Evaluating the AL Cy Young Candidates

Tomorrow, the AL Cy Young Award will be announced. Justin Verlander is the clear favorite in everyone’s eyes, but let’s see how the overall perception of his candidacy matches up with a purely statistical evaluation of the candidates.

First, I created 8 different categories with 2-3 stats per category:

Each category was worth a certain percent out of the total 100. Command, stuff, and durability were valued the highest, which was 15% each. The outcome of all these categories was added up for each pitcher, giving each a score. Scores were given based on the percent above average, for each pitcher’s stat. The 5 main candidates are C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, Josh Beckett, and James Shields. Here are their point values (percent above/below average) for each stat:

fh

a

b

c

d

e

f

g

As you can see above, those are the point values by stat. Below, are the averaged scores for each category:

Since this is a Yankee blog, we’ll trace Sabathia closely throughout the evaluation.

As far as command goes, Justin Verlander had the best. His K/BB and BB/9 numbers were simply outstanding, outshining the second-best, Jered Weaver by 1.6 points, which is a lot. Sabathia was right behind Weaver, but still slightly above the average of the five starting pitchers.

According to the statistics, C.C. Sabathia in fact had the best stuff this season. So any time analysts talk about Justin Verlander’s tremendous stuff, we know that statistically speaking, C.C. Sabathia had the better stuff. Although his K/9 wasn’t the greatest, he manufactured plenty of ground balls, which is also a sign of “stuff”. In addition, he surprisingly got more swing-and-misses than Verlander. James Shields was close behind Sabathia’s 5% above average, for Swing-Miss%, at 4%.

Although “winning” has become significantly less important in statistics, it still has significance. To please the sabemetricists, I added WPA, win-probability-added to the stat pool for “winning”. Leading this category, of course, was Verlander with 1.9 points. The competition wasn’t even close; Jered Weaver scored 1.5 points lower at 0.4. Despite Sabathia’s 19 wins, his number of losses, along with his lower WPA, resulted in a below-average “winning” score.

Now we’ll move to an un-organized category I called Run Allowance. This was basically to find a spot for ERA and FIP, two very important stats. Verlander and Weaver were the front-runners here with 1.0 and 0.6, respectively. CC was right-on average with a score of 0.0. His stats were quite skewed, as his FIP was the same above average, as his ERA was below average. Maybe xFIP should have been added to the mix, but I’m sure the end result would be similar.

Another example of this “skewed-ness” is CC’s batted-ball category. His BABIP was quite a bit sub-par, while his HR/9 was the best of the five pitchers. This gave him a mere 0.1 points, possibly because of some bad BABIP luck. I find it ironic that the #2 of this category, Justin Verlander, had a worse HR/9 than Sabathia, when the first was pitching in Comerica Park, and the latter at tiny Yankee Stadium. Angels’ pitcher, Jered Weaver led the category with his solid performances in both BABIP and HR/9.

The next category I used was “Pitching Quality”. This enveloped the stats- Quality Starts Percentage, WHIP, and Average Game Score (devised by Bill James). Sabathia did not fare too well here at all, with -1.4 points. He was by 0.8 points, the worst in this category, especially in QS% and WHIP. Like usual, Verlander led this category, with 1.2 points followed by Jered Weaver and James Shields. Beckett remained in between Shields and Sabathia with -0.6 points.

In “Value”, which encompasses WAR (wins-above-replacement) and RAR (runs-above-replacement), CC really came back into the race. He tied Justin Verlander for first  in the category, with 2.4 points. The two out-valued the others by at least 2 points, which was substantial.

The last category, Durability, essential for an ace, was much closer. For the first time, Rays’ #1 James Shields led, with 1 point. Close behind were Verlander with 0.8, and Sabathia with 0.2 points. Beckett was the least durable, and really, the least horse-like, at 3 points behind the leader of the category.

TIME FOR THE FINAL RESULTS:

These are completely according to the statistical evaluation:

1st Place ~ Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers | 10 points

2nd Place ~ C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees | 2 points

3rd Place ~ Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim | 0.6 points

4th Place ~ James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays | -2.5 points

5th Place ~ Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox | -10.6 points

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About Mike D.

Mike D. is one of 2 co-founders of the Yankees Fans Unite Blog. He has been a Yankees fan for as long as he can remember, growing up in a family of huge NYY fans. His knowledge of the game comes from watching baseball his whole life, and playing third base in high school and college.

Posted on November 14, 2011, in Statistical Analysis and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Interesting! Yes, everyone seems to agree (for once) on Verlander.

  2. Mike -
    Seems like a very detailed analysis. How did you come up with the values for each category. For example, how does CC get a -3 in BB/9 and Verlander gets a 10?

    • What I did was, I put all 5′s stats into an excel table, and found the average for each stat. Then I found the percent difference (+/-) between the pitcher’s stat and the average. For example, The average for BB/9 was 2.25, and Sabathia had a 2.31 BB/9, so the percent difference between the two (rounded) is -3.Verlander’s was 2.04.

      As far as categories go, taking everything into consideration, I weighted each category based upon how important it was. That is why a category that included stats like WL% and W was valued less than a category with K/BB and BB/9.

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