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Retroactively correcting Cy Young award mistakes

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  • Retroactively correcting Cy Young award mistakes

    One of my favorite things to do when looking at pitcher pages on Baseball-Reference is seeing where said player finished in the Cy Young voting that year, clicking on it, and then determining if the award was rightfully or wrongfully awarded. It makes you wonder, how differently would a player be judged if they were retroactively awarded or stripped of being the best pitcher in their league that year.

    In that vein, I've gone through the history of the award and selected what I think are a few mistakes. Not included are very close races where I may lean in another direction (and there have been a lot of those in recent years)...that could be a thread of its own, and perhaps I will do it at some point.

    But here are some errors that really stick out like sore thumbs, in my opinion...

    2005. I had to go back fifteen years, and it was a double-whammy with oddly similar circumstances. Both winners road their victories on the strength of their 21-win totals,

    First, the AL. In first place was Bartolo Colon. In second place was Mariano Rivera, who had an incredible Mariano Rivera year. But put aside the relief pitcher debate for a moment. In third place was Johan Santana. This really isn't close. Santana pitched more innings, allowed far less baserunners and far less runs (and far more strikeouts). This robbery prevented Santana from winning 3 Cy Young awards, which would have been consecutive, and quiet likely could have changed his HOF chances significantly. Colon, in his best year, really wasn't too different from fifth place finisher Mark Buerhle.

    The NL featured a similar situation. Top two finishers Chris Carpenter and Dontrelle Willis each had fine seasons. For that matter, so did Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte. But Roger Clemens, who finished third, had a 226 ERA+ and 1.00 WHIP in 211 innings. That sort of differential in run prevention, despite a small innings difference, is just too much to overcome. This would have given Clemens an eighth Cy Young...but not so fast...

    Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 10.21.52 PM.png

    2004. While I just gave Clemens a Cy Young award for 2005, I've got to take one away from 2004, which he received thanks to a really high winning percentage.

    Randy Johnson is just better at everything here. 29 more innings. A sizable difference in baserunners. Better run prevention. More strikeouts, less walks. This is really a disgrace. The Big Unit should have received his sixth Cy Young award, no question.

    Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 10.26.45 PM.png

    2001. Time to take away another from Clemens. His fellow Yankee, Mike Mussina, was simply much better this season. He pitched an extra game, had 3 shutouts to none, had noticeably better run prevention and allowed a lot less baserunners.

    Had Mussina won in 2001, he likely would not have had to wait so long to get in the Hall of Fame.

    Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 10.39.12 PM.png

    1998. This should have been a two man race between two men who didn't win. Instead Tom Glavine, who did have a great season, picked up his second award.

    But both Kevin Brown and Greg Maddux pitched more innings and allowed far fewer baserunners. Brown had a sizable lead in strikeouts, while Maddux had better run prevention. No matter how you slice it, Glavine should have been third. I think here I will go with Brown, as it looks like WAR has adjusted for some disparities in team and park to give him the nod over Maddux, but it is close. This doesn't change much for Glavine, but a Cy Young award for Brown would have changed his HOF case considerably...which brings us to...

    Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 10.45.14 PM.png

    1996. This was the year John Smoltz put up his best performance and won his only Cy Young award. But I believe Kevin Brown should have won this season as well, which would have given him two for his career. This isn't the most egregious snub on my list, but I still consider it a mistake. I don't believe the extra 20 innings and better strikeout numbers are enough to beat Brown's huge advantage in run prevention and his better prevention of baserunners. I think Smoltz is closer to Maddux, who was totally ignored by the voters, than Brown. In terms of the HOF, I think an award-less Smoltz would still get in (though not on first ballot), while a two-time winner in Brown would just be hard to ignore even if he didn't make it via the writers.

    Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 10.55.37 PM.png
    (To be continued...5 attachment limit per post)
    Last edited by Bigfoot 88; 09-16-2020, 08:16 PM.
    Chop! Chop! Chop!

  • #2
    Great stuff Bigfoot, interested in an upcoming recap on the 1982 AL Cy.
    Jacquelyn Eva Marchand (1983-2017)
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    • #3
      Poor Kevin Brown. I hope I can sleep tonight, contemplating the cosmic injustice of it all.
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      • #4
        Originally posted by Los Bravos View Post
        Poor Kevin Brown. I hope I can sleep tonight, contemplating the cosmic injustice of it all.
        I can almost guarantee you that he spends less time contemplating big-picture inconsequential things that happened 25 years ago than any of us baseball nerds do.
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        1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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        • #5
          I'm surprised you didn't mention Rick Porcello in 2016. His W/L record is literally the only reason he won it. Justin Verlander and others were better that year. Verlander pitched a few more innings, had a slightly lower ERA, 65 more strikeouts, and a much higher WAR,

          Clearly many voters agreed as Verlander received 14 first place votes to Porcello's 8, yet somehow it was Porcello who walked away with the award.
          My top 10 players:

          1. Babe Ruth
          2. Barry Bonds
          3. Ty Cobb
          4. Ted Williams
          5. Willie Mays
          6. Alex Rodriguez
          7. Hank Aaron
          8. Honus Wagner
          9. Lou Gehrig
          10. Mickey Mantle

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          • #6
            What a formatting nightmare trying to get the images in. Splitting original post up...

            1993. Jack McDowell had no business winning this award. Randy Johnson had a better year. But Kevin Appier had an even better year even with less innings, as he had a significantly better run prevention than the other two.


            1992. Time to give Roger Clemens back another award. If you are keeping track, he is so far breaking even. Notice I didn't make a fuss when Eric Gagne won the award as he was something special that year, but I just don't think Eckersley deserves it here. He has a 21 point edge in ERA+ to Clemens, but with 166 less innings!

            Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 11.12.55 PM.png
            1990. This may be the worst snub yet. Roger Clemens deserved this award handily, and this would have given him an eighth. Even without adjusting for park differences, Clemens posted a raw ERA over a run less than Welch! Welch didn't do a great job preventing baserunners, and those strikeout numbers make Tom Glavine look like Randy Johnson.

            Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 11.18.35 PM.png

            1989. Mark Davis, a closer, won this year. Like Eckersley, I'm not overly impressed by the size of his lead in run prevention when he had so many less innings. The clear winner here is Orel Hershiser, Another win by the Dodger might not have changed his HOF fate, but he is flat out better here. The extra 164 innings are just too much to overcome.

            Screenshot 2020-09-15 at 11.26.54 PM.png

            TBC​
            Chop! Chop! Chop!

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            • #7
              Originally posted by GiambiJuice View Post
              I'm surprised you didn't mention Rick Porcello in 2016. His W/L record is literally the only reason he won it. Justin Verlander and others were better that year. Verlander pitched a few more innings, had a slightly lower ERA, 65 more strikeouts, and a much higher WAR,

              Clearly many voters agreed as Verlander received 14 first place votes to Porcello's 8, yet somehow it was Porcello who walked away with the award.
              I remember that race well and agree Verlander deserved it. But it was close enough in innings, runs, and baserunners that I didn't think it qualified for this list.
              Chop! Chop! Chop!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Bigfoot 88 View Post

                I remember that race well and agree Verlander deserved it. But it was close enough in innings, runs, and baserunners that I didn't think it qualified for this list.
                Using ERA+ is may look that way, but if you use ERA+ adjusted for defensive support and the lineups that they faced, Verlander was 157 and Porcello was only 128.

                Verlander's defense was near the bottom of the league and Porcello's was near the top.

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                • #9
                  Mark Pryor would've been a far better choice for 2003 instead of that fraudulent clown Eric Gagne.

                  Smoltz had a stellar year that year (can't wait for a "Well, actually..." aside lecture about how all RPs are interchangeable) but spent close to a month on the shelf from late August to late September. He had 44 Saves and a 0.89 ERA. I had hopes that he could be the first guy to win a CYA as a starter and another as a reliever. He was keeping pace with Gagne before his injury, but Gagne piled up a statistical lead with the extra time he had while John recuperated, so I pretty much accepted Gagne's finishing ahead of him. I can tell you that if they had finished with similar stats but Gagne had still won the award, it would have been a legitimately monumental travesty.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Los Bravos View Post
                    Mark Pryor would've been a far better choice for 2003 instead of that fraudulent clown Eric Gagne.

                    Smoltz had a stellar year that year (can't wait for a "Well, actually..." aside lecture about how all RPs are interchangeable) but spent close to a month on the shelf from late August to late September. He had 44 Saves and a 0.89 ERA. I had hopes that he could be the first guy to win a CYA as a starter and another as a reliever. He was keeping pace with Gagne before his injury, but Gagne piled up a statistical lead with the extra time he had while John recuperated, so I pretty much accepted Gagne's finishing ahead of him. I can tell you that if they had finished with similar stats but Gagne had still won the award, it would have been a legitimately monumental travesty.
                    Whether or not all RPs are interchangeable (they're not, of course) has zero to do with the argument about whether a RP deserves to win the Cy Young. I am opposed to them winning it because they pitch far less than half as many innings as the best starting pitchers. Even someone as dominant as 2003 Gagne (and he was about as dominant as a pitcher has ever been on a per-inning basis) doesn't provide nearly as much value on the mound as a great starting pitcher pitching 200+ innings.
                    My top 10 players:

                    1. Babe Ruth
                    2. Barry Bonds
                    3. Ty Cobb
                    4. Ted Williams
                    5. Willie Mays
                    6. Alex Rodriguez
                    7. Hank Aaron
                    8. Honus Wagner
                    9. Lou Gehrig
                    10. Mickey Mantle

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by GiambiJuice View Post

                      Whether or not all RPs are interchangeable (they're not, of course) has zero to do with the argument about whether a RP deserves to win the Cy Young. I am opposed to them winning it because they pitch far less than half as many innings as the best starting pitchers. Even someone as dominant as 2003 Gagne (and he was about as dominant as a pitcher has ever been on a per-inning basis) doesn't provide nearly as much value on the mound as a great starting pitcher pitching 2̶0̶0̶+̶ 150+ innings.
                      Fixed that for you since we are now in the 21st century and 200+ innings is on average only a small fraction of pitchers in a given season.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jjpm74 View Post

                        Fixed that for you since we are now in the 21st century and 200+ innings is on average only a small fraction of pitchers in a given season.
                        I said a great pitcher pitching 200 innings. I am talking about the top pitchers, the Cy Young candidates (e.g. Jacob deGrom has thrown 200+ each of the last three years). Of course it's a small fraction, we are talking about Cy Young candidates. What is your point? Even if a starter pitches just 175 that's still more than twice as many as a closer and the point still stands.
                        My top 10 players:

                        1. Babe Ruth
                        2. Barry Bonds
                        3. Ty Cobb
                        4. Ted Williams
                        5. Willie Mays
                        6. Alex Rodriguez
                        7. Hank Aaron
                        8. Honus Wagner
                        9. Lou Gehrig
                        10. Mickey Mantle

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Bigfoot 88 View Post
                          2001. Time to take away another from Clemens. His fellow Yankee, Mike Mussina, was simply much better this season. He pitched an extra game, had 3 shutouts to none, had noticeably better run prevention and allowed a lot less baserunners.

                          Had Mussina won in 2001, he likely would not have had to wait so long to get in the Hall of Fame.
                          I'm pretty sure the reason Clemens won it that year was because at one point, it looked like he might set the record for best winning percentage by a full-time starter. He made it to 20-1 before losing his last two decisions. The excitement from watching his W-L record all season was likely what gave him the edge in the voting.
                          Baseball Junk Drawer

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ian2813 View Post

                            I'm pretty sure the reason Clemens won it that year was because at one point, it looked like he might set the record for best winning percentage by a full-time starter. He made it to 20-1 before losing his last two decisions. The excitement from watching his W-L record all season was likely what gave him the edge in the voting.
                            I dont think why he won is really in question.
                            1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                            1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                            1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                            The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                            The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GiambiJuice View Post

                              I said a great pitcher pitching 200 innings. I am talking about the top pitchers, the Cy Young candidates (e.g. Jacob deGrom has thrown 200+ each of the last three years). Of course it's a small fraction, we are talking about Cy Young candidates. What is your point? Even if a starter pitches just 175 that's still more than twice as many as a closer and the point still stands.
                              No, it really does not stand. Pitching trends have changed dramatically over the past generation. You are talking about someone who pitches every 5 days where the majority of high leverage situations they end up in is self induced vs. someone who pitches 5-6 times a week where a large portion of high leverage situations they end up in are inherited. I'd give the guy who pitches 80-90 innings in 75-80 games with an ERA+ of 200 and held the lead most of those times a CYA over a guy who pitched 160 IPs with an ERA+ of 117 who pitched 5-6 innings every 5th day in largely low leverage situations. As you said, we are talking about the very best pitchers here. The best pitcher deserves the award regardless of what a longevity stat taken out of context might be.
                              Last edited by jjpm74; 09-18-2020, 06:26 AM.

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