Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Stop the NL Cy Young Madness

The NL Cy Young madness needs to end. Now. People in the mainstream media and here on the internet need to stop calling Brandon Webb the NL Cy Young Award winner or the favorite to win the award.

Brandon Webb has definitely had a great year but to call him the NL's best pitcher is just ludicrous, especially since he may not even be the best pitcher on his own team.

There is a case to be made that Danny Haren, not Brandon Webb, is the best pitcher on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Webb may boast an impressive 19-6 record compared to Haren's 14-7 but that is one of the only clear cut advantages Mr. Webb has over Mr. haren.

In just about every statistical category, they are close:

IP: Webb: 192.0, Haren: 190.3
H: Webb: 174, Haren: 154
BB: Webb: 51, Haren: 30
WHIP: Webb: 1.172, Haren: 1.091
SO: Webb: 160, Haren: 176
K/BB: Webb: 3.13, Haren: 5.86
K/9: Webb: 7.50, Haren: 8.52
ERA: Webb 3.19, Haren: 3.24
BB/9: Webb: 2.39, Haren: 1.45
H/9: Webb: 8.16, Haren: 8.37
MO/9: Webb: 10.55, Haren: 9.82
AVG: Webb: .241, Haren: .244
OBP: Webb: .296, Haren: .279
SLG: Webb: .335, Haren: .375
OPS: Webb: .631, Haren: .655
BABIP: Webb: .290, Haren: .301

So they're close in just about everything. Webb gets the advantage in innings, hits per nine innings, BAA, SLGA, and OPSA, with Haren taking the rest. It's interesting to note that even though he has a higher SLGA, OPSA, and allows more hits per nine, Danny Haren, he allows fewer base-runners per nine innings than his counterpart, Brandon Webb, 9.82 to 10.55.

As you can see, I used all "traditional" stats, with the exception of one: Batting Average on Balls in Play, or BABIP. I like to use this stat as a sort of crutch to see how lucky a pitcher is getting. WHIP can also be used this way: a pitcher with a low ERA but high WHIP is getting lucky (see: Diasuke Matsuzaka). The average BABIP for the league is about .300. That means that anyone who has a BABIP of or around .300 is essentially "breaking even" in terms of luck. Anything above .300 signifies that a pitcher is getting bad luck and anything below .300 shows that a pitcher is getting good luck. Anyway, it's not a huge variation, but Webb is coming in at a .290 clip on BABIP, whereas Haren comes in at .301, thus breaking even. Webb seems to be getting a little lucky.

Haren's ERA might be a little higher than Webb's, but his lower WHIP, and sweep of the "per-nine" categories makes him the better choice, in my opinion. What's more, Haren leads the league with his 1.45 BB/9 and his 5.86 K/BB. Webb leads in wins and games started--I'll take BB/9 and K/BB over wins and starts.

With how close these are, it's a wonder how anyone can have Webb as the clear cut favorite to win the Cy Young. In my opinion, he doesn't even win his TEAM'S Cy Young Award, much less the entire National League's. It seems that Webb's lofty 19 win total is what's garnering him so much praise. If he had Danny Haren's win total, no one would be saying anything about his Cy Young candidacy. Wins suck.

Who, then, if not Webb, should be the NL Cy Young winner? The answer to that one is Tim Lincecum. He has blossomed into a true pitching star despite his yet-to-hit-puberty frame and funky mechanics and should be rewarded for his absolutely brilliant performance this season on an absolutely awful, awful baseball team.

Here are Tim Linecum's numbers:

IP: 190.3
H: 154
BB: 72
WHIP: 1.187
SO: 210
K/BB: 3.00
K/9: 10.22
ERA: 2.60
BB/9: 3.41
H/9: 7.28
MO/9: 10.66
AVG: .222
OBP: .298
SLG: .316
OPS: .614
BABIP: .306

Webb may have the control edge (BB/9, K/BB, WHIP, OBPA), but Lincecum's .222 BAA and league leading 210 strikeouts are just dominating and neutralize his higher walk total. And despite those walks, his WHIP still comes in at a great 1.187 and he's obviously not letting those runners score, as evidenced by the league leading 2.60 ERA.

What Lincecum doesn't have, like Haren, is the win total to be considered in the running: he only has 15 wins to Webb's 19. A lower win total usually means a lower vote total from the Baseball Writers. The irony here is that Lincecum actually has a better winning percentage than his Arizona counterpart, .833-.760. Lincecum, had he received proper run support, could have 23 wins by now. How is that possible? Well, Tim Lincecum has had EIGHT games this year in which he's recorded a quality start (at least six innings pitched with no more than three earned runs allowed) and gotten nothing for it, with the game resulting in either a no decision or a loss.

In my perfect baseball world, Tim Lincecum is the 2008 NL Cy Young winner. Hopefully, the Baseball Writers see it that way and the Brandon Webb madness stops.


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