Wednesday, September 23, 2009

AL Cy Young thoughts

Sometimes, listening to "experts" can be very instructive as to the limits of "expertise." I rarely watch any of NESN's pregame programming, but I saw just a bit last night of a discussion between Tom Caron, Jim Rice and Dave Roberts about the American League Cy Young contest. They had identified three legitimate candidates, they thought, and were giving reasons as to why each deserved the award.

AL Cy Young contenders

Pitcher A3061480.63603210 1/359442242.149.585.09.818.75

Pitcher B3121650.76201216 1/372641962.458.153.06.856.67

Pitcher C3221870.7201220 1/387601863.317.63.101.342.10

Pitcher D3021470.66700194 2/375602153.339.943.581.242.40

I added Pitcher D here, because he seems so similar to Pitcher C. Pitcher C has thrown more innings with fewer walks per inning and far fewer strikeouts. The ERAs are virtually identical. Pitcher C's had a couple more starts and, from the records, it seems like that he's had more run support. Pitcher D has been more dominant, and actually has better peripherals that speak to a better pitching performance.

And neither of them belongs in a discussion of the AL Cy Young award. Pitchers A and B have been so much better at doing what a pitcher is supposed to do, prevent the opposition from scoring, that there's no point in mentioning pitchers C and D (or even pitchers B1, B2, etc., who were not as good as pitchers A and B but better than pitcher C and D.) The don't belong in the discussion. They had fine seasons but don't warrant consideration for the Cy Young award this year because of the presence of clearly superior candidates.

If you heard a bunch of movie critics having a serious discussion about which of "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," and "Ishtar" was the best movie ever made, you'd know that you could safely ignore the one who was supporting "Ishtar." He's either trying to stir up trouble or he's a very bad movie critic, one who does not understand the difference between good movies and bad movies. Well, when Jim Rice and Dave Roberts support Pitcher C (CC Sabathia) as the AL Cy Young winner this year, you know that, whatever their skill at playing the game, it does not extend to analysis. Sabathia's been marginally better, because he's thrown more innings, than pitcher D (Jon Lester.) Neither of them comes close to the season that Pitcher B (Felix Hernandez) has had, and even Hernandez, as dominant as he's been, has fallen well short of the season that Pitcher A (Zack Greinke) has put up.

Obviously Greinke's been the best pitcher in the AL by a fairly wide margin, and should be a unanimous choice for the AL Cy Young award. If you've got to discuss more than one, then you add King Felix to the discussion, and the compare and contrast exercise emphasizes Greinke's worthiness. If you seriously consider Sabathia, you don't understand the difference between pitching and offense. The only thing that Sabathia's done better than Greinke is "win games," which has absolutely nothing to do with the way that they've pitched and absolutely everything to do with the fact that Sabathia's team has outscored Greinke's by over 220 runs. And anyone who votes for Sabathia based on that should have his voting privileges revoked.

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