Monday, October 17, 2011

2011 BBA American League Walter Johnson (Cy Young) Award

There isn't really much of a write-up that needs to be done this year for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Walter Johnson Award (the Alliance's equivalent of Major League Baseball's Cy Young award).

Justin Verlander's (24-5 W/L, 251 IP, 250 K, 57 BB, 24 HR, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) sabermetric numbers were as dominant as his real life numbers. While Fangraphs actually has CC Sabathia a whisker ahead of Verlander in WAR, Verlander is dominant across the board in nearly every traditional and sabermetric category there is. Verlander will even make the wins = Cy Young crowd happy this year; his 24 wins are the most in the Majors since Randy Johnson in 2002 and the most by an American League pitcher since Bob Welch put up 27 in 1990.

CC Sabathia (19-8 W/L, 237 1/3 IP, 230 K, 61 BB, 17 HR, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) was maligned last year by the sabermetrics community, so it's funny that they haven't rushed to sing his praises this year. The K/9 was up while the HR/9 and BB/9 were down. I don't think he did quite enough to surpass Verlander, but to me CC was clearly the #2 choice in the A.L. this year.

For the second year in a row, Jered Weaver (18-8 W/L, 235 2/3 IP, 198 K, 56 BB, 20 HR, 2.41 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) put up a phenomenal ERA/WHIP even though his interior numbers weren't quite up to snuff. Weaver has outperformed his xFIP five of the six years he's been in the Majors, so at some point you have to wonder if there's something he's doing that allows him to defy expectations. I'm comfortable with Weaver in third place this year, though. He was better than the pitchers below but not quite as solid as Verlander or CC.

I spent more time going back and forth on my last two picks for this award than I did on the top three pitchers. After looking at the numbers, I came down to three pitchers for the final two spots on my ballot.

Doug Fister (11-13 W/L, 216 1/3 IP, 146 K, 37 BB, 11 HR, 2.83 ERA, 1.063 WHIP)
James Shields (16-12 W/L, 249 1/3 IP, 225 K, 65 BB, 26 HR, 2.82 ERA, 1.043 WHIP)
C.J. Wilson (16-7 W/L, 223 1/3 IP, 206 K, 74 BB, 16 HR, 2.94 ERA, 1.187 WHIP)

I didn't think it was an easy call, but I decided to go with Shields and Wilson with the last two spots on my ballot. Shields was the first pitcher to throw 11 complete games since Randy Johnson in 1999. Shields averaged 7.56 innings per start; not only were his numbers valuable but he added value by allowing Joe Maddon to keep the pen fresh. Wilson's adjusted ERA was third in the American League at 152. It's hard to believe looking at that final line, but Wilson suffered from pitching in the toughest ballpark in the Majors. He gets a little extra credit for that. Fister just misses out for a few reasons. He benefited from favorable home venues (Detroit and Seattle) and had to rely more on his defense than CJ and Shields did. I'd have no problem if someone put Fister in his top five, but for me he just missed the cut.

My ballot: 1) Verlander, 2) Sabathia, 3) Weaver, 4) Shields, 5) Wilson.

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