 percent as many innings as Liriano (68.1 to 121), but Papelbon's VORP of 38.6 is roughly 76 percent of Liriano's VORP of 51.---You see what I did there?
It'll be a November to forget for Liriano if he loses ROY.

Agree on Santana for AL CY, but Carp for NL CY. He actually led his team to a championship, and I think that should be key to the CY & MVP. Seriously, stats aside, if you are not winning for your team, you don't deserve the award.

The real question about Santana this year is whether he should be the MVP. You can make a good case for it.

A quick note on Santana for MVP, I have to disagree...on a team that had an excellent rotation, bullpen, and defense, it's the guy who drove the lineup who is the league MVP (cough Morneau cough, way above everyone).

The NL Cy Young is a nice race, and it's always fun to have an award where there are multiple worthy candidates (as opposed to that AL Cy, which is case closed). In cases such as this, though, where there is basically a three way tie, I like to go with "who is the guy in the group who has come really close in the past, but not won it" viewpoint...in which case the tiebreaker easily goes to Oswalt, who deserves one for sure. As for what eth3l said, the awards are voted for before the playoffs, so we shouldn't forget that all of a sudden...unless you're in the mood to give the 2004 MVP to David Ortiz or Manny Ramirez, haha.

As for the AL Rookie of the Year, this is a really tough one. Because they all had their rough stretches and all put up such fantastic numbers, I'd go with the bulb that burned brightest, which leaves between Liriano and Papelbon. After that, it depends on how you define who should win the ROY...best performance, or most valuable? If the former, I'd go with Liriano and all his innings...if the latter, take Papelbon and how he stepped up as closer in an intense situation and thrived.
In the end, I'd go with Liriano, not only because of his performance, but because without him the Twins would have missed the playoffs.

Santana is AL CYA. Carpenter for NL CYA because I'm old fashioned and like the pitcher with the better WHIP and that he kept his total hits allowed under 200. It was amazing to look at Webb's career stats and see his 2004 stats. His 119 walks in 2004 compared to his other 3 seasons is one of the greatest outliers I have ever seen.

As close as NL CYA is, AL ROY is even closer. I can't remember two rookies that played at such a high level in one season before. At both pitchers' peaks in 2006, they were each arguable the best pitcher in baseball. I expect East Coast Bias to break the tie in favor of Papelbon. Three similar players for the NL ROY, but Ramirez's SBs probably did push his value slightly ahead of the other two. One of the strongest groups of ROY candidates I can ever remember.

Not to open up old wounds, but I went back and looked at the post on the AL MVP and I have to say that I am stunned not to see Frank Thomas in the top 10.

The sabermetric community has, unfortunately, reacted against the use of "team success" in MVP discussions in the same way that it initially rejected things like fielding and baserunning. Maybe "rejected" is too strong a word - the point is the the pendulum has swung too far.

I think that, in a league where the *goal* of the regular season is to make the playoffs, it is foolish to neglect the extent to which a player has had an impact on a team's ability to reach that goal.

Let me put it this way: the wins Travis Hafner added to the Indians meant nothing. They could have lost 5 or even 10 more games and no one would have cared because they weren't in the playoff hunt either way. On the other hand, the marginal wins the As got from Big Frank very well may have put them over the top. That, in this league, is *value*.

I'd give the AL ROY to Liriano, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Verlander won it. He was by far the least dominant of the four main candidates, but he also pitched the most innings and the people who vote on these things have an inane fascination with Wins.

Carp and Oswalt both ended up with 15 wins, Webb had 16...who does not deserve the award because they were not winning for their team?? When the Cards were struggling at the end of the season, and they were losing ground in the NL Central...Carp had a 3.57 ERA in his last 6 GS, while Oswalt had a 1.85 ERA in his last 6 GS. Carp gave up 6 ER in each of his last 2 starts of the regular season, losing both of them. It is unfair to judge a pitcher on the number of wins they have. Roy Oswalt had back to back 20-win seasons, and he should have 20 wins this season. The Astros bullpen had close to a 9.00 ERA in games started by Oswalt. The reason that he doesn't have 20 wins is because of the lack of run support and an inconsistent bullpen. Oswalt gave up 3 ER or less in 25 games in which he pitched 6 innings or more. Out of those 25 quality starts, he lost 5 and got a ND in 7. Seven different times the bullpen blew his lead or he got no run support. Oswalt, Webb, and Carp all started 32 games this season. Webb had 24 games giving up 3 er or less in 6 ip or more, and Carp had 19. Carp gave up 5 er or more 7 times, Oswalt gave up 5 er or more twice. Oswalt was more consistent throughout the season, but the Astros offense and bullpen was not. The Cy Young should be between Oswalt and Webb...just because Carpenter was on the winning team does not make him the better pitcher. Look at the numbers, not the wins because the entire team factors into the wins-and the Cy Young is based on a pitchers ability and talent.

Not to open up old wounds, but I went back and looked at the post on the AL MVP and I have to say that I am stunned not to see Frank Thomas in the top 10.

I don't see that as an old wound. It may be an old "issue" but it's not an old "wound" because it was never a wound in the first place.

I feel very comfortable placing Frank Thomas (.270/.381/.545, 39 HR, 114 RBI) 11th on my *ballot*. From a pure stats point of view, he doesn't deserve to rank any higher than Manny Ramirez (.321/.439/.619, 35 HR, 102 RBI, 100 BB), Jim Thome (.288/.416/.598, 42 HR, 109 RBI, 107 BB), or Jason Giambi (.253/.413/.558, 37 HR, 113 RBI, 110 BB), yet I placed him above all three. Accordingly, I gave Thomas "extra credit," if you will, for his impact on helping his team make the playoffs.

As far as Thomas vs. Travis Hafner goes, I actually was criticized for putting the latter so low. If Thomas and Hafner switched teams, I don't think a logical case could be made on behalf of Cleveland making and the A's missing the playoffs.

By the way, to the extent that fielding and baserunning are important in MVP discussions, then it follows that Thomas (as well as Hafner, Ramirez, Thome, and Giambi) isn't as valuable as one might otherwise believe by looking at his hitting stats. The odds are stacked, as they should be, against designated hitters and poor-fielding players at the left-end of the defensive spectrum. Such players have to hit a ton in order to be as valuable as an offensively and defensively productive catcher, shortstop, second baseman, or center fielder. I believe my AL and NL choices are very consistent in that regard.

"K" brought up the idea that Oswalt was more consistent than the other two pitchers.
I just read an appropriate article in today's edition of Hardball Times that addresses this topic . http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/are-foolish-conistencies-the-hobgoblins-of-starting-pitchers/

And yes, that is two Hardball Times plugs in one day, but I assure you Rich didn't pay me to give this one.

As Mike suggested above, Santana should be considered for MVP. As I have stated on this site before, he is a player who is guaranteed to give you at least 20 wins whether he is credited with them or puts his team in a position to win them with his 22-25 quality starts every year. No position player can assure you this productivity like a top pitcher can. Even Win Shares undervalues pitching. The best way to test this is put yourself in the position of GM with access to every player in MLB at their current contract AND you have the first 5 picks out of every player in the league. I can tell you I'm choosing the 4 best starting pitchers in MLB and the best reliever or another starter with my 5th pick. What would you do?

My argument was not that Oswalt was more consistent than Carpenter and Webb, my argument was that Oswalt was more consistent than Carpenter, and that the number of wins a pitcher has, does not always correlate with the pitcher's performance.
The link Redders posted is interesting. But I think that looking at specific games and starts is much more beneficial than trying to determine the expected runs/game using the NL average of runs per 9 innings.
The article deals with the question:

Are pitchers whose performances dont vary much from start to start more valuable than pitchers who distribute their performance over a wider range?

Oswalt didn't vary much from start to start, and he was extremely valuable. You could count on him, and you knew you were going to get a quality start from him. He was more reliable than Carpenter was.
Oswalt had 25 games where he pitched 6 innings or more and gave up 3 er or less.
Carpenter had 19 games where he pitched 6 innings or more and gave up 3 er or less.
Oswalt gave up 4 or more er in 7 games. He gave up 6 er once, 5 er once, and 4 er five times. Carpenter gave up 4 or more er in 11 games. He gave up 7 er once, 6 er four times, 5 er twice, and 4 er four times.
The reason I consider Roy Oswalt to be more consistent than Chris Carpenter is because of the numbers. Oswalt had no shutouts, and Carpenter had 3. But Carpenter gave up 6 or more er five times, compared to Oswalt giving up 6 er once.
With a quality pitcher, you know what you are going to get when they pitch. The most valuable pitcher is one who is reliable and consistently gives the team quality starts.

"Let me put it this way: the wins Travis Hafner added to the Indians meant nothing. They could have lost 5 or even 10 more games and no one would have cared because they weren't in the playoff hunt either way. On the other hand, the marginal wins the As got from Big Frank very well may have put them over the top. That, in this league, is *value*."

I think most sabermetric minded fans have a problem with the idea that the MVP award doesn't go to the "Most Valuable Player" but the "Most Valuable Player on a Playoff-Bound Team." If the St.Louis Cardinals were eliminated on the last day of the season, does it render Albert Pujols' season meaningless? Finishing one game out or 20 games out, the bottom line is that your team didn't make the playoffs.

The people who vote for these things tend to place a disproportionate value on subjective criteria like "how a player performed down the stretch" or "how he hit in the clutch". Who cares? The homerun hit in the first inning counts every bit as much as one hit in the 8th inning, and hitting that homerun in May counts the same as hitting one in September. Value is something that can be objectively measured in any number of ways yet that seems to be thrown out the window whenever the awards are handed out.

I guess this all goes back to the 2002 season for me, because that's the year A-Rod hit 57 HRs, won a Gold Glove, and was ridiculously better than every other SS, and player, in the league. Of course Miguel Tejada won the MVP in a landslide. You can give some extra credit to a guy who "led" his team to the playoffs, but it doesn't render the stats of everyone who didn't make the playoffs meaningless.

American League Cy Young Award: Johan Santana- no contest there

American League Rookie of the Year: Justin Verlander- did more for his team then any other rookie.

National League Cy Young award: Roy Oswalt- would have had 20+ wins if he had just an ounce of run support

National League Rookie of the Year: Ryan Zimmerman- great defense, nifty bat

As to the question of why Chien-Ming Wang would be in the Cy Young race:

-19 wins (most in the league)
- 407 groundball outs (most in the league)
- 3.63 ERA ( 7th best in the league, tied with the beloved Justin Verlander)
- .760 winning percentage ( 3rd best in the league, tied with Johann Santana)
- 12 HRs allowed ( Santana allowed 24, Rogers allowed 23, Mussina allowed 23, and Sabathia allowed 17)
- 218 innings pitched (5th in the league)

While we're cherrypicking:

10.3 H/9
3.1 K/9
1.32 WHIP

It was a decent year, but he's a middle of the pack candidate without the win total.

I think the issue on Wang is simply that from a NYY fan point of view he gave them much much more than they expected. and while watching Yankee games he was pretty much the only starter that gave you sense of reliability in the tougher stretches of the Yankee seasons. but your right, it was a good year but not Cy Young worthy.

Mike Mussina's fade down the stretch was fairly noticable, and injuries coupled with A-rod and some tough luck again costed him a shot at 20 . though he was clearly a Cy young front runner for the first half.

On the ability to get batters out, Papelbon, Weaver and Liriano rule. Winning games, however, is more important than getting outs and for that reason I would have voted for Verlander for AL Rookie.

Verlander: 30 starts, 18 quality
Weaver: 19 starts, 14 quality
Liriano: 16 starts, 10 quality

That's between 4 and 8 games more in which the Tigers have a better than even chance to win. 11 to 14 games in which the Twins or Angels have to start a replacement player with below average numbers.

Good pitchers that pitch a lot are better than good pitchers who don't.

Just for the record, a pure application of Win Shares (numbers produced by The Hardball Times) shows:(1) Santana as the AL's Pitching Win Shares leader, of course; (2)Bronson Arroyo of the Reds essentially tied with Brandon Webb atop the NL's pitchers (Oswalt and Carpenter just a smidgin behind); (3) Johjima with the most Win Shares for an AL rookie (ahead of Papelbon, then Liriano); and (4) Zimmerman and Hanley Ramirez leading the NL rookies, with Uggla not far behind. And, by the way, Frank Thomas at DH ends up with fewer total Win Shares than teammate Jason Kendall, who accumulated nearly as many Win Shares in the field as at bat.