While I'm not trying to imply that Roy Halladay isn't as good as everyone thinks, when it comes to the recent National League Cy Young voting, I do have a bit of a beef.
My complaint is not that Halladay's season was undeserving of the award. Rather, it's with the way in which he won it. That is, unanimously.
What I don't completely understand is how all 32 voters considered him the top choice when there was another candidate who was equally deserving by most measures, and even more deserving by others. That candidate is Adam Wainwright.
Of course I'm not going to make such a statement without backing it up. So, let's start by looking at the mainstream statistics, the three categories commonly considered the Triple Crown of pitching.
- W-L record: Halladay 21-10, Wainwright 20-11
- ERA: Wainwright - 2.42, Halladay - 2.44
- Strikeouts: Halladay - 219, Wainwright - 213
So, let's take a slightly deeper look. Halladay is lauded for his 7.30 K/BB ratio, and compared to Wainwright's 3.80, this appears to be a pretty big edge, on the surface. But, taking a closer look, Wainwright actually averaged 8.32 strikeouts per nine innings to Halladay's 7.86. So, obviously this means Wainwright had a considerably higher walk rate (2.18 to 1.08). However, Halladay made up for this by giving up more hits than Wainwright.
In fact, looking at opponents' batting statistics versus each pitcher, Halladay yielded a higher batting average (.245 to .224), which effectively canceled out Wainwright's higher walk rate, as evidenced by their almost identical opponents' on-base percentages (Wainwright - .274, Halladay - .271). But, Halladay not only got hit harder, he also gave up considerably more home runs (24 to 15). This gives Wainwright a considerable edge in opponents' slugging percentage (.330 to .373) and OPS (.604 to .645).
Let's dig a little further and look at a few SABRmetric statistics. I'm providing simplistic explanations regarding each, rather than attempting to explain how each is calculated, which would be quite difficult.
- ERC (Component ERA) measures a pitcher's ERA based on the hits and walks he allowed, rather than actual runs: Wainwright - 2.38, Halladay - 2.69
- DIPS ERA (Defense-Independent ERA) attempts to measure a pitcher's ERA independent of the defense behind him: Wainwright - 2.97, Halladay - 3.09
- ERA+ is park-adjusted and league-adjusted ERA, expressed as a percentage relative to the average pitcher: Halladay - 165 (65% better than average), Wainwright - 161
So, where does Halladay have a clear advantage over Wainwright? Well, he pitched more innings (250 2/3 to 230 1/3), and threw more complete games (9 to 5) and more shutouts (4 to 2). His other considerable edge is in the fact that he's Roy Halladay.
Is he overrated? Well, not really. But, did he receive preferential treatment in this year's Cy Young voting due to his reputation? Quite possibly, yes. Did he have a season that was deserving of the award? Of course, but Adam Wainwright was just as, if not more, deserving and how he managed to earn zero first-place votes is a question I can't possibly answer.