Preview: AL Cy Young

Justin Verlander

A whole 0.8 fWAR behind Lee is Verlander. After 224 innings and an FIP of 2.98, Verlander notched 6.3 fWAR. His 3.08 K/BB is better than CC but worse than Lee’s, and while his 5.6% HR/FB is low, it’s only 2% lower than his career mark. He’s good, but he prevents home runs at nearly the same rate as Lee, had nearly identical GB/FB rates, had a much, much lower K/BB, and only threw 12 more innings than Lee. There’s no way I can justify picking Verlander over Lee.

Felix Hernandez

I thought about putting Hernandez second, but I didn’t want to put this exactly in order, thus forcing you to read more (though I guess you could have just skipped Verlander). I thought about putting him last, but that’s just rude. Hernandez was awesome this season, and he deserves to be mentioned here. His 3.31 K/BB is really good, but it’s nowhere near Lee’s. His 249.2 IP, however, trump Lee’s 212, big time. Felix gets a lot more ground balls (1.81 to 1.04), but Lee is better at preventing home runs. Then, there’s the bWAR issue in which Hernandez blasts Lee, but I have two issues with that. The first is what I mentioned above, and the second is that Hernandez’s ERA is almost 0.8 points lower than his FIP (limiting the amount of runs he gave up in B-Ref’s measurements). I don’t really know how to make such an adjustment, so I’ll stick with fWAR. And Lee’s 10.78 K/BB is just amazing and so much better than anyone else’s. Does it make up for 35 innings? I’m not sure, but FanGraphs already did the math and said Lee was a whole win better. I can’t argue enough for Felix to make up for that.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano is what the Twins need—an ace starting pitcher to headline for the strike throwers—but he’s not better than Lee and didn’t even pitch more than Lee. The K/BB is lower, the FIP is higher, and the home run rate is 4% below his career mark. Liriano was awesome and had an amazing year, but he wasn’t as good as Lee. Move along.

Jered Weaver

Weaver is essentially Justin Verlander with a slightly higher FIP due to the fact that he gives up more home runs. You have to love the K/BB ratio of 4.31, but he’s not Lee.

My guess is that the big debate will be CC versus Felix, and I’ll also guess that Felix has received enough media attention to wrestle what will be a tight race away from CC. The thing is that Lee deserves just as much attention. If Felix wins the award, people will cheer and champagne the year that the voters finally did away with wins. The thing is that they haven’t. If Felix wins, it will be because the voters “who vote by wins” will be able to stomach Felix’s 2.27 ERA, which is almost a point lower than CC’s, and his additional 12 innings. It won’t be the beginning of a new era. It’ll be the same ole thing it’s always been because voters have always voted by ERA and IP (not to mention Felix’s 40 more strikeouts). They’ve never voted purely by wins. They’ve always weighed the different statistics in the way that I’ve just weighed other statistics for you (though these statistics are more accurate descriptions of pitching performance), and though they sometimes get distracted by shiny wins and may even give them significant weight, there are no more ignorant voters that blindly follow wins than other analysts that default to their own metric of choice. Lee should win, Felix will win, and CC will come in a close, boisterous second.

7 thoughts on “Preview: AL Cy Young

  1. How did you ignore David Price? 19-8, much better ERA than CC, only a smidge behind Felix in a much tougher division and in a much less pitcher-friendly ballpark.