CY Young Results: It’s time for a change in voting

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Updated: November 18, 2016

The time has come. After Rick Porcello took home the Cy Young award this week over pitchers like Corey Kluber, Justin Verlander, and Zach Britton, the time has come to kill the pitcher win stat. As years of watching baseball have gone by, we have been able to find more and better ways to understand, measure, calculate, break down, and comprehend what we have seen.

A player’s impact, value, and output are scrutinized to such great detail that we can understand exactly what type of value they’ve added to a team down to the smallest detail. Advanced stats may tell us nothing about what’s going to happen, but they do a great job of explaining what has happened in ways we’ve never been able to understand before.

As we dig deeper into this game we love so much, we are also able to find those stats that don’t tell us what we thought they did. Runs Batted In, for example, have slowly (very slowly) began to lose their value. If Mike Trout walks, steals second, moves up to third on a perfectly read ground ball to the right side, and scores on an Albert Pujols‘ fly out, who’s contributions are more valuable there?

Trout, who single-handedly worked a count and made a pitcher work, stole second and moved to third with his own instincts and base-running skill, and scored using his speed, or Pujols’, who happened to make an out while Trout was on third?

The fact is Trout’s run scored there is far more impressive and valuable to his team than Pujols’ RBI, and we now have the ability to understand that. In that same vein, the pitcher win does not accurately tell us how valuable or good a pitcher has been.

For a pitcher to get a win, there are so many factors outside of the pitcher’s control that determine whether he gets that win or not; there is no other stat that relies so much on other players. When a batter hits a home run, he does not switch with a pinch runner at third base and then hope that player makes it home without something happening to him, and if something does happen, then… well, he just lost his home run.

That same logic that seems so silly is the same logic applied to the pitcher win. For a pitcher to get a win he has to pitch well, rely on other pitchers to finish the game, and rely on his teammates to score just enough runs; if all those things go well, then he’s earned the win.

Therefore, if a pitcher pitches five innings and gives up five runs while striking out one and walking four, but his team scores seven runs and he wins, then his contributions are more valuable then the pitcher who pitched a complete game with eleven strikeouts, but gave up one run while his team was shut out.

That makes no sense, is just plain wrong, and does a great disservice to some great pitchers pitching in bad situations, on bad teams, or who are just unlucky. Looking at the Cy Young vote, we see another case of win bias. Just comparing Porcello to second place finisher Verlander, and without even getting into the fact that Verlander actually had more first place votes, Verlander pitched more innings, had more strikeouts, a lower ERA, a lower WHIP, and allowed less hits and runs.

Porcello won the CY Young, essentially, on the strength of his league-leading twenty-two wins while pitching for one of the best offenses in baseball with the Boston Red Sox, along with some points-total tomfoolery, as Verlander had him beat in ostensibly every statistical category, advanced, traditional, or anything else.

There are many reasons to kill the pitcher win, and after yet another award was handed to an inferior player based on an antiquated and useless stat, maybe we can begin to actually evaluate starting pitchers on their own merits instead of a stat that relies on so many factors outside of their control. Then we can focus on killing the save!

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2016 BOS 22 4 .846 3.15 33 3 223.0 193 85 78 23 32 189 13 3 145 3.40 1.009 7.8 0.9 1.3 7.6
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2016.
Year Tm W L W-L% ERA GS CG IP H R ER HR BB SO HBP WP ERA+ FIP WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9
2016 DET 16 9 .640 3.04 34 2 227.2 171 81 77 30 57 254 8 6 136 3.48 1.001 6.8 1.2 2.3 10.0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/17/2016.
(Top stat line is Porcello’s, bottom Verlander’s. Just in case you’re a voter for major baseball awards and are easily confused.)

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