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NL Cy Young Award

For the Cy Young Award, Battlekow and I only got to vote for our top three.  That makes the whole deal much less interesting, but given the wide-open nature of the NL race this year, there are still plenty of good arguments to be had.  

Without further ado, our votes:

Jeff's ballot:

  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. John Smoltz
  3. Aaron Harang

Battlekow's ballot:

  1. Brandon Webb
  2. Roy Oswalt
  3. Chris Carpenter

I wouldn't be surprised if Battlekow's 1-2-3 ended up as the 1-2-3 in the BBWAA voting, as well.  (And no, I don't mean that as an insult...not exactly, anyway.)  You can make a good case for any of those three pitchers, especially Webb, who may be underrated because his home ballpark is extremely hitter-friendly.

But, I'll let Battlekow talk about his votes.  Here's my rationale for mine.

  • Because a starting pitcher can absolutely dominate a game, I give more credence to the notion that the winner should come from a playoff team.  Or at least a contender.  By any measure, Oswalt is in the top 5 or so of NL pitchers: best ERA, tied with Chris Capuano for most quality starts, second best DIPS ERA behind Webb, etc.  But of all the contenders, he stepped up the most in a pennant race.

    Oswalt's last non-quality start was August 4th.  Most of his starts were much better--even with the sometimes putrid Astros offense, he put that team in a position to win every single start for the last two months of the season.  No one else in this race did the same, at least to that extent.  Combine that solidity with his top-5 stature by normal metrics, and this guy is #1.

  • Smoltz at #2 is probably my most controversial pick, though not as surprising, I'm sure, as putting him #5 for the MVP.  Here's some of what I said yesterday:
    In the middle of what was, at times, a horrendous rotation, he made quality start after quality start after quality start.  What's more, when the Braves were still in the hunt, he pitched all the better.  In seven starts between June 28 and August 1, he allowed only 14 runs in fifty innings, going at least 7 IP in six of those outings.  Since the only aspect of the Braves that was worse than their rotation was their bullpen, those extra innings were probably more valuable than any other quality production the team could've gotten from anyone on either side of the ball.
    Smoltz was 4th in the league in innings pitched (behind Webb, Harang, and Bronson Arroyo), and I have to imagine that if the Braves had hung in the race for the last month, he would've been at the top of that list.

  • I put Harang on the ballot for the same reasons I did Oswalt and Smoltz.  Like Smoltz, he was an absolute horse on a team that spent most of the year with a dreadful 'pen.  Like Oswalt, he was good when his team needed him the most, throwing more innings (most of which were good ones) in September than any other month.

    Like Webb, Harang had to deal with a rough home park, too.  His ERA of 3.76 doesn't shout "Cy Young candidate," but consider this.  Away from home, he allowed a slugging average of .399.  At GABP, it was .470.  That's 20 HRs instead of 8--take away 10 or 12 of those Cinci-aided dingers, and that puts Harang right near the top of the traditional stat categories.

As you can probably tell, it would be easy to make a case for any number of other guys, including Carpenter, Webb, Arroyo, maybe even Carlos Zambrano.  The only thing that would make this debate better would be the inclusion of Capuano and Ben Sheets.  As always: we'll wait 'till next year.

Update [2006-10-4 18:15:21 by battlekow]: My thoughts:

  • Even now, I'm going back and forth between Oswalt and Webb. I put my ballot together before Webb's disastrous last start, but I'm going to cop to being an irresponsible voter and say that Oswalt edges out Webb in the total picture. They're one-two in VORP and one-two the other way in FIP, but as an extreme groundball pitcher, Webb is intrinsically more prone to errors and unearned runs, and thus Oswalt's significant lead in RA (as opposed to ERA) should be the deciding factor. Webb does have a large lead in xFIP, which suggests that he was a bit unlucky giving up home runs relative to his competition, but I'd like to stick to actual performance when judging these awards.
  • I'm honestly shocked that Brandon Webb didn't appear anywhere on your ballot, Jeff. I guess I'm just not very concerned with the quality of the pitchers' teams, except to give small credits or demerits for performance during a pennant race. As such, Roy Oswalt gets a bit of a bump and Chris Carpenter takes a hit.
  • Were the ballot extended to five, I'd probably have Harang fourth and Smoltz fifth. Harang's home/road splits really are intriguing, considering his WHIP, BAA and BB/IP are almost identical for both. The only difference is, as Jeff pointed out, slugging. Chris Carpenter also has rather extreme splits, only in the other direction, but looks to have gotten significantly unlucky on the road; I don't think it's enough to move Harang ahead of him. Smoltz is a somewhat-distant fifth because, unlike the four men ahead of him, there's not even one category where you can make a case for him as the best.