Sunday, October 05, 2008

AL Cy Young

At first glance, the AL Cy Young seems like a no-brainer. Cliff Lee led the league in ERA, at 2.54, and wins, going 22-3 for a .500 ball club. But, as a friend pointed out to me--the same guy (some call him Smitty) who made the argument for Pedroia I referenced in my last article--Roy Halladay is not to be overlooked.

Halladay led the league in innings pitched (246, to Lee's 223 1/3), complete games (9, to Lee's 4), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.28, to Lee's 5.00), WHIP (1.05, to Lee's 1.11), and OPS against (.621, to Lee's .633). Halladay's 2.78 ERA placed him second in the league, and he has the edge over Lee in strikeouts (206-170), but at 20-11, Halladay's winning percentage (.645) is considerably lower than Lee's mark of .880. Considering Halladay's Blue Jays (86-76) won five more games than Lee's Indians (81-81), this would seem to be a major edge for Lee. But, despite the fact that Cleveland averaged 4.96 runs per game for the season, they scored an average of 6.13 when Lee was on the mound. Halladay received an average run support of 4.72, more than Toronto's overall 4.41 average, but still 1.4 runs less than Lee. Run support is, of course, not the only team-related factor that would affect a pitcher's winning percentage--team fielding and bullpen being the others--but this shows that just comparing a pitcher's percentage to his team's is not enough.

Other candidates among AL starting pitchers--Daisuke Matsuzaka (18-3, 2.90 ERA, .645 OPS) and Mike Mussina (20-9, 3.37 ERA, 4.84 K/BB)--fall short of Lee and Halladay. Francisco Rodriguez's record-setting season (62 Saves, 2-3, 2.24 ERA, 77 K in 68 1/3 IP) places him as the top candidate among relief pitchers. However, three other closers--Joakim Soria, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan--all were much more dominant, as evidenced by finishing considerably better than Rodriguez in OPS against, K/BB ratio, WHIP and ERA.

So, it comes down to Lee vs. Halladay. Despite the fact that his team's performance enters into it, it's hard to overlook Lee's 22-3 record and .880 winning percentage. Halladay's 9 complete games are impressive, but that and his marginal innings pitched and strikeout edges are really all he has of significance on Lee. Leading the league in two of the three pitching triple crown categories, and a winning percentage that ranks third all-time among 20-game winners, has to count for something. Count my vote for Cliff Lee.


  1. I am going to laugh that this discussion is going to continue between the two of us. I agree - I think Lee is going to win, especially when you factor in where he was last year.

  2. Thanks for finally stopping by, Smitty. I guess I had to mention your name in order to get you to pay attention.

    Thanks also for casting the first vote for Pedroia in my poll (I know that was you). I thought it was odd that no one had voted for him yet...didn't want anyone to think it was a fix.