Next, we come to the American League Cy Young Award. This one is absolutely wide open. Off of the top of my head, I can pick at least three or four candidates: Cleveland's Cliff Lee, Toronto's Roy Hallady, Boston's Diauske Matsuzaka, Mike Mussina of our beloved Yankees, and Anaheim's Fransisco Rodriguez are the media darlings and favorites to place in the top 5 for the award.
Let's start with who shouldn't win this award, since that's usually easier than who should win it. K-Rod, despite setting the single season saves record, should come no where near winning the Cy Young Award. He wasn't even the best closer in the AL this year--that distinction goes to Mariano Rivera. I hope he can pull out more votes than Rodriguez, even though I think neither one of them should get a first place votes. In short, closers shouldn't win the Cy Young Award over starters unless there is absolutely no viable option for the Award who is a starter.
As much as I love Moose, I don't think he should win this award. 20 wins is fantastic, and he had a good ERA (6th in the league, 7th in ERA+) and a great walk rate this year, but that alone doesn't win you the Cy Young Award. Diauske's season was wonderful ERA wise, but I think everyone in the know is aware of the incredible luck that he had this year. In fact, this is how lucky:
All eyes are on Moose and his shot at 20 wins in the opener. Most of the regulars should play in this one. Let’s hope today’s the day Matsuzaka has his long overdue ERA correction (FIP: 4.08, xFIP: 4.86, tRA: 4.54). How fluky has Matsuzaka’s season been? There have been two seasons since 1901 where a pitcher walked 5 men per nine innings and finished with an ERA+ of 150 or better while pitching at least 162 innings. Matsuzaka in 2008, and Hal Newhouser in 1942.
That's from The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog, a fantastic site.
Dice-K should not be rewarded for having an incredibly lucky season.
So, that leaves us with two candidates: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. The former came out of no where, he was in the minors last year, to have an incredible season for a bad team. The latter is one of the best pitchers in baseball today, who's dominant year in and year out. Let's see how they stack up:
CL = Cliff Lee, RH = Roy Halladay, x = category winner, y = league leader
RH: 246.0 x, y
CL: 214 x
CL: 34 x
RH: 1.053 x
RH: 206 x
RH: 5.28 x, y
RH: 7.54 x
RH: 8.05 x
CL: 1.37 x, y
RH: 9.48 x
RH: .237 x
RH: .276 x
RH: .345 x
RH: .621 x
CL: 2.54 x, y
CL: 174 x, y
So, in the above categories, Roy Halladay beats Cliff Lee in 11 categories and leads the league in two. Lee wins in five, leading the league in three. This is an absolute toss up. Even when I look at a frivolous stat like wins, both guys had at least 20--Halladay had 20, Lee had 22. In losses, Halladay had 11, Lee had 3, good for the league lead in win/loss percentage. This race is essentially a tie. Let's delve a little deeper into how these guys did what they did. Digging through gamelogs via Lee's and Halladay's pages on baseball-reference.com, I found the following:
In terms of run support, Lee had the incredible advantage; he got 5.58 runs per game of support while Halladay only got 4.61 runs of support. That definitely contributed to double digit losses for Halladay. Cliff Lee had four games in which he recorded a quality start and ended up with a loss or no decision for his effort, Halladay had five of those scenarios. So it seems that Halladay made the best of his run support. The ridiculous thing is how many decisions he got. There were only three games this past season when Halladay didn't factor in the decisions, and in one of those, a relief appearance on May 18 vs. Philadelphia, he got a hold. Back to that run support, though...if Halladay had gotten the same support as Lee, he definitely would've surpassed Cliff in wins.
More in terms of luck: Cliff Lee had an FIP of 2.92. That's incredible and comes due to the incredibly small amount of walks and home runs he gave up. However, Lee's xFIP came in at 3.69. That's a big difference and indicates a pretty damn good deal of luck. Halladay's FIP was 3.09, with an xFIP of 3.23. That shows that Halladay was a little lucky, but nearly as much as Lee.
Now FIP is wonderful, but it doesn't take into consideration every single type of batted ball. tRA does. tRA also takes into consideration the run value of the type of hit, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me. Let's look at these two from the lens of tRa:
Cliff Lee's tRA weighed in at 3.17, and according to the same page and 42.0 Pitching Runs Above Average. Halladay's tRA was at 3.50 and he was at 36.3 PRAA. For the record, Baseball Prospectus' Pitchers VORP leader-board has Lee first in the Majors at 75.0 and Halladay in fourth at 71.5. This closeness is getting ridiculous.
So, who would my vote go to? I still have no idea! This is legitimately one of the closest Cy Young races I can recall. I could easily wuss out and say that I'd vote for both of them, but that's no fun. Reading through all of the info I've written, it seems that every single stat is countered by another. So, after going with my head and yielding no results, I'm gonna go all Colbert on your asses and go with my gut.
Halladay. I love him, I love Lee. If either one of them wins, I'll be happy. But I just feel that Lee got a little lucky this year. Halladay was pretty damn dominant and I feel that he was under-appreciated and almost overlooked this year. Go Roy...but go Cliff, too.