You might assume, since this is a Tigers site, that I am going to be ranting about how Justin Verlander got robbed. After all, he was the clear leader in WAR among American League pitchers (and David Price wasn’t even second). But Verlander is not the guy that I think got robbed…
My pick for AL Cy Young this year – a guy who had a simply amazing season with few historical equals – is the guy that got exactly one first place vote: former Tiger Fernando Rodney. Verlander may have lost out, but he didn’t get disrespected like Rodney did. Verlander fell barely, barely short of Price in the closest Cy Young vote in over 40 years. Rodney came 5th.
Now – as for why Price did not deserve this award – David Price did lead AL starters in wins with 20 and ERA at 2.56, so he comes out on top in what we think of as the “old-fashioned” categories used to determine who had the better season. He did it with a good BABIP allowed and a very high strand rate, which explains part of why he lagged guys like Verlander and Felix Hernandez in varieties of WAR. I don’t hold that against him and I would never advocate giving the Cy Young to a guy who lost games, let runners score and saw ball after ball drilled up the gaps. It may be hard for any great pitcher to repeat that low BABIP and great clutch pitching combo but he did do it, luck or not luck. That isn’t all, though, the bigger reason that Price’s WAR trailed Verlander & Hernandez by such a margin is that he did not make as many starts or pitch as deep into games – finishing with 21 fewer innings under his belt than Hernandez and 27 1/3 fewer than Verlander. If somebody else is 99% as good as Price 110% of the time, doesn’t he provide more value than Price???
So… if you are of the opinion that WAR trumps all and starters always give more value than closers (since they accumulate more WAR) Price should not have won that award and it should not have been close. I am not one of those guys. I believe you should win these awards based on those things that happened on your watch, even if you played so far above your level that you have no hope of repeating that brilliance. If you believe in eye-popping stats and demonstrating prowess in clutch situations, it’s even more of a laugher. Please, if you haven’t already, take a look at Fernando Rodney’s stat line… He finished the season with a mere 2.4 WAR, since WAR is based on FIP not ERA and not much concerned with clutch performance. Ho hum, uninteresting season. He also finished with 48 saves, which though very good is not close to a record (and not even good for the AL lead).
Just look at that ERA, please. Rodney finished with an ERA of 0.60 in 74 1/3 high pressure innings. That is a tremendous, tremendous season for any pitcher. Those few relievers who have won the Cy Young award didn’t have seasons this good, nor have probable and current bullpen Hall-Of-Famers. Dennis Eckersley comes very close with his 0.61 ERA in 1990 (a season in which he finished 5th in AL Cy Young voting) – but that’s it. Let that sink in for a second… NO ONE has ever pitched at least 70 innings in major league baseball, going back to 18-whatever, with an ERA lower than 0.60. NEVER. And that isn’t worthy of a Cy Young award? Lots of guys win 20 games. Lots of guys finish with ERAs of 2.56 or better. Nothing Price did was particularly special – though he was obviously good.