Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ranking the AL Cy Young Candidates

With my recent focus on pitching and the American League Cy Young Award announcement scheduled for Tuesday, I thought this would be a good time to rank the leading candidates.  One thing I always emphasize is that there is no one pitching statistic that adequately summarizes pitching performance.  So, I won't do that here.  Instead, I'm going to consider an array of measures which cover all the important traits of pitchers.

For this exercise, I'm selecting ten statistics ranging from the traditional (e.g ERA) to the the advanced (e.g. Win Probability Added).  I will rank each pitcher on each measure giving 10 points for first place, 9 points for second place, etc.  For example, likely Cy Young winner Justin Verlander led the league in ERA, so he gets 10 points for that; He finished third in strikeout/walk ratio, so he gets 8 points for that; etc.  I them sum the points across all ten statistics to arrive at a total for each pitcher.

The ten metrics are:

IP - Innings Pitched
ERA - Earned Run Average
K - Strikeouts
K/BB - Strikeout/Walk ratio
PRS - Pitching Runs Saved
BsRAA - Base Runs Saved Above Average
fWAR - FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement.
tERA or tRA - True ERA
SIERRA - Skill-interactive ERA
WPA - Win Probability Added

I don't claim this to be a "correct" or scientific selection of metrics.  It's just a group of my favorite measures encompassing all of the relevant pitcher skills.   

The table below shows that Verlander won eight of the ten categories and scored 97 out of a possible 100 points.  The only measures on which he didn't finish first were K/BB where he finished third and fWAR where he was second.  Angels right-hander Danny Haren was first in K/BB and Yankees ace CC Sabathia was first in fWAR.  So, unless you have total faith in K/BB alone or fWAR alone, it would be pretty hard to justify selecting anyone over Verlander.

I don't know of anyone who would base their vote solely on K/BB.  There are some in the FanGraphs school, who might base it on fWAR alone, so you may hear some arguments supporting Sabathia. However, it's very close - Sabathia 7.1 versus Verlander 7.0.  So, even if you are a huge fWAR fan, you'd really have to take a look at some other numbers to break the virtual tie.  In that case, you'd notice that Verlander wins everything else.

The other thing for Tigers fans to notice is that Doug Fister finished sixth with 34 points.  He was especially strong in ERA, K/BB and PRS.  It will be interesting to see how much attention he receives in the voting.  I suspect not much given his 11-13 record due to poor run support.    

Table 1: Ranking of AL Cy Young Candidates

Pitcher
IP
ERA
K
K/BB
PRS
BsRAA
fWAR
TERA
SIERRA
WPA
Total
Verlander
10
10
10
8
10
10
9
10
10
10
97
Weaver
6
9
3
5
9
9
6
8
0
9
64
Sabathia
7
2
9
6
7
3
10
0
9
4
57
Shields
9
8
8
4
5
7
2
2
6
6
57
Haren
8
0
1
10
0
6
8
9
4
5
51
Fister
0
7
0
7
6
5
5
4
0
0
34
Beckett
0
6
0
1
8
8
0
0
2
8
33
Hernandez
5
0
7
0
0
0
4
6
8
0
30
Wilson
1
4
5
0
2
4
7
0
1
3
27
Price
2
0
6
3
0
0
0
5
7
0
23

Data Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs.com

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