The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Why CYA and CYP Don't Always Match

I sat down the other night, after writing up my previous post about Cy Young Points, and did an analysis of differences between CYP leaders and the actual winners of the Cy Young Award. There were 40 differences in the voting from 1956 to 2004, out of the 88 awards presented over that time. Granted, that sounds like a large number, but in looking at the differences, I've narrowed down the five main reasons why the CYP leader didn't win the Award.

1. The Winner Takes It All. (16 times: 1959, 1967 NL, 1971 NL, 1976 AL/NL, 1977 NL, 1980 AL, 1982 NL, 1983 AL, 1988 NL, 1990 AL, 1992 NL, 1993 AL, 1996 AL, 1997 AL, 2002 AL)

When pitchers are within a 10-point gap in CYP, and the only main difference between two or more pitchers is the number of wins, the pitcher with more wins will win the award over the lower win total. Usually, the reason why a pitcher with fewer wins has a larger CYP total is because of baserunner ratio - which is generally discounted by the BBWAA in selecting a Cy Young winner.

2. Relievers Are Often Misjudged By Voters. (9 times: 1960, 1974 NL, 1979 AL/NL, 1983 AL, 1987 NL, 1989 NL, 1993 NL, 2003 NL)

Relief pitchers have rarely been correctly chosen as CYA winners by the CYP method. Usually, a reliever who wins the award is only receiving it for achieving or setting some mark (Marshall, Sutter, Gagne) that is considered "outstanding" - when another pitcher should have been chosen. The 1979 season was unusual, in that the wrong league chose a reliever as its Cy Young winner; Joe Niekro had a distinctly better season with the Astros (21-11, 3.00 in 38 games, 119 K's and a 25.5 CYP total) than Sutter did in relief for the Cubs (6-6, 2.22 in 62 games, 110 K's and an 18.8 CYP) - but Sutter set the major league mark with 37 saves. Over in the AL, Jim Kern of Texas (13-5, 1.57 in 71 GP, 136 K, 40.6 CYP) had a distinctly better season than actual CYA winner Mike Flanagan of the Orioles (23-9, 3.08 in 39 GP, 190 K, 34.0 CYP). Flanagan, however, probably won the award because of another "quirk" of voting:

3. The Playoff Pitcher Takes It All. (7 times: 1962, 1967 AL, 1977 NL, 1985 AL, 1991 AL/NL, 1992 AL)

Basically, if two pitchers have CYP totals within 10 points of each other, the pitcher on the team that is in the post-season will win the award over the non-playoff pitcher. Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox won the 1967 AL Cy Young, even though Joe Horlen of the White Sox had a better winning percentage (.731 to .710), a lower ERA (2.06 to 3.16) and a better ratio (0.969 - ridiculous, even in the time of the pitcher, to 1.207). However, Horlen's White Sox faltered down the stretch - and the "feel good" story of Lonborg and the BoSox was too much for voters. There was one other reason why Horlen didn't get the nod as well:

4. Two Good Teammates Spoil The Vote. (5 times: 1967 AL, 1970 AL, 1986 NL, 1997 NL, 1999 NL)

If a team has two pitchers that are among the leaders in CYP, and there is a third pitcher whose CYP total is just a little less than one of the pitchers, but better than the other, it is highly likely that the third pitcher will win the CYA over the other two pitchers. The reason is simple: the argument over which of the two teammates is better gets thrown out, and the third pitcher gets the nod. Horlen's 1967 season was overshadowed somewhat by the tireless Hoyt Wilhelm, who was outstanding in the bullpen that year for the ChiSox.

5. Switching Leagues Mid-Year Doesn't Help CYA Voting. (3 times: 1966, 1987 AL, 1998 NL)

A trade in mid-season to a team in the other league, even if the pitcher performed well in both leagues, generally splits the CYA vote because neither league has seen him over an entire year. Randy Johnson, for all intents and purposes, should have been the NL Cy Young winner in 1998 over Tom Glavine of the Braves - but voters discounted the fact that he only had 11 starts in the NL (and that he was 19-11 overall between the two leagues). Randy winning the Cy Young that year wouldn't have set a precedent; Rick Sutcliffe actually went 4-5 for the Indians in 1984 before jumping to the NL with a 16-1 record (and 43.1 CYP). Randy's CYP total was 42.7 between the two leagues - enough that, if there would have been only one award handed out, he probably would have gotten it.