Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The OLIB's 2008 NL Cy Young

In similar fashion to my American League Rookie of the Year pick, the NL Cy Young went from no-brainer, to borderline toss-up. In what was an open and shut case for Tim Lincecum, turned to a two horse race with him and Johan Santana. An impressive second half by Santana, fueled by an outstanding August/September, closed the gap that Lincecum created.

This is not to say that Lincecum fell apart in the second half, rather, to give Santana his due for an outstanding stretch run.

There was never really a question who the winner and runner-up for this award would be, as I selected Lincecum #1 and Santana #2. Where the question is raised occurs with the third best start in the National League. With 4 or 5 legitimate contenders, it took a variety of statistics to come to a conclusion of who the head of the rest of the pack would be.

Here is what I wrote for the BDD writer picks,
When I first sat down to make my picks, I wasn’t even going to look into the numbers. I figured I knew the story and didn’t need any convincing. While my opinion didn’t change after I eventually looked at the numbers, it became surprisingly close after looking at VORP, WPA, WS, PRC, and SNLVAR. Lincecum came away on top, with Santana finishing second, and fellow Canadian Ryan Dempster completing his full circle surprise season.

I’m not shocked that Dempster isn’t getting more play in the upcoming days of Free Agency, but I am shocked that he isn’t getting much love from writers on the Cy Young ballot.
I will be incredibly shocked if Dempster tops Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Cole Hamels, and Edinson Volquez despite being substantially more qualified. In fact, half-season wonders CC Sabathia and Rich Harden are likely to get just as much respect as Dempster.

Which leads to an interesting dilemma-what is the Cy Young award? Is it for the leagues best pitcher, or for the leagues most valuable pitcher? In fact, aren't these two things one in the same?

That is, could any of the aforementioned full season National League pitchers have replaced Harden and specifically, Sabathia? If the answer is no, then how can another pitcher be tabbed as better? Worse yet, this adds Brad Lidge to what was supposed to be a fairly straight forward discussion.

It is fortunate for Tim Lincecum that Johan Santana had such brutal bullpen support. Had the Mets simply been 'OK' at holding leads, Santana would have added an extra couple of wins and the Mets certainly would have found themselves in the playoffs. It would be that combination of meaningless statistics that would encourage the BBWAA to give this award to Santana.

That didn't happen, and despite what will be a fairly tight competition, the award will go to the appropriate pitcher.

Similarly, the runner-up will go to the appropriate pitcher, being Santana. Many anticipated this to be Santana's award to lose entering the season. While he didn't hurt his case, Lincecum was simply the superior pitcher and the BBWAA won't screw this one up.

Where it gets interesting is the area that I mentioned, from the third best pitcher in the National League, down to the tenth. I can't see a scenario where Lincecum and Santana don't receive the top two votes from any of the writers, however I also did not envision a scenario where Joey Votto would receive a vote over Geovanny Soto.

That being said, for argument's sake I'll stick with Lincecum and Santana collecting all of the top two votes, with a 32 writer toss-up among third place ballots. Clearly Dempster should take third place, but I imagine it will go to Sabathia or Lidge. It won't be justified, but people won't be overly disappointed.

As fans, we are fortunate that the writers must submit their ballots prior to the start of the playoffs. If not, Cole Hamel's miraculous post-season performance may have been enough to put him into the Lincecum-Santana discussion.

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