The National League Cy Young race is an incredibly competitive one, and as Dave Cameron (who has a vote this year) broke down a few weeks ago, much of the differences between the candidates deals with run prevention in a team sense (RA/9-WAR and ERA) versus run prevention in a component sense (FIP, WAR). As a result, there has been considerable discussion on the concept of weak contact, and last week I looked at the role of the Cubs defense in the Chicago pitchers’ low BABIPs. Taking a small step further, let’s use the Statcast to look at weak and strong contact to determine if the Cy Young candidates in the National League have been helping out their defenses.
To whittle down the candidates, I found the pitchers who are among the National League’s top 10 both by WAR and RA/9-WAR — and then added Jose Fernandez, who just missed the second list. This is a list of those pitchers and their respective ERA, FIP and WAR marks.
|Name||ERA||NL Rank||FIP||NL Rank||WAR|
As you can see, the NL pitchers ranked first and second in ERA only rank sixth and seventh in FIP, which has led to discussions, particularly with regard to Kyle Hendricks, about how to evaluate such discrepancies when discussing a pitcher’s Cy Young candidacy. To examine the type of contact a pitcher is generating, ee can start with a simple look at average exit velocity. Here are the pitchers’ average exit-velocity numbers and MLB ranks, per Baseball Savant.
|Avg Exit Velocity (mph)||MLB Rank|
While the evidence isn’t overwhelming, there is some reason to think that a pitcher has some, if not a lot, of influence over exit velocity, with the bulk of the influence coming from the batter. Those arguing for Kyle Hendricks for the Cy Young would likely say there is a considerable effect and point to the very good exit-velocity numbers and very low BABIP he’s conceded as evidence. That said, Clayton Kershaw has an even better average exit velocity and his BABIP isn’t quite as low as Hendricks’. Which pitcher gets more credit?