Monday, November 15, 2010

NL Cy Young Award

No matter how you look at it, Roy Halladay was the best pitcher in the National League.  After being obtained from the Blue Jays in a monster offseason deal, Halladay paid immediate dividends.  In his first eleven starts, he went 7-3 with a 1.99 ERA, threw five complete games, three shutouts, and had a 70/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  Oh, and the last of those shutouts was a perfect game.  To say he was dominant, is a bit of an understatement.  The scary part is that he wasn't even the most dominant pitcher in the league during that period (more on that in a moment).  

Was Halladay as good over the remainder of the season?  Not quite, but he was pretty damn close.  By the end of the season, Halladay put together one of the strongest season of his career.  He finished with a 21-10 record (most wins in the league), 2.44 ERA (third in the league), 2.92 xFIP (best in the league), 7.86 K/9, 7.30 K/BB (best in the league), 51.2% ground ball rate, and provided 6.6 wins above the replacement level (best in the league).  Halladay not only excelled at the three most important qualities a pitcher needs to be successful, but he was consistently from start-to-start, month-to-month, the best pitcher in the National League.*

*A pitcher needs to have at least two of the three following qualities in order to be consistently successful of the long term in the Major Leagues.
  • Ability to miss bats and strike batters out (at an average to above average rate)
  • Ability to avoid walks (at an above average to above average rate)
  • Ability to keep the ball on the ground, and keep the ball from leaving the park 
Don't believe me?  Take a look at any pitcher over the last 20 years.  If you can find any pitcher that consistently excelled with fewer than two of these qualities during his prime, please let me know.

This season, Halladay had plenty of competition for the Cy Young Award.  Ubaldo Jimenez was seen as a lock for the award early in the season after starting out 11-1 with an 0.93 ERA and 78/29 K/BB ratio through June 6th.  From May 13th through July 22nd, Josh Johnson went through one of the best stretches by any pitcher since Bob Gibson in 1968.  During that time, he went 7-2 in 13 starts, posted a 0.79 ERA and a 94/13 K/BB ratio.  Oh, and by the way, the Marlins scored more than three runs in only four (yes, four) of those 13 starts.  Tim Lincecum had two extremely dominant stretches in April and September, but proved to be inconsistent during the points in between.  

This year, Halladay's should win (only) his second Cy Young award, and first since 2003.  In 2005, he was in position to win the award leading up to the All-Star break.  (He had been named the American League starting pitcher for the game.)  In his final start prior to the break, Halladay's broke his foot when a comebacker hit him.  He was lost for the remainder of the season.  In 2008, Halladay, despite putting together a fantastic year, placed second to the Indians' Cliff Lee who happened to put up a slightly better season.  This year, there's nothing to deny Halladay.  He has the kind of stats that stat geeks and traditionalists both love.  He has wins and WAR.  He has ERA and xFIP.  He as strikeouts and K/BB.  Halladay is this generations best pitcher.  It's nice to know we'll be able to award him properly for his outstanding performance.     

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