The Debate: NL Cy Young Award

Jayson Stark (ESPN) wrote a great article in which he examines whether Sabathia, Webb or Lincecum deserve the NL Cy Young award. It’s a great debate as all three pitchers have been outstanding this year. You all know who my vote goes to. Hopefully Lincecum will pitch well tonight to help his cause for the award.

Stark makes an interesting point about blown saves when he talks about Lincecum. That’s an important point. If he and Webb had the same amount of blown saves in games that they would have won (we’ll say 1 since that’s what Webb has), the record for Lincecum would be 19-3 instead of 15-3… “I’m just sayin'” (Glenn Beck).

I’ve copied and pasted the article below (if you want to go to the ESPN site to read it here is the link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/chat/chatESPN?event_id=22202&lpos=spotlight&lid=tab3pos1

The question du jour from Jeremy in Seattle:
Who should be the NL Cy Young award winner? [Brandon] Webb? [Tim] Lincecum? or CC [Sabathia]?

Can a pitcher who wasn’t even in the National League two months ago (Sabathia) win the Cy Young? Can a pitcher who was 19-4 until a week ago (Webb) not win the Cy Young? Can voters finally learn to ignore win totals and give proper consideration to maybe the best candidate of all (Lincecum)?

That’s what we’re here to debate, friends — an NL Cy Young race that gets more fascinating, and confusing, all the time. So let’s sort this out as best we can.

The case for Webb

Despite two shockingly messy losses in the last week, Brandon Webb is still having a fabulous season. He’s just about a lock to lead the league in wins. He could still wind up leading the league in innings pitched. He has a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Lincecum (3.14 to 3.00). And we have to be realistic about how voters have historically voted on this award.

If we don’t count years in which relief pitchers won, there have only been three years under the current voting system (implemented in 1970) that a pitcher lost a Cy Young in a season in which he had at least four more wins than the award-winner.

One was 1999, when Randy Johnson (17-9, 2.48) beat Mike Hampton (22-4, 2.90) in a season in which the Unit (364 K’s) made a run at Nolan Ryan’s modern strikeout record. Another was 1984, the Rick Sutcliffe year, which I’ll get to later. And the third was 1973, when Ron Bryant went 24-12 for the Giants but was considered so un-ace-like that he only finished third. (The winner, Tom Seaver, had 108 more strikeouts than Bryant and an ERA a run and a half lower.) So history tells us that as long as Webb straightens himself out, he’s still likely to win this award.

The case for Lincecum

Tim Lincecum has been getting way too little play in this debate for way too long, anyway. But Webb’s mini-funk has helped bring Lincecum back into the conversation. And it’s about time.

True, Lincecum has four fewer wins (19 to 15). But how much of that is his fault? He’s 15-3, with five blown saves and six CUS (?Criminally Unsupported Starts — games in which he pitched at least six innings and his team scored one run or none while he was in the game). Webb has one blown save and only two CUS. So that accounts for your gap in wins, gang.

Toss wins out of the discussion, and Lincecum looks as if he has clearly outpitched Webb by most standards. Lincecum leads in ERA by more than three-quarters of a run (2.43 to 3.19), leads in strikeouts by 50 (210 to 160) and tops the league in both categories. Lincecum also leads the NL in OPS allowed (.609), quality-start percentage (22 of 27, 81 percent) and strikeout ratio (10.2 per 9 IP). And unlike Sabathia, you may have noticed that he has been in the same league, on the same team, all season.

The case for Sabathia

If we had a Cy Young Since July 8 Award, CC Sabathia definitely would win that one. Since he first took the mound in Bud Selig’s favorite metropolis, Sabathia leads the league in wins (9-0), ERA (1.43), innings pitched (88) and shutouts (three). He has also been a jolt of electricity for his franchise, and one of the great pennant-race acquisitions of all time.

What he hasn’t been, unfortunately, is a National Leaguer (or a Brewer) all year.

So he can only win this award if the Rick Sutcliffe Principal applies. Sutcliffe is the only pitcher ever to change leagues in midseason and win a Cy Young. But in 1984, the year he won, he was traded on June 13 — nearly a month earlier than Sabathia — and had time to go 16-1. That gave him 20 wins for the full season, equal to the total of the winningest NL pitcher, Joaquin Andujar (20-14). Then again, if Sabathia goes 5-0 in September, that would make him 14-0 as a Brewer, 20-8 for the full season. The question is: Would that be enough?

The verdict

Like everyone else who has watched Sabathia pitch, I’d love to figure out a way to give him some kind of award. But this is the “National League Cy Young,” not the “Multi-League Cy Young” or the “Final 2 3/4-Months of the Year Cy Young.” So I think this award should go to the pitcher who has outperformed all his National League competition for the entire season, not just the portion of the season in which Sabathia has been in his league. And if you look seriously at the big picture — not just win totals or the last two months — I believe that pitcher is Tim Lincecum.

Care to disagree? That’s what we’re here for.                                    – article by Jayson Stark from ESPN.com

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