Scott Ostler on the AL Cy Young

By Jason Wojciechowski on November 23, 2010 at 2:05 PM

I don't usually paste full articles here, but this one is so short that I feel like I can do it, with interspersed comments, and still be on solid moral ground. Here's the link to the article.

This is not an old-school rant against the stat-heads and their mystical calculations. New stats can be useful and even enlightening.

Hooray!

But while voters gave the American League Cy to Seattle's Felix Hernandez (13-12) because of his superb ERA (2.27) and other stats, you wonder if they considered:

Uh oh.

Stats don't measure pressure. David Price (19-6) and CC Sabathia (21-7) pitched pressure games all season, in the toughest division, sometimes against each other.

Everyone else has already said this. Everyone. The argument has been hashed over and stomped on so many times, it's like heroin in Missouri at this point. Let me just do it one more time: the AL East had no pressure. Those teams were not fighting it out for the division. They did not care. Once the Red Sox fell out of the race (pretty early), the Rays and Yankees played out the string, pitching and hitting well enough to keep the White Sox or Blue Jays (or Red Sox, for that matter) from having any designs on the Wild Card. But this was not some pressure-packed race for the pennant. This was a slog to the finish line.

While Hernandez was victimized by the Mariners' poor hitting, he was benefit-ized by the M's large park and excellent team defense.

"Benefit-ized"? A veteran newspaper man, writing for his print publication (page B-2 in the San Francisco Chronicle), wrote that. A veteran editor (and probably a rookie copy editor on top of that) let it slide. Nobody said, "That's not a word, re-write that." Nobody said, "You're insane." They just printed it.

I'm ranting about grammar here because Ostler does have a point. StatCorner has Seattle suppressing w0BA (and thus runs, basically) by about 4%. And the Mariners converted balls in play into outs at the fifth-highest rate in baseball, per Baseball Prospectus.

Problem: two of the teams ahead of Seattle in defensive efficiency were New York and Tampa! (Also, Tampa's wOBA factor is 97, very close to Seattle's, and New York, while inflating homers, didn't actually do that much for overall run-scoring, as its wOBA factor is basically 100.)

This isn't to say that there aren't other adjustments to be made (Price, for instance, had the toughest slate of batters-faced this year of these three; Sabathia's batters were easier than Hernandez's, though). It's just that Ostler happened to pick the wrong one.

We came very close to crowning - among starting pitchers - history's first sub-.500 Cy Young.

And? You can't just say that. You have to explain why this is such a bad thing. The arguments above don't do that, and not just in a "I debunked them" way. Those arguments just aren't aimed toward the goal of showing why a sub-.500 pitcher isn't worthy of the Cy Young award.

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