A Baseball Weblog

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How about the other guy?

The AL Cy Young award has been causing quite a bit of debate recently. CC Sabathia leads the league in wins, but other than wins, Felix Hernandez has better numbers than he does on pretty much every level. (Felix has won only 11 games, playing for the worst team in the league.) The common consensus is that it would be hard for the BWAA to vote for a pitcher with so few wins in favor of a pitcher with at least 20, which CC should reach by the end of the year. So for the last few weeks, it's really been about CC vs. Felix, one pitcher with the wins and the other pitcher with the "other stuff" (which includes a microscopic ERA). But there is somebody else whom I believe has put himself right in the middle of the battle. Take a look at these numbers for three pitchers:

WinsLossesERAIPK/9BB/9*HR/9GB Rate
11112.39225 2/38.532.790.60.532

*Here, BB/9 is calculated with hit-by-pitches and without intentional walks.

The first pitcher was Sabathia, and the second was Hernandez. That third guy? That's Jon Lester, who dominated the Mariners yesterday for his 17th win. He's got innings, a low ERA, and excellent peripheral statistics to back up his performance. There was an interesting
article by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs yesterday that displayed the results of the AL Cy Young poll that the site had held the previous week. Hernandez won in a landslide, with over 60% of the votes, Francisco Liriano came in second with just under 11%, and Sabathia came in 3rd with around 9%. Cameron notes that Lester received virtually no support from the readers, and personally, I find that shocking. (To be brutally honest, Lester has sort of slipped my mind the last few weeks as well, and I voted for Hernandez in the poll.) Fangraphs' readers would be aware that Lester is second in the American League in xFIP and fifth in the majors. And now with his 17th win, there are only four other pitchers with more. Really, the only thing lacking in Lester's performance this year is control, and his excellent strikeout and ground-ball tendencies make up for what he loses in terms of walks. With a bit less than three weeks left on the season, Lester does have a chance to reach 20 wins. If he does, then there's no doubt in my mind that he would then be considered the Cy Young frontrunner.

Data are from Fangraphs.