Saturday, October 3, 2009

No 20-game Winners? YES!

It isn't simple schadenfreude that makes me so happy that both Adam Wainwright and C.C. Sabathia failed to collect their 20th wins last night. What really has me excited is the effect that C.C.'s loss and Wainwright's no decision could have on the Cy Young races; with no 20-game winner this year, voters will (hopefully) be more likely to delve beyond the wins column in selecting their candidates.

Now I don't mean to suggest that Sabathia and Wainwright don't deserve CYA votes. They absolutely do. But they shouldn't be getting many, if any, first place votes.

Let's start with Sabathia and the AL. The baseball worlds (all of them, from the traditional media outlets to the amateur blogroll) were abuzz with talk of Zach Greinke's amazing start. Then the wins started drying up, and fewer voices were raised in support of Zach. This isn't to say that Greinke supporters abandoned the cause, but a lot of the early hubbub was gone (particularly in traditional media) because the wins column wasn't 8-0 anymore. Why not? Because Greinke pitches for the Kansas City Royals.

Sabathia, on the other hand, led the American League in wins thanks in part to a Yankees offense that scored a shade under 6 runs per Sabathia start (versus 3.7 for Greinke in KC). Craig Brown over at the Hardball Times has created an excellent breakdown of the top Cy Young candidates in the AL. Although Brown leaves the question of who to choose somewhat open-ended (he is, however, a Greinke supporter, as am I), Sabathia's case really takes a hit when subjected to Brown's analysis. The only major statistical category in which Sabathia leads the pack is wins. Greinke, meanwhile, destroys the field in ERA, ERA+, PRC, and WAR, is tied for the lead in SHO, pitched in eight games in which his team gave him no more than 1 run of support, and had four wins blown by his bullpen.

Sabathia had a great year. Greinke, and arguably Halladay, Verlander, and King Felix, had a better one.

Meanwhile, on the NL side, Wainwright's 19 wins are the result of a fantastic year (and a potent offense), to be sure. But Adam Wainwright, as good as he was in '09, was not even the best starting pitcher on his own team.

Let's look at two seasons:

Season 1: 1.007 WHIP, 2.24 ERA, 186 ERA+, 192.2 IP, 144/38 K/BB, 7 HR, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 5.7 WAR

Season 2: 1.210 WHIP, 2.63 ERA, 159 ERA+, 233.0 IP, 212/66 K/BB, 17 HR, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 5.8 WAR

Season 1 is tops in WHIP, ERA, ERA+, K/BB ratio, BB, HR allowed, HR/9, BB/9, H/9, CG, and SHO. Season 2 leads in IP, K, and K/9, and has a slight edge in WAR.

Season 1 belongs to Chris Carpenter. Season 2 is Adam Wainwright's.

There are certainly arguments to be made for Wainwright over Carpenter: Wainwright ate up more innings, which kept spot starters and lesser bullpen arms off the mound. And 212 punch outs is pretty sexy. But Carpenter leads the Cardinals rotation in so many other important statistical categories while, importantly, not yielding much in the way of WAR to his teammate, that Wainwright is far from a slam dunk (and more likely a doink! in my book).

And the argument gets more complicated:

Carpenter: 1.007 WHIP, 2.24 ERA, 186 ERA+, 192.2 IP, 144/38 K/BB, 7 HR, 3 CG, 1 SHO, 5.7 WAR

Wainwright: 1.210 WHIP, 2.63 ERA, 159 ERA+, 233.0 IP, 212/66 K/BB, 17 HR, 1 CG, 0 SHO, 5.8 WAR

Lincecum: 1.047 WHIP, 2.48 ERA, 173 ERA+, 225.1 IP, 261/68 K/BB, 10 HR, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 8.3 WAR

Tim Lincecum put up another monster year in 2009 (even better than his 2008 campaign, in fact), further complicating things for voters. The leaderboard now?

Carpenter: WHIP, ERA, ERA+, BB, BB/9, HR, HR/9
Lincecum: K, K/9, K/BB, CG, SHO, WAR
Wainwright: IP

Wainwright's case gets even shakier, as both Carpenter and Lincecum have had ridiculous years. Wainwright, like Sabathia, was excellent in '09. But like Sabathia, he wasn't tops in his league. And thanks to last night, the door has been opened for deserving candidates to avoid the 20-win elephant in the voting booth when the Cy Young winners are determined later this month.


  1. I'm hoping you are planning on some year end wrap up style post(s) because you didn't really say who you supported for NL Cy Young.

    I'm for Lincecum. What sold it for me is the extra 32.2 innings pitched. That's a lot of innings (3 complete games worth plus change). In 32 extra inning Lincecum would strike out 13 more batters and give up 1 or 2 more walks/hits. That's crazy good. I guess my point is that Carpenter's lead in WHIP is razor thin; his lead in ERA is one of the fartiest of farty stats; ERA+ is razor thin as well; BB, BB/9, HR are negated by K, K/9, and IP respectively, and HR/9 is thin again.

    I agree it's awesome that they'll have to ignore wins although I wish it was because they started thinking.

  2. That should have read "...strike out 13 more batters than Carpenter..."

  3. Yes, I have every intention of writing some wrap-up posts, including my NL Cy Young pick. I just got lazy this time 'round.