The AL Cy Young Vote
Both of my daughters still love that game when you are given two pictures, and you have to find five things that are different about them. When the girls were little, the pictures were a lot simpler and the differences were pretty easy to find — one picture had a giant gorilla rampaging on top of the building while the other one had a chicken playing a violin — but as they got older things started to get more nuanced, differences started becoming more and more subtle until, finally, they all but disappeared.
We will spend a ridiculous amount of time now trying to figure out the differences between two pictures that are, really, exactly the same — “Wait, is her fingernail chipped on that one on the right? Oh, no, I think that page is just slightly discolored."
Yeah, this year’s Cy Young voting was like that. There was no way at all to find the differences between Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young voting this year. Oh, well, there were DIFFERENCES. Hernandez has the lower ERA. Kluber had the lower FIP. Hernandez had the lower WHIP. Kluber had the higher strikeout percentage. Hernandez had the better ERA+. Kluber had a higher WAR. And so on.
But as far as find the difference that would determine which one deserved the Cy Young Award … that was absurdly difficult to find, by far the toughest baseball vote I’ve ever hard. Then again, at the same time, it was was absurdly easy and the easiest baseball vote I’ve ever had. They both thoroughly deserved it. I believe I saw someone write this on Twitter: You couldn’t get it right and you couldn’t get it wrong. That about sums it up.
In the end, I voted Kluber because I valued his slightly superior strikeout rate and lower home run rate just a tiny bit more than I valued King Felix’s better run prevention. The Mariners seemed to me a better defensive team than Cleveland, and Safeco seemed to me a little bit better pitcher’s park, and so that was the call.
Remember that race between Michael Phelps and Milorad Cavic at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing?
Yeah, for me, it was that close.*
*By the way — that’s Phelps on the left. He won the race. It still doesn’t seem possible. I was having a conversation about the Cy Young award with a friend the other day … and we both SEEMED to be in agreement that either pitcher would be a worthy winner. But then he started to make the argument for Kluber. And as he made the argument, he became more animated and more sure he was right. I didn’t tell him that I had voted for Kluber, but I did say: “Look, don’t you think they both deserved the award?"
“No,” he said five minutes after saying “Yes,” and he rattled off 10 reasons why Kluber deserved it and, and he started getting preemptively mad because the voters were clearly going to rob Kluber, and by the end, he seemed to be comparing Felix Herndez to Bruce Berenyi.
This stuff gets so emotional. Yes, that’s part of what makes it fun. But it also gets silly. We don’t have baseball so wrapped up that anybody can definitively tell you than Corey Kluber was a better pitcher this season than Felix Hernandez or vice versa. We can only take what we know, analyze it best we know how, and make a call. I chose Kluber. I wish I could have chosen Hernandez too.
For the record: I wrote this post BEFORE the Cy Young voting came out, back when I thought Felix Hernandez would win.
As for the rest of the ballot: I voted Chris Sale third — incredible season, for me he was just a few innings shy of top two form.
I voted David Price fourth — really tough call with Max Scherzer and Jon Lester and Phil Hughes. All had great seasons. But what a fantastic year Price had. How about a 271-to-38 strikeout-to-walk? Of course, Phil Hughes’ 186-16 is otherworldly too …
Fifth, I voted Wade Davis. I can see a powerful argument against picking a 70-inning reliever over those great starters — this was a really was a special year for starting pitching — but my feeling was that Davis had a historic season. He had that record 45 2/3 innings without giving up an extra-base hit. He did not give up a single home run all year — only the 17th pitcher since 1950 to pitch more than 70 innings without allowing a homer. He set the team record with 33 consecutive appearances without allowing a run.
I don’t know if that trumps the great season, say, Jon Lester had. There is only so much a man can do in 72 innings. But the way I looked it, Davis' was a better season than the one Dennis Eckersley had when he won the Cy Young and MVP award. And it was about as good as any of Mariano’s best seasons. I gave him the vote.