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I read an article on MLB.com last night that suggested that Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang was this year’s clear choice for AL Cy Young.

The article was written by Tom Singer. I just pray this guy doesn’t have an actual Cy Young vote. Because he doesn’t get it.

Singer thinks Wang will win because voters will give him credit for last season.

From mlb.com:

If Cy Young balloting were like some cell phone plans, Wang would be a shoo-in thanks to rollover votes. He didn’t receive a single first-place vote last year, even though he matched winner Johan Santana’s 19-6 record. So now he is producing a carbon copy, with no one even close to his two-year record of 37-12 (Santana is 34-17, Justin Verlander 33-14, Roy Halladay 30-12). But what makes Wang truly stand out is his responsibility for the Yankees’ contention, through his remarkable consistency. He has not made it to at least the sixth inning only twice in 27 starts.

Let’s ignore Singer’s obvious problems with syntax and talk about everything that is wrong with his argument. First, Cy Young voting isn’t like some cell phone plans. You don’t get credit for what you did in previous seasons.

Chien-Ming Wang

Second, while Wang has been the only truly consistent member of the 2007 Yankee pitching staff, he hasn’t been lights out. But guess what? When you pitch for the Yankees, you don’t need to be. You just need to keep your team in the game and let the Yankees offense pile up runs behind you.

Singer seems to think Wang should get extra credit because the rest of the Yankee staff is so bad. Likewise, he thinks pitchers like Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia should be penalized for being part of fairly competant staffs.

Here’s what he says about Beckett:

Beckett has raised his victory total and has become a smart pitcher, not just a hothead thrower. Leading evidence of that is having more than halved both his walks (74 to 36) and homer yields (36 to 14). But he doesn’t stand out on his staff as Wang does on his; not even close.

I don’t know what to say to that. He “doesn’t stand out on his staff”? Have Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield been helping Beckett pitch somehow? Does just standing in proximity to other successful pitchers make Beckett more successful?

I think what must have happened here is that Tom Singer probably went ice fishing. Or mountain climbing. Probably sometime during the 1980s, before Bill James really got popular and before Moneyball was published. And he probably got caught in an ice storm and was frozen alive and wasn’t discovered and thawed out until very recently. Because that’s the only way to account for a guy who gets paid to write about baseball being this out of touch with how we value pitching.

Chien-Ming WangSpeaking of James, he and ESPN.com writer Rob Neyer have devised a method, called the Cy Young Predictor. You can check it out on ESPN.com’s baseball statistics page. It’s a complicated formula that the two devised while working together on a book. It looks like this:

Cy Young Points (CYP) = ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + VB

VB= victory bonus, a 12-point bonus awarded for leading your team to the division champsionship.

According to the formula, C.C. Sabathia is the leading Cy Young candidate in the AL this year. That makes a lot of sense. Sabathia has a lower ERA than both Wang and Beckett. He has a lower WHIP. He has more strikeouts. And he’s been a total workhorse, pitching 15 more innings than the second hardest working pitcher, John Lackey.

In short, Sabathia has been a better pitcher this year than anyone else in the AL. Unless you factor in things like last year’s wins, or proximity to other talented pitchers. Then you’ve got to give it to Wang.

19 Responses to “Chien-Ming Wang is no Cy Young”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    It’s tough for me to admit, Ward, but I think you’re right about Sabathia over Beckett, at least right now. Their WHIPs are the same, their ERAs are comparable, though Sabathia has a slight edge there, and their records are comparable, though Beckett has the slight edge there. Even their strikeout numbers are pretty comparable, though Sabathia’s are slightly better. But what makes the difference for me is that Sabathia has thrown so many more innings: 220 to Beckett’s 181.2! Beckett has just one complete game and no shutouts, while Sabathia has FOUR complete games and one shutout. Unless Sabathia suddenly melts down or Beckett breaks that magical 20-win threshold, I see this contest breaking CC’s way.

  2. Beckett has had a great season. C.C. has just been a little bit better. But having said that, September is when awards are won and lost (not to mention pennant races). So Beckett’s still got some time left to state his case. And C.C. still has time to blow up.

  3. Sarah Green says:

    Thanks for the consoling words, Coley. Beckett and Wang are actually facing off on Saturday in the Fens. (4pm, check your local listings!) Maybe Beckett will break the single-game strikeout record, throw a perfect game, and throw a fastball that breaks the sound barrier. Then he’d be a lock for the Cy!

  4. Ok, I’ll make the case for Wang, seeing as no one else probably will.

    Before I say anything else, I agree that CC should probably win it, although your complete dismissal of Wang simply because of who he plays for borders on ignorance. Last I checked, Sabathia and Beckett both play for teams that have better records than New York.

    While Wang does actually lead his team in run support, he’s only given up 8 more runs than Beckett in virtually the same amount of innings. If the number of strikeouts is a leading factor, then Wang will *never* be a top candidate for Cy Young because he just doesn’t strike out a lot of batters. His ERA is just a shade over 3 1/2 (as it was last year), which in the AL is still nothing to sneeze at.

    Sabathia is clearly ahead of the other two anyway, but as someone who watches Wang pitch every 5 days & appreciates what he brings to the staff, I had to chime in. Wang would actually be better as an MVP candidate if A-Rod & Posada weren’t having such monster years, that is.

  5. I think Wang is one of the most statistically interesting pitchers in my lifetime. We statheads tend to undervalue him because, quite frankly, we have no idea what to do with the guy. There’s no one like him.

    I looked at every pitcher who started at least 50 during since 1993 (when runs per game reached current levels) and found 371 guys. Wang’s career 3.74 K/9 innings is the FOURTH lowest over that span. That’s the lowest first percentile.

    And yet, none of the three pitchers with lower K/9 had an ERA nearly as good as Wang’s career 3.74 ERA (closest is Carlos Silva’s 4.35). In fact, I’d have to go all the way down the list of lowest career K/9 to number 102, where Tom Glavine’s 3.44 ERA with 5.37 K/9 can be found. Beyond Glavine, the next in line is Jimmy Key at #186. And both of those guys did strikeout at least 175 batters in a season at least once in their careers. Wang still hasn’t recorded 100 in a season (though his career is still young).

    Basically, there is no one who can compare to this guy in the history of the game. I agree with Coley that CC gets the edge right now, but I’m afraid Wang’s probably going to get screwed out of a Cy Young at some point in his career because people can’t understand him and consider him a fluke.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    We’re not dismissing Wang because of who he plays for. The putz Coley was quoting was including him because of who he plays for—saying that he deserves the Cy because without him, the Yankees would be toast, because the rest of their rotation has struggled this season. So Coley is saying, and I’m agreeing, that that’s a stupid reason to give someone an award for individual merit, such as the Cy Young, when there are other candidates who’ve done more to deserve it. To put it the other way around, you can’t take points off of what CC and Josh have accomplished just because there are other good pitchers on their teams.

  7. I agree with Sabathia right now. One solid argument in favor of Beckett though would be that Jacobs Field is a more pitcher-friendly park than Fenway. So if all things end up about equal, Beckett would have a strong case.

  8. Paul, I agree that people don’t know what to make of Wang. And I’m one of them. He succeeds for reasons I can’t explain.

    And while it’s possible that Wang will someday be unfairly denied a Cy Young (hey, anything’s possible), it won’t be this year. This year, he doesn’t deserve it. And it wasn’t last year. He didn’t deserve it then either.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    I’ll explain the reason. Wang’s a ground ball pitcher. That’s the reason. He doesn’t need to throw a lot of pitches and he gets a lot of double plays.

    In fact, that’s also one of the reasons Beckett’s been better this season. He’s stopped trying to strike everybody out. As spectators and commentators, we’re all enamored of the K, but as a pitcher, you can be more efficient if you’re willing to forgo the machismo of the strikeout for the humbler, but necessary, skills involved in getting outs using your defense. Think about it. Pedro Martinez loved to strike guys out, right? And we loved to watch. But he had to throw a lot more pitches to do that than if he’d just induced grounders or pop-ups. Maybe if he’d been willing to give up some of the glory of the strikeout, he wouldn’t have had so many injuries so early in his career. (I hate pitch counts, so I don’t know if I buy that, but I put it out there for your consideration.)

    It’s like Crash Davis says in Bull Durham. Strikeouts are fascist.

  10. Normally I would wonder if Wang might suffer from the “Derek-Lowe Effect”.

    That is, as a ground-ball pitcher playing for the Yankees, his defense is very good. Put him on team with significant holes behind him, and his ERA rises as more outs become hits, and then runs.

    However, he posted a 1.75 ERA during his time with the Staten Island Yankees (Single A). While I believe it’s expected that quality pitchers should dominate at the low minor level, a 1.75 ERA seems to belie the “DLowe Effect”.

    He’ll be interesting to watch.

  11. (9) – well then taking away the K’s, how is Beckett that much better than Wang?

    And as for this writer who’s claiming the Yankees would be ‘toast’ without Wang, well he’s actually half right. Throw Pettitte into that statement and they really would be done for the year by now.

    But still, any guy who racks up nearly 1/4 of a team’s wins is pretty indispensable. I don’t think you can assume the Yankees make up those games without him, especially considering the prolonged offensive slump in the first few months.

  12. Sarah Green says:

    The point is, you don’t get EXTRA POINTS for the Cy Young for being the ONLY GUY on the team who can be counted on to give a quality start.

    Let’s look at some differences between Beckett and Wang, aside from strikeouts (for the record, Beckett has 173 and Wang has 91). After all, Wang and Beckett do have the same records (18-6 in 27 starts) and have thrown almost the exact same number of innings (Wang is at 180.2, Beckett at 181.2) and each has one complete game.

    Yet in addition to more macho, macho strikeouts, Beckett has a marginally lower WHIP (1.14 to Wang’s 1.27) and slightly lower ERA (3.27 to Wang’s 3.69). Beckett also has just 36 walks to Wang’s 52. The only standard stat that tips Wang’s way is that Beckett has allowed 14 home runs this year, while Wang has allowed only 8. As discussed above, this is because Wang is a groundball pitcher. Wang is also ranked second in run support in the league, while Beckett is sixth. (For the record, Mr. Sabathia is 12th.)

    Thus, if the Cy Young comes down to Beckett versus Wang today (and, as noted above, today it should go to CC Sabathia), Beckett gets it for being marginally better than Wang by being the more dominant pitcher by nearly every statistical measure.

  13. Yeah, I mean, Beckett and Wang have had comparable seasons, but when it comes down it, a 3.27 ERA is a good bit better than a 3.69. You can talk about wins and strike outs all you want, but the amount of earned runs a pitcher gives up is really what it’s all about, right?

  14. I agreed with Paul Moro\’s analysis on Wang wholeheartedly. Statistically, no one can figure him out. His pitching stas just couldn\’t be explained with all that formulas. His bowling-ball like sinker has kept him in the lead in MLB wins for 2 years. In 2006, people were saying he was just a fluke. This year with 18 wins and going strong, many still have skeptism. I don\’t think he deserves Cy Young this year, but he does deserve some consideration and respect. With that said, I believe C.C. is the sure thing for Cy Young, or at least he deserves more than Beckett.

  15. Doogan says, “a 3.27 ERA is a good better than a 3.69.” well, it seems that way. but in fact wang only gave up 8 more runs than beckett did all year. is that really so much worse than beckett? I don’t think so, especially if you take away the worst game of wang’s career (where he gave up 8 runs in less than 3 innings).

    nevertheless, i have to admit that beckett deserves it slightly more than wang.

    next year, however, i think wang’s era will be somewhat lower (

  16. Sarah Green says:

    Yes, I don’t think anyone is saying that Wang isn’t a good pitcher. He’s clearly an excellent pitcher and a central part of the Yankee staff! But the Cy Young, I think, is about more than being a central part of the staff. The pitchers I feel bad for are actually guys like Scott Kazmir, who is so, so good but doesn’t have the record he should have because of the team he plays for. Poor Kazmir. One day, his ship will come in.

    Here’s a question for you: if you were a GM, would you rather have Beckett or Wang on your team for next year?

  17. Daniel, so a .72 differential in ERA over a whole season doesn’t mean anything to you? Kyle Lohse has only given up 13 more runs than Wang all year in about the same amount of innings. Should we throw him into to the Cy Young conversation, too? You could play that ‘only this many more runs’ game with everybody. Bottom line is Beckett’s had a better year. I think Wang is just as good and effective pitcher overall though, and I would certainly take either one on my team. Even over Kyle Lohse!

  18. Don’t sweep Wang’s success as simply run support from his teammates. Wang gave Yankees many wins before their bats got hot. He does not have many SO’s, but that’s the style of his pitching. OTOH, He only surrendered 8 Homers, way less than other Cy Young candidates.

    If he got 20 wins, it’s tough not to consider him!

  19. Sarah Green says:

    http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/09/this-is-what-happens-when-rick.html

    Their take on Sabathia vs. Wang vs. Beckett vs……Halladay?

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