If you’re a loyal UmpBump reader (thanks!) then you would know that the staff likes sabermetrics. Well I would include myself in that bunch, except I’ve been slacking on the mathematics of it all, and don’t really know much about PECOTA, Runs Created, etc, except to say that it’s dense stuff.
Well, since I’m scheduled to pick my Cy Young candidates, I figured I might as well take a crack at this saber stuff and do some calculatin’ to backup my claims. So as to not diminish the value of my own criteria, I’ll take stats into consideration, but I deem it important to consider the overall success of the team. How will I determine this? Well, simple really, did the team make the playoffs, and/or what percentage did the pitcher’s wins constitute of the overall team victories.
I decided to take a look at the senior circuit first, and from the start, there’s a handful of names constantly atop the stat categories: Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, Ryan Dempster, Brandon Webb, and near the periphery, Dan Haren and Cole Hamels.
In my (humble) opinion, ERA and Wins (with a 200 IP minimum) are obligatory stat criteria to make a preliminary evaluation of pitchers. So looking at the top three in each, we narrow the list to: Santana (2.53, 16), Lincecum (2.62, 17), Dempster (2.96, 17), and Webb (3.30, 22). To further thin the list, lets take a look at some sabermetrics: Only Webb and Santana are in the top three in positive WPA (with Lincecum at a very close fourth), and in overall Win Probability Added, Lincecum lead the NL with a 4.59 index, followed by Santana, Dempster, and Webb.
With those two breakdowns in mind, we can take Dempster out of the list, and by looking at one more sabermetric, the player leverage index, we can eliminate Santana since his pLI is below 1. And lastly, lets look at each players win total and what percentage of his team’s wins it represents: The Giants won 72 games, meaning Lincecum’s 17 are equivalent to 23% of the wins. The Diamondbacks won 80 games, and Webb’s 22 have a 27.5% share of their wins.
Now, taking relievers into account, and paying close attention to the closers, out of those with more than 30 saves, only the Phillies’ Brad Lidge cracks the top 3 in WPA (5.37); meaning he’s the only one worthy of Cy Young consideration (again, IMHO).
It’s a close call. For one, neither the Diamondbacks or Giants made the playoffs, and the Phillies did advance to the NLCS, thanks in part to Lidge closing out the Brewers. Lidge did have a 1.95 ERA and pitched 69.3 innings, and even though his 41 saves didn’t lead the league (Jose Valverde had 44), they’re good for a second-place tie with the Giants’ Brian Wilson (oh, and by the way, he blew zero save opportunities).
If we follow our sabermetric gut instinct, he beat out Lincecum in overall WPA, so I think we’ve reached the conclusion that makes the most sabermetric sense: Brad Lidge gets my vote for NL Cy Young, with Lincecum second and Webb third.
Keeping the dense matter to a minimum, let’s do the math for the junior circuit. So filtering the top three in ERA and Wins we get: Cliff Lee (2.54, 22), Roy Halladay (2.81, 20), John Lester (3.21, 16), and Mike Mussina (3.37, 20). It’s safe to eliminate Lester from the list based on the fact that the other three starters won 20 or more games. To further filter the list, only Lee and Halladay cracked the top three in WPA with 5.96 and 3.47 respective indexes.
Let’s not forget percentage of wins: Lee’s wins represented 27% of the Indians’ wins this year (81-81) while Halladay’s accounted for 23% the Blue Jays’ victories.
Again, to keep relievers in the mix, I’ll take a look at the top closer this year in the American League, Francisco Rodriguez. He set the record for saves in a regular season with 62, had a 2.24 era (only good for fourth best among relievers), but his WPA barely puts him in the top five, with a 3.33 index.
The Angels did make the post season, while the Indians had a very disappointing year, but Lee’s numbers were extremly good, far above the best; he only lost three games and won 71% of his starts. Had it not been for that sheer dominance I’d vote for Rodriguez, but Cliff Lee gets my vote for Cy Young in the AL, with Rodriguez second and Halladay third.
Like I said before, I hadn’t really used sabermetrics to gauge my appreciation of player performance, and considering it was my first time really looking at traditional stats mixed with sabermetrics to make an evaluation, I have to say I’m sold. That stuff does not lie.