Super-duper busy around my place this time of year, so I haven’t even had the desire to sit down and write, let alone the time. However, I have been reading. I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of hand-wringing about the fact that Lincecum beat out the two St. Louis players, especially around the voting of two of the newest BBWAA members (Will Carroll and Keith Law). Now, while it seems to me that what happened was obvious, that the two players from the same team split the vote, it appears clear that nothing about what happened was obvious to everyone. I just read Bill James’s terrific analysis of the Cy Young Award voting, and he and I are in complete agreement (very convenient, no?), and he’s much more eloquent and detailed than I will ever be:
…. (Brian) Burwell, writing for a St. Louis audience, is trying to smear sabermetrics by saying, in essence, that we were responsible for taking the award away from St. Louis pitchers. Setting aside the position that it may be better not to personalize the debate, is that even what happened? Isn’t what happened here more like two St. Louis pitchers split the vote and allowed the San Francisco pitcher to win it?
…. exactly like the American League MVP Award in 1954, when two Cleveland Indians split the vote (Larry Doby and Bobby Avila), and allowed a Yankee to win, or 1965, when two Dodgers split the vote and allowed Willie Mays to win, or the Cy Young vote in 1970, when three Baltimore Orioles split twelve first-place votes and allowed a Minnesota Twin to win with six. Et cetera.
Well, yes, exactly.
He then expounds, as he is wont to do, for about 15000 words, and finally comes to this:
…. here’s what I would say. In the National League, the vote was split three ways, it was a very close vote, and it’s been a controversial vote. In the American League Greinke won easily, and this vote has been uncontroversial, and this vote has been celebrated by the analytical community as a victory for reason and logic.
But actually it seems pretty clear to me, under the most careful analysis that I can do, that Lincecum was the best pitcher in the National League and deserved the award—whereas in the American League, under the most careful analysis that I can do, it is unclear to me whether Greinke or Hernandez is more deserving.
I love Bill James.
UPDATE: Rob Neyer gives us even more thoughtful analysis:
…. I’m not going to run through every basic statistic (and yes, K/BB is a basic statistic), nor will I run through every advanced metric. I will say that according to FanGraphs, the most valuable pitcher in the league was Lincecum, the second most valuable was Vazquez, and the third most valuable was Haren.
Which isn’t necessarily how I would have voted. Value-wise — as theoretically measured by dollars — there’s virtually no difference between Haren, Wainwright, Carpenter, or (gulp) Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson. My point is that among the five candidates who wound up on at least one voter’s ballot, only Lincecum’s fundamental performance truly stands out.