AL Cy Young Race: Price Good, Verlander Better

This afternoon, Matt Klaassen detailed the NL Cy Young decision, which basically comes down to Clayton Kershaw and R.A. Dickey. Both had excellent seasons, and it’s essentially hair-splitting to pick one or the other, though as Matt notes, most of the hairs tend to fall Kershaw’s way when you actually do split them. Over in the AL, the story is similar, though in this case, the lines are a bit more pronounced.

Quite simply, there’s just not much of a case for anyone besides Justin Verlander. This isn’t to take anything away from David Price, who had an excellent season, but unless you’re still evaluating a pitcher by wins and losses, there’s really nothing you can point to that puts Price ahead of Verlander.

Verlander threw 238 innings. Price threw 211.
Verlander posted an ERA- of 64. Price posted an ERA- of 66.
Verlander posted a FIP- of 70. Price posted a FIP- of 77.

Whether you evaluate a pitcher by the things he’s mostly in control of (walks, strikeouts, and home runs) or by everything that occurs when he’s on the mound (runs allowed), Verlander was slightly better. He was better in front of a worse defense, with an inferior bullpen, in a park that is more conducive to offense than the one in Tampa Bay. Even if they threw the exact same amount of innings, you’d probably lean slightly towards Verlander, but of course, Verlander threw an additional 27 innings, or essentially three complete games worth of extra pitching. Price would have to have been significantly better in terms of quality to make up for that kind of quantity, but there’s no real evidence that he was any better on a rate basis than Verlander.

The one factor that gets pushed as a plus for Price is quality opposition. After all, Price pitched in the AL East, while Verlander got to run through a series of lousy AL Central opponents thanks to the unbalanced schedule. However, once you get past the labels and the reputations, even that argument falls apart.

Here are the AL ranks in wRC+ for each non-Detroit and non-Tampa Bay team in the AL Central and AL East, pitcher hitting excluded.

AL Central

Chicago: 98 wRC+ (7th)
Indians: 97 wRC+ (t-8th)
Twins: 97 wRC+ (t-8th)
Royals: 95 wRC+ (t-11th)

AL East

New York: 114 wRC+ (1st)
Orioles: 96 wRC+ (10th)
Red Sox: 95 wRC+ (t-11th)
Blue Jays: 94 wRC+ (12th)

The Yankees can hit, but the rest of the AL East was no better offensively than the AL Central this year. Price didn’t face legions of match-ups against tough divisional opponents – he faced one tough match-up in the five instances he was lined up against the Yankees.

Overall, the average OPS of opponents who hit against Price this year was .763. Against Verlander, it was .758. It’s not inconsequential, but it’s a narrow gap that doesn’t move the needle much at all. If we were talking about Jarrod Parker, who continually matched up against Texas and Anaheim and faced batters with an average .771 OPS, this would be a bigger factor, but this wasn’t a normal offensive year for the AL East, and we can’t give Price too big of a boost because of the division he plays in.

Verlander didn’t blow Price out of the water, but he was a little better across the board, and in the final tally, it’s hard to make much of a pro-Price argument. Verlander remains the best pitcher in baseball, and he had the best season of any pitcher in baseball. Tip of the cap to David Price for an excellent season, but he just got bested by a slightly better pitcher.

We’ll see in about two hours whether or not voters saw it the same way, but Verlander should walk away with his second straight Cy Young Award tonight. He earned it.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Slats
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Slats
3 years 8 months ago

Felix good, Price better, Verlander best.

Crix
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Crix
3 years 8 months ago

Verlander is the top choice for the CY but King Felix should be the runner-up, then Price. (WAR) Verlander 6.8, Felix 6.1, Price 5.1 (INN) Verlander 238, Felix 232, Price 188 (K’s) Verlander 239, Felix 223, Price 212 (FIP) Felix 2.84, Verlander 2.89, Price 3.05 (t-ERA) Felix 3.21, Price 3.23, Verlander 3.43 (HR\9) Felix 0.54, Price 0.68, Verlander 0.72. But at least you thought KING FELIX as it seems everyone else has forgotten about him in this debate.

jim
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jim
3 years 8 months ago

AL RA9-win leaders – verlander 7.6, price 7.2, sale 6.2, harrison 6.1, felix 5.9

Crix
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Crix
3 years 8 months ago

sorry brain error. Price’s innings 211 as mentioned in this article. sorry again.

Kevin
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Kevin
3 years 8 months ago

He had a bit of an underperformance at the end. Yeah, Seattle sucked, but you still gotta look at the whole set of numbers. But yeah, JV, Felix, then Price.

Was honestly surprised it went to Price. At least in the pitching world, a more holistic approach has been taken the last several years, instead of now just relying on raw win loss stats.

rdj3video
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rdj3video
3 years 8 months ago

Silly how Weaver somehow always gets overlooked, but King Felix really can’t be considered better than 4th in 2012. He got punched around a handful of times and punted away his Cy Young chances with a pretty lame September.

Phantom Stranger
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Phantom Stranger
3 years 8 months ago

Why wasn’t this article posted weeks ago when it could have actually affected the ballots? The votes have already been counted.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 8 months ago

You’re crazy if you think fangraphs posts affect the ballots of these awards.

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
3 years 8 months ago

Maybe not, a MLB.com article about trout vs Cabrera was almost a carbon copy of a similar article on here. Fangraphs is seen as THE stat site.

jim
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jim
3 years 8 months ago

it may be worth noting that price led the AL in ERA, and each AL ERA leader has won the AL CY since 2006. ERA leader + 20 game winner + verlander winning in 2011 = price probably being the winner

Crix
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Crix
3 years 8 months ago

personal wins are a non-factor.

jim
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jim
3 years 8 months ago

for people who read fangraphs, sure. for the BBWAA? pitcher wins are absolutely a factor

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
3 years 8 months ago

That’s nonsense. Personal wins aren’t the best way to evaluate a pitcher, but they’re not a non-factor (especially when it comes to jim’s point, which is who will win rather than who should win).

Kinanik
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Kinanik
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Kinanik
3 years 8 months ago

That was supposed to be “Ben Lindbergh at BP: link to ungated article” http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18896

rea
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rea
3 years 8 months ago

Alex Avila is pretty good at pitch framing, too, at least by subjective measurements–not sure how you look at that objectively.

Cy Young Voters
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Cy Young Voters
3 years 8 months ago

Verlander better, Price winninger.

Frank
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Frank
3 years 8 months ago

It’s hard to say the voters chose Price because of wins. It had a lot to do with demographics. You had that one voter who had to go Rodney, Price, then Verlander. And those two LA voters going Weaver over Verlander cost him the ballot for sure. If you knock out the homerism of the vote, Verlander would of won.

YanksFanInBeantown
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YanksFanInBeantown
3 years 8 months ago

The guy who went Rodney, Price, Verlander was from the Fort Worth Star Telegram in Texas. I doubt he’s a Rays homer, he’s just incorrect.

David
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David
3 years 8 months ago

Also, because of the 7-4-3-2-1 scoring, Rodney-Price-Verlander would have actually narrowed the gap in Verlander’s favor rather than if he had Price 1 Verlander 2.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 8 months ago

As a Tigers fan, I am now not going to feel as badly when Miguel Cabrera wins the MVP tomorrow. JV got robbed, so will Mike Trout.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 8 months ago

The Cy vote is a closer competition.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 8 months ago

It was still big enough of a gap for there not to be much of a question so I fail to see your point.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 8 months ago

I would also point out:

Difference between JV WAR and Price WAR = 1.7
Difference between Trout WAR and Miggy War = 2.9

Difference to total WAR of pitchers (%) = 14.2%
Difference to total WAR of hitters (%) = 16.9%

Really it is pretty much the same.

Rippers
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Rippers
3 years 8 months ago

Tough to feel sorry for someone who is banging Kate Upton.

Justin Verlander
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Justin Verlander
3 years 8 months ago

I am not complaining.

Antonio bananas
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Antonio bananas
3 years 8 months ago

Am I the only guy that thinks she’s incredibly run of the mill? Scrawney, no butt, blonde, it boobs. Wow, never see that before…

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 8 months ago

Your girlfriend must be really special. Keep Verlander away from her.

Chris
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Chris
3 years 8 months ago

Yes, it’s quite possible you’re the only one.

JD
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JD
3 years 8 months ago

No, you’re not the only one. She’s pretty boring.

YanksFanInBeantown
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YanksFanInBeantown
3 years 8 months ago

Meh face, too.

JS7
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JS7
3 years 8 months ago

Consider these numbers for Price:

* He was 10-2, 2.51 in 16 starts against AL East teams, representing four of the league’s top eight offensive teams by OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

* He was 13-3, 2.27 in 19 games (and 62 percent of his innings) against teams that finished .500 or better, matching Weaver for the most such wins. (Verlander was 8-4, 2.63.)

* He faced hitters with the highest aggregate OPS, as compiled by Baseball Prospectus, of the finalists, .763 (fifth among AL starters), compared to Verlander, .758 (15th) and Weaver .749 (29th).

* He went seven or more innings in 23 of his 31 starts, the most in the majors. (Verlander did so in only 21 of his 33, Weaver in 16 of 30).

* He allowed two earned runs or fewer in 23 starts, most in the AL.

* He had a 1.62 ERA in his six no-decisions, including two starts when he threw eight shutout innings.

Slats
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Slats
3 years 8 months ago

Price and Verlander should have both won.

BBWAA
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BBWAA
3 years 8 months ago

So you just add OBP to SLG?

Joe Morgan
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Joe Morgan
3 years 8 months ago

What you’re going to do here is add OBP and SLG. Or not and just look at batting average.

If I could have, I’d have voted for Davey Concepcion.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 8 months ago

Thank you for those totally arbitrary numbers!

TheLegacyofJordanTata
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TheLegacyofJordanTata
3 years 8 months ago

Naturally, you’ve chosen the cutoff that makes Price look good.

JV went 8 innings 15 times
Price went 8 innings 5 times

JV went 6 innings 31 times
Price went 6 innings 26 times

Slats
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Slats
3 years 8 months ago

Valverde got robbed.

Haishan
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Haishan
3 years 8 months ago

Could the Central’s OPS numbers be inflated relative to the East’s, because the East had overall better pitching? That would bolster the argument that Price pitched as well against tougher foes, maybe even enough that he’s an acceptable first-place candidate.

From B-R, team ERA+ for the five AL East teams: 120, 109, 109, 92, 92. For the AL Central teams: 112, 108, 96, 82, 85. Maybe this means that the Central’s hitters were actually better, but my gut says to go the other way and say that the East hit as well against better pitching.

Colin
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Colin
3 years 8 months ago

You’re really reaching with that one.

Haishan
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Haishan
3 years 8 months ago

I’m just thinking out loud, I’m certainly no homer for Price. Certainly the W-L records are consistent with the hypothesis that teams in the East had significantly better pitching and somewhat better offense — divisional OPS doesn’t tell the whole story. (ERA+ is probably not the best stat to use here, either, but it was easy to look up).

Maybe someone (I guess probably me) should run the splits and see if the East hit significantly better against the AL West than did the Central. If not, then maybe the East’s dominance is mostly due to pitching — certainly writers have mistaken good pitching for good, “scrappy” hitting in the past. But otherwise I think it’s still an open question which division was actually better on offense.

Joe
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Joe
3 years 8 months ago

Why should Verlander have an edge over Felix, especially since fWAR/FIP is heavily used on this site…

Roy J
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Roy J
3 years 8 months ago

Not a bad decision. Price was actually the best pitcher this year until he missed a start or two because of a shoulder problem.

Anyway, Verlander only lost because of those Angels writers refusing to give him more credit. A shame really. I wouldn’t even say he was robbed though. The voting was close as hell and Price isn’t exactly Bartolo Colon, if you get what I’m saying.

Robbie G.
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Robbie G.
3 years 8 months ago

Justin Verlander is pretty clearly the best pitcher on the planet right now and has been for at least the last 2-3 years now. He deserves the award. Other possible explanations for Price winning (and both are lousy reasons):

– “I’m voting for Miguel Cabrera for MVP and I feel weird about giving the two major awards to teammates, especially when their team had the seventh-best record in the league.”

– “Verlander already has won it, and Price hasn’t, and Price came close before… I think I’ll go for Price this time around.”

Call the second rationale the Michael Jordan rationale. There was a pretty long stretch there when Jordan was very obviously the best basketball player on the planet, every single year. Yet voters got bored with just giving the MVP to him every single time. I’m sure that there have been some very lovely ladies who have won Homecoming Queen as juniors in high school who didn’t repeat for basically this same dumb reason although their loveliness was presumably more difficult to quantify than was Verlander’s performance vis-a-vis Price and the rest of the field.

And do we know who voted for Fernando Romney? What an idiot.

David
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David
3 years 8 months ago

While the second one shouldn’t matter, unfortunately, it probably is true in some cases. (Might have affected the NL voting too with Kershaw) For the first one, voters only vote for one award each year, so if they were voting for Cy Young, they would not be voting for MVP. I suppose someone still might use it as a rational saying he thinks Cabrera was the MVP, but I don’t know.

beelza
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beelza
3 years 8 months ago

From the novice POV, am I to understand that JV had the superior, more highly valued, advanced stats yet lost the Cy to Price who had better traditional stats? Is this a fair statement?

Frank Campagnola
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Frank Campagnola
3 years 8 months ago

Even then, not really. Verlander only had three less wins (20 to 17), but threw 27 more innings, had more strikeouts (239 to 205), had a higher K-rate (9.03 to 8.74 per 9), a lower BB/9, a lower H/9, had a lower WHIP, led the league in complete games.

Some of the differences were very small, but they basically all leaned it Verlander’s direction. Even with ERA, Price beat him out by 0.08, but Verlander led the league in ERA+. It probably shouldn’t have been close.

Tom
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Tom
3 years 8 months ago

After Weaver finishing 3rd this year and 2nd (?) last year, I think it’s safe to say the CY vote is not “advanced stats catching on” in the Cy Voting and the narrative that people were trying to generate after Felix won the award is more just a shift of voters putting ERA in front of wins (instead of vice-versa). Seems like ERA is one, wins are now more of a secondary tiebreaker.

Heck even the year Felix won it, he was significantly behind Cliff Lee (fWAR) and Price who had a pretty ERA finished 2nd (despite being pretty far down the fWAR list). Last year CC Sabathia was a distant 3rd (or 4th?) despite being dead even with Verlander on fWAR (and no I’m not saying Verlander shouldn’t have won last year). I don’t follow bWAR that closely, but my guess is that probably tracks the CY voting more closely as that is more closely tied to ERA (or at least RA)

rdj3video
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rdj3video
3 years 8 months ago

Price, Verlander, Weaver, King Felix…All pretty damn good. No debate there. Unless a pitcher is clearly super dominate in other categories/advanced metric stats then I still think a 20-5 pitcher is going to win out over a 17-8 pitcher in the voter’s eyes most years. Yes, this day in age the bullpen really screws with a pitcher’s win total, but it’s not like it’s a crime Price won. Price should however let Rodney skate with the trophy around the rink for a few seconds as he helped Price with that win total just a bit.

Keith
Guest
3 years 8 months ago

I agree Verlander deserved it, for the reasons stated. I am curious how sabermeteics recognizes a Catfish Hunter-type lots-of-wins-but-lousy-peripherals season?

Take 1973: he was 21-5 with a 3.34 ERA, but a 4.40 FIP and just 0.9 WAR.

When he had leads, he got complacent and gave up dingers (1.37/9)–or perhaps he went into a sort of pre-vent defense. Either way, isn’t it worth something that the great majority of the times he maintained the leads? And is there evidence in this kind of pitcher, like the boxer being killed on points but able to pull off a late-round KO, that the end result has more statistical merit than newer metrics take into consideration?

Josh Robbins
Guest
3 years 8 months ago

http://60ft6in.com/factor12/2012-factor12/ This might help clarify the Cy Young debate.

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