Liriano Is Lost in the Cy Young World

Understanding that writers pen some articles purely for narrative is key. Jon Paul Morosi filed essentially a game report about the Rays/Yankees affair last night, framing the starting pitcher matchup as one of dueling Cy Young contenders. Nothing big to see here, but Morosi ropes Felix Hernandez into the mix so as to use a few quotes about how the Cy Young winner should come from a team in the playoff hunt performing well in games that matter.

If Morosi (and others) believe the latter requirement to be true, then their narrative should also expand its scope to include Francisco Liriano — who, like David Price and CC Sabathia, should shine as one of the game’s most excellent lefties on the postseason stage. Since the second half has begun – and let’s face it, if Liriano imploded afterwards, folks would say his season only excelled in the meaningless portions — Liriano has been better than his competitors. Even by old school means:

Liriano 10 GS, 7-0 W-L, 2.22 ERA, 2.95 SO/BB
Sabathia 12 GS, 7-3 W-L, 2.93 ERA, 2.78 SO/BB
Price 11 GS, 5-2 W-L, 3.28 ERA, 2.23 SO/BB

As many wins, lower ERA, and a better strikeout-to-walk ratio. Did these games matter? The Twins started the second half with a playoff probability just under 30% (according to CoolStandings.com) whereas Tampa Bay and New York had likelihoods over 75%. Three of Liriano’s post-break starts have come against the White Sox – the team battling Minnesota for the division crown – and he won each of them.

Liriano is not Ambrose Bierce. He is not getting lost in a revolutionary war between the ERA and FIP crowds because this season has all that and more. The innings gap is the only explainable reasoning for his absence; and even then, Liriano and Price’s innings totals are closer than Price’s and Sabathia’s. Small market, big payroll, fat stats, and a baby face; if everyone wants to give this award to a playoff-bound southpaw, why not give it to the one who combines the best aspects about Price and Sabathia’s stories?




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87 Responses to “Liriano Is Lost in the Cy Young World”

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  1. Erik says:

    Great stuff.

    As a Twins fan, it boggles my mind how Liriano continues to get overlooked when people discuss the Cy Young Award.

    It is all about the AL East, as usual, I guess.

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    • James says:

      Head to head, Price leads Liriano in wins, innings, ERA, adjusted ERA… and in some WAR formulas (like baseball reference). He also has fewer losses. His team has a better record.

      For Liriano to be favored over Price, you have to value peripherals and projections over the above (as seems to be quite common). Unless, of course, the Cy Young award is a half-season award as posited above.

      Also, Liriano shouldn’t get too much credit for the Twins being in first. The White Sox have blown their share of games in the second half (not to mention the 5 UER of support they gave him in the 7/16 start, and the 5 ER he gave up in his 8/18 start).

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      • Coby DuBose says:

        Yeah, the White Sox really handed over the division. Didn’t have anything to do with the fact that the Twins are 34-12 in their last 46 or anything…

        uhhh.

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      • James says:

        Uhhh, yeah, let me explain…. My point was that (a) Price has been better than Liriano other than the fact that Liriano averages about 0.75 strikeouts more per game and (b) Liriano isn’t really the reason they are in first. I think he’s pretty irrelevant to their success compared to other frontline guys. They score quite a few runs, play good defense, and win every year during the regular season, regardless of who they run out there to start. Then, they lose every year in the first round of the postseason when they play better teams.

        Regarding the White Sox handing over the division – Twins are 8-3 vs the White Sox since the all-star break. White Sox blew two games vs. the Twins in the last at-bat, had the aforementioned game where they kicked the ball around. White Sox win those games, that would make them 4 back. Failed to execute in what could’ve easily been a win last night… that would make them 3 back. Throw in games they blew in the 9th to the Mariners and Tigers (just to name two games that looked like sure wins), then they are 1 back. So that’s where I’m coming from, it’s my OPINION that if the White Sox (a) didn’t have a horrid start, (b) didn’t consistently lose games by way of blown saves and errors, or (c) would play .500 vs the Twins, they’d be in first regardless of how well the Twins have played. In other words, if the White Sox played consistent fundamental baseball like the Twins, they’d be in first. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts….

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      • Jason B says:

        “He’s pretty irrelevant to their success compared to other frontline guys.”

        That may be overstating the point *just* a tad. I think what you’re meaning is, he didn’t exceed expectations to the extent of some other Twins may have this year. But that said, Liriano has been VERY instrumental to their success in ’10.

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      • Nick says:

        Quite the hater…
        Much of what you said could be applied to both Sabathia and Price: “They score quite a few runs, play good defense, and win every year during the regular season, regardless of who they run out there to start.”
        Just be careful, the Twins could very well end the season with baseball’s best record.

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      • NotDave says:

        James has a point. If the White Sox hadn’t lost all those games they lost, they’d have won a lot more games.

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    • Mike says:

      When is the last time a Cy Young came from the AL East?

      09 – Grenkie – Central
      08 – Lee – Central
      07 – Sabathia – Central
      06 – Santana – Central
      05 – Colon – West
      04 – Santana – Central
      03 -Halladay – East, but with Toronto

      It’s been 7 years since the AL East has had a Cy Young, so it is definitely not only about the AL East. In fact 5/7 are from the Central.

      Also, I came here to note that Fangraphs has pointed out that both Lester and Lirano have been better than CC and Price.

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  2. Jesse says:

    I’m a Twins fan, and I agree that Liriano deserves to be in this conversation. Unfortunately, Felix deserves the award more than he does…at least right now. We’ll see what happens these last couple weeks.

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  3. Sean says:

    In what sense does Felix deserve the Cy Young more than Liriano does?

    http://hittingthefoulpole.com/2010/09/13/fit-to-be-king/

    I wrote that last night, but the short version is: in a start-by-start comparison, they’re even (or Liriano is better if you don’t penalize him for making fewer starts), and Liriano dominates Felix in FIP, xFIP, K/9, HR/9, has a better GB% and WAR, despite the fact that his BABIP is 55 points higher.

    If Felix Hernandez “deserves” the Cy Young, Liriano “deserves” it quite a bit more.

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    • Ron A. says:

      I’m guessing in the sense that he’s pitched 50 more innings and allowed fewer runs.

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      • notdissertating says:

        “I’m guessing in the sense that he’s pitched 50 more innings and allowed fewer runs.”

        felix has allowed fewer EARNED runs than liriano (60 vs. 62), but not fewer runs (77 vs. 62). in fact liriano has a lower tERA than does felix (2.98 vs. 2.64). if you are going to ignore BABIP and focus on what did happen, rather than what should have (or whatever) happen, then you might as well go all the way and look at tERA not ERA. lirano wins there, too.

        i don’t mean to make it sound like picking the AL cy young is easy. it is not. but on most metrics liriano has a distinct edge over felix. IP is one of the only pieces on felix’s side.

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      • isavage says:

        Felix is going almost an inning longer per start than Liriano, in my opinion, that swings the Cy Young argument hugely in Felix’s favor. It’s not like we’re talking a small difference, Liriano’s going about 6.1 and Felix is going about 7.1 per start. I’ll take those extra innings over Liriano’s extra 1 strikeout per 9, and slight edge in K/BB.

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      • frank says:

        Similar to the line of iSavages’s comment, there’s also a question of should you value consistency from start to start? WAR, ERA and counting starts tend to overlook that aspect of things.

        How many times have the respective pitchers “spit the bit”. Quality starts may not be the best stat but some consideration should be given to how innings and runs are distributed from start to start. Are 3 starts of 1 run, 0 run an 6 runs equal to 2,2,and 3? (you can use the same logic for FIP counting #’s and how BB, HR and K are distributed)

        Liriano has had 5 starts where he has given up at least 5ER and 6 starts where he hasn’t been able to finish 6 innings (these are not exclusive – he’s had 6 ‘poor’ starts). That’s 6 bad starts out of 27.

        In contrast Feliz has had 3 starts where he’s given up at least 5 ER and has had only 2 starts where he has failed to pitch at least 6 full innings. That’s 3 bad starts out of 31 (maybe 4 if you consider his 6 run/0ER start a bad start too)

        WAR considers this a bit through innings, but I think Felix’s consistency has to have some value as well – not just the fact that he has more innings but how his performance has seemingly been more consistent (I guess I could look at std dev of some of the metrics to validate this but I am too lazy to do it).

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    • Not David says:

      You can’t give Liriano “credit” for having a high BABIP, while not discrediting him for having a ridiculously low HR/FB%.

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      • Luke in MN says:

        But he has the lowest xFIP as well as the lowest FIP. Yeah, his HR/FB ratio is really low, but his FB% is super low too.

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      • Ellis says:

        Great point. And also, we should remember that stats like FIP and xFIP are okay for predicting the future but are poor at evaluating what has already happened. Traditional stats like ERA and WHIP are much better when we’re talking about the past.

        (Wins, of course, are meaningless)

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        Ellis, why do we want to remember things that aren’t true?

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    • Eric says:

      I think the Hernandez fans would cite his innings pitched total but it’s true that Liriano’s HR/9 numbers are crazy good: 172.1 innings, 4 HR’s (0.21 #1 in the major leagues, first time this decade that someone has posted one a HR/9 below 0.3)

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      • Eric says:

        While I’m sure he’s bound to regress eventually it is true that for his career Liriano has only given up 45 homeruns in 529.1 innings (0.76 HR/9) and while his GB% has been up and down it is 53.9 % this year (5th in the league, edging Felix’s 53.2 % by a hair) and 48.1 % for his career.

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    • sw says:

      Finally somebody points out that there are 17 unearned runs against Hernandez while Lirano has zero. The only time I’ve read anything close to it in the MSM is spun in the poor Felix, his defense is so terrible it’s caused him to give up 17 unearned runs, like they’re not his fault at all. Very rarely it is the case that the pitcher contributes zero fault to their unearned runs, especially when they make the error themselves or give up a grand slam following a bases empty two out error (both of which have happened to Hernandez). Who’s to say that pitchers who give up a lot of unearned runs aren’t flaking out after a two out error because they know it won’t count against their ERA? Not to mention with the Twins slow outfield, there are clearly quite a few balls that should have been caught that fall in for hits contributing to Liriano’s inflated BABIP and in turn his ERA. Hernandez has had a great, Cy-worthy year, but it’s clearly his counting stats that put him ahead of the field and not his rate stats, where not only Liriano, but a few others are better.

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      • Mark says:

        It doesn’t matter that Felix has allowed 77 R. Had Liriano pitched the same amount of innings he would have allowed more ER, assuming the ERA stays where it is. Felix is still allowing less runs to cross the plate than Liriano.

        Liriano had a terrific year but the innings gap is just too hard to ignore.

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  4. Eric says:

    Much better candidate than CC or Prince from my prejudices, looking forward to seeing Liriano in the playoffs.

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  5. Erik says:

    I would love to have someone present a case for all the Cy Young Award candidates while excluding the W’s and L’s for each pitcher.

    I would have no doubt that Liriano or Hernandez would be the front runner if it was presented in that manner.

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  6. Mike says:

    Frankly, I’m OK with Liriano not getting consideration for the Cy Young award. As a Twins fan, I’ll be very happy if the Twins could re-sign Liriano to a multi-year deal this offseason without having to pay an extra Cy Young premium.

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  7. Jon E says:

    Morosi’s claim that Greinke pitched in some meaningful games early in his Cy Young year as justification of Greinke’s Cy-award over Felix getting one is laughable. Almost an insult to the collective intelligence of his readership.

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  8. Doug Bies says:

    Thank you. I’m am getting so sick of this Sabathis/Price talk. I hate how who the general public follows just focuses on basic stats like wins & era that a pitcher doesn’t have much control over. I would have to consider both Lirano & Lee the front runners right now & hope that someone doesn’t win it just because of a high win total. When will epsn focus on more important stuff like fip, whip, bb/k ratios? Till that starts happening, award voting is a complete joke, and should bear very little weight when evaluating a players career.

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  9. David G says:

    …no my kid is cuter… no mine is!… Who cares about the Cy Young? Isn’t winning the championship the goal?

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    • Bill says:

      Well, you just read an article entitled “Liriano is lost in the Cy Young world”, so I’m guessing you care about the Cy Young.

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  10. Justin says:

    Good article.

    I feel like anyone following fangraphs, sabermetrics, etc. should saying King Felix and Liriano are the two best pitchers in the AL. Not the front-runners, but def. the best best pitchers. I would even suggest that Lester and Lee have been better than both Price and Sabathia.

    1. King Felix
    2. Liriano
    3. Lee
    4. Lester
    5. Sabathia (and yes, I know he has not been the 5th best pitcher in the AL, maybe 7-8th)

    But those top 4 have clearly been the best pitchers this yr, and it just so happens that they are 1-4 in AL WAR. And doing my analysis, that is the last stat I am looking at (but am doing so indirectly bc I look at FIP, xFIP, K%, BB%, K/BB, GB%, BABiP, HR%)

    And it just so happ

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    • Ken says:

      Unless you look at WAR calculated a different way. B-R WAR for AL pitchers is:

      1) Hernandez – 5.2
      2) Price – 5.1
      3) Weaver – 5.0
      4) Liriano – 4.7
      5) Sabathia – 4.6

      8) Lester – 4.5

      13) Lee – 4.0

      Making a Cy Young argument based on walks, strikeouts, homeruns and nothing else, is not much better than making one based simply on wins. Both ignore a pile of important details.

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      • sw says:

        After last night’s stats came in BBRef WAR now has:
        1. Sabathia 5.4
        2. Liriano 5.0
        3t. Hernadez 4.9
        3t. Pavano 4.9
        4. Weaver 4.8

        This is not a slam dunk for Felix. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out.

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      • Justin says:

        How does FIP, xFIP, K%, BB%, K/BB, GB%, BABiP, HR% ignore a pile of important details? Which details are you referring too?

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      • Justin says:

        Maybe look at GB% and FB% as well……

        If you think looking at W and ERA is the same as looking at the 10 stats named, the u r crazy…..

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      • Justin says:

        Using those ten stats, plus others like it, is filtering out nonsense and focusing in on INDIVIDUAL pitcher peformances…….which is what the CY is…..

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  11. Justin says:

    And really, you could make an argument for Lee and Liriano as the CY……..Those 1-3 spots could go anyway…..

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    • Everett says:

      Exactly, I’d be ok with any of those 3 getting votes, as long as it was done in a reasoned manner. Unfortunately, the media seems only open to one “non-traditional” candidate at a time, so Lee and Liriano are mostly being ignored.

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  12. CircleChange11 says:

    Lee is not being ignored, IMO. He was in a perfect spot to win the award. He was having a dominant season and was traded to a playoff team.

    He pitched himself out of top 3 contention with a string of games where he allowed a lot of runs.

    The table was set for him.

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  13. phoenix says:

    i think that felix, liriano, lee (for his historic K/BB), sabathia (even if we dont, the judges care about wins), and price are the front runners.

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  14. glb says:

    Everyone’s missing the most important aspect of this article, which is that this man managed to work an Ambrose Bierce reference into a piece of baseball analysis and have it actually play. Brava!

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  15. lee__d says:

    felix has almost 50 more ip than liriano, how is this even a discussion?

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    • noseeum says:

      And nearly a run lower ERA. FIP is useless when you’re talking about differences in ERA this large. The fact is, the opposing team scored more runs per 9 innings when Liriano was on the mound by a fair stretch over Felix. (Yes, I checked whether earned or unearned.)

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      • Adam says:

        No, it’s not. A high BABIP, for example, or bad luck with RISP could explain a difference in ERA this large. Earned runs (and ERA) are NOT good indicators how well a pitcher performed. That’s why we use FIP, xFIP, and other stats to isolate the events a pitcher has complete control over.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Earned runs (and ERA) are NOT good indicators how well a pitcher performed.

        IMO, you should change the “NOT” to “may not be”. ERA can also be a good indicator. I would say that in general, ERA is a fine indicator of how a pitcher performed, assuming we are talking about a full season. There aren’t many guys with ERA’s in the 2′s that “pitched poorly”, nor are there very many guys with a 5+ ERA that pitched well.

        I think we should remember that “Fielding Independent” and “Undeer Pitcher Control” are two very different situations. Removing the fielding aspect does not mean that the pitcher has control over the remaining aspects. IMO, after pitcher quality, the next biggest factor in the non-fielding situation is “batter quality” and the pitcher has no control over that, nor does the pitcher have control over whether the batter takres a pitch, swings and misses, or knocks it out of the park.

        The influence is greater, but that’s not the same thing.

        Also, not all BABIP is skewed by defense. You could have a team full of gold glove fielders, and a good pitcher could still give up a .300 BABIP without being unlucky.

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      • frank says:

        FIP doesn’t measure luck or defense. It just chooses to ignore 50% (or more) of the plays instead of trying to figure out how much of that 50% is luck and defense and how much is pitcher related.

        A double that hits a foot from the top of the wall is completely ignored and assumed not to be a measurement of a pitchers true talent (it’s just a ball in play), a HR in the same spot that is 2 feet higher is significant and a measurement of true talent/skill? xFIP attempts to some extent to correct for this but FIP does not. A HR that hits off the foul pole is a significant representation of pitcher skill, but one that is a foot foul does not impact FIP or xFIP? People trreat HR, BB K as if there’s no luck or defense involved in those either.

        I’m tired of people just chalking up ERA/FIP differences solely to luck and defense – that is certainly some component to it, but it doesn’t have to be the only component. Has anyone actually gone through the plays and figure out how many “unlucky” hits Liriano has given up or are folks just assuming that to be the case? Or how many more great defensive plays Hernandez has had vs Liriano?

        I realize some of these are small effects (and there are plenty more of these) but we’re not parsing huge differences in some of these elite pitchers and we need to be careful of 100% replacement of actual results with modeled stats base on rates in a sacrifice to the luck and defense gods. I really think you need to use a mix of rate and counting stats or you run the risk of just predicting what the past should have been.

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    • Quit riding Felix's jock! says:

      Because Liriano has had better rate stats than Felix, you douche.

      He beats him in xFIP and dominates him in FIP, and that balances out Felix’s big advantage in IP. Hell, FanGraph’s WAR rankings seem to think they’re pretty equal.

      Nobody’s arguing Liriano is the best candidate, but they should be receiving the same amount of attention yet they’re not, even among the stat community – see the FanGraphs AL Cy poll. Felix is an excellent candidate, but Liriano should not have gotten 10% to Felix’s 62%. That’s all people are saying.

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      • Adam says:

        Wow, way to be an ass about it. There’s no need for that.

        Sadly, I love your argument. Exactly how I feel. Why isn’t Liriano getting the attention that Felix gets? That FanGraph poll shouldn’t have had the discrepancy it had between these two pitchers.

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      • lee__d says:

        really? xfip and fip totally make up a 50ip difference?

        so IF liriano pitched those extra 50 innings, he MIGHT HAVE outperformed felix.

        cool story bro. it’s not a few innings, it’s basically FIVE COMPLETE GAMES

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      • Adam says:

        Lee_D,

        The gap in FIP is humongous. Liriano has a FIP of 2.36, while Felix has a FIP of 3.00. If you are alright with using FIP instead of xFIP (because instead of using what actually happened, then you can’t trivialize the difference in rate stats the same way you don’t want Liriano supporters to trivialize the difference in IP.

        Is a 2.4 FIP over 170 IP better or worse than a 3.0 FIP over 220 IP? I would say that they are pretty close, and arguing that one is MUCH better than the other (which people are doing in favor of Felix) is what is getting people up in arms.

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      • WilsonC says:

        Forget xFIP, because they’re close enough in that metric that Felix’s difference in innings is easily more substantial than a fifth of a run in rates. It’s a point in his favor, but not enough to balance out a playing time advantage of 25%. Fangraphs WAR is a product of FIP, so the real question is whether FIP properly captures the difference in performance.

        When it comes to Liriano, there’s really two factors that fuel his FIP dominance: his exceptionally low HR rate, which is kept, and his unusually poor BABIP, which is thrown out.

        Consider that a mistake pitch that’s hit for a HR is counted against a pitcher in FIP, but a mistake pitch that’s hammered off the wall for extra bases is treated as just another ball in play. Liriano’s allowed very few HR, but he’s also allowed more doubles and triples than Felix, and even when you include the difference in HR, Felix has allowed slightly fewer extra base hits per inning. The outfield defense certainly plays a role there, and a HR is more detrimental than a double, but between the higher BABIP and the higher XBH on BIP for Liriano, it seems likely that FIP is overrating Liriano’s performance because it has no mechanism for adjusting for well-hit balls that are virtually unplayable but stay in the park. Liriano just happens to have his “good luck” in the area that FIP credits him for, and his “bad luck” in the area where FIP neutralizes.

        We need to make assumptions either way, but in Liriano’s case, the assumptions built into FIP are strongly in his favor. And it takes those powerful assumptions to put him on equal ground with Felix. With anything less than a complete absolution of responsibility for the results of balls in play, the difference in innings pitched between them outweighs any edges in performance you give Liriano.

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      • Adam says:

        I completely botched that first paragraph with a copy/paste job. I meant to say:

        The gap in FIP is humongous. Liriano has a FIP of 2.36, while Felix has a FIP of 3.00. If you are alright with using FIP instead of xFIP (because xFIP normalizes HR rates instead of using what actually happened – which FIP does), then you can’t trivialize the difference in rate stats the same way you don’t want Liriano supporters to trivialize the difference in IP.

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      • baty says:

        I don’t understand where you squeeze the 50 innings into his season? It’s the first season of his career where he’s gone more than 140 innings pitched, and he’s still completing a return from major arm surgery.

        With better luck, he would be more efficient and get deeper into ballgames, but he would have to be 20 pitches more efficient than his current rate to throw an additional 1 and a third or so innings every start. That seems like a huge swing. Also, I don’t think the Twins had the intention of throwing him more than 8 innings a start all season and for smart reasons i’m sure.

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  16. WilsonC says:

    The case for Liriano really seems to boil down to one of two things:
    - A decision to neutralize BABIP luck while ignoring HR/FB luck
    - A decision to ignore an innings difference nearly equal to a quality relief pitcher

    Liriano’s having a great season, but his numbers really play to the limitations of fWAR and FIP. His season’s just strange on the “luck” factors, with a ridiculously low HR%, a very high BABIP, zero unearned runs, etc. It’s the type of season that I’d expect a Hit f/x type of system to reveal some interest goings on, but one with definite limitations on how well a metric like FIP summarizes it.

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  17. db says:

    FIP, xFIP, BABIP and xBABIP and even K/BB are very important stats for their predictive powers, but have no place in the discussion of awards. Awards are based on how someone performed, i.e., they are retrospective, not how they should perform or their true ability. For Cy Young, I care about ERA, RA, innings, innings per start, and believe you have to look at park and schedule factors. Sabathia isn’t a terrible choice, considering his ballpark compared to Felix’s. The extra inning at more overall effictiveness that Felix has vs. Liriano puts Liriano behind those two. I haven’t looked at schedule, but maybe Price deserves a bump there, because he pitches in the AL East and doesn’t get to avoid the Yankees, like Sabathia. The point is, your FIP is not how you did, it is an estimation on how you are expected to have performed based on peripheral stats. Yes luck has a factor, but luck has a factor in hits, walks and strikeouts too, at least on the margins.

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    • bill says:

      Yes, and can we stop citing xFIP in awards discussions? We shouldn’t normalize home run rate when looking back in the past, it makes no sense.

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      • sw says:

        I agree that xFIP should be thrown out because it’s not a true measure, but FIP (or at least its three components) is absolutely relevant. I look at FIP, tRA, RA, and ERA to tell me what happened. In Hernadez’s case, ERA is the most misleading component of the four, his RA lines up a lot better with his FIP and tRA. If Liriano had 200 IP right now, I think he would deserve to win given the same (or slightly lesser but still superior to Hernandez’s) rate stats, the problem in my mind is that the Cy Young winner should really be able to throw 220 IP in a full season. Of the starters who are on target to finish with over 220 IP, Hernandez is the best choice.

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    • Eric says:

      Dave today in his latest chat: ” I don’t agree that ERA = pitcher results. Separating out the pitcher and defensive contribution’s to run prevention is hard but necessary. Just giving up and giving the pitcher full credit or blame is a bit lazy, to me “

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      • bill says:

        Totally agree, but in an earlier chat I think it was said by Dave that there’s no reason to use xFIP in evaluating a season. FIP, definitely, xFIP, why?

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      • Eric says:

        Yeah, it seems like FIP is the one to look at, not xFIP in evaluating the season. That said I’m not advocating ignoring xFIP, just leaning on FIP for historical purposes.

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      • WilsonC says:

        I agree with that statement. However, simply absolving a pitcher of all credit or blame on balls in play is equally lazy.

        The more I think about, the more I question the whether FIP is any closer to a gauge of a pitcher’s performance than ERA. xFIP is useful as a projection tool, and FIP has some use as a hybrid to add information to how we look at other metrics, but as far as adjusting a pitcher’s value for defense, I’m beginning to think ERA is conceptually closer to the right approach.

        If you think about it, what do each of FIP and ERA do?

        For FIP, it freezes all the things a pitcher does when there’s no ball in play, then essentially takes all the balls in play and distributes them evenly to the pitchers around the league and builds a formula to tell us how you’d expect a pitcher with those peripherals to pitch. The results usually make sense and form a close enough approximation that it passes the smell test, but it really doesn’t address any specific case for how a given pitcher’s defense influenced the results of his performance.

        ERA, on the other hand, attempts to do exactly what we want to do in separating the defense from the pitcher’s results. It’s a crude method that’s far from an ideal, focusing only on how errors impact a pitcher’s RA, but the thought process behind it is more in line with the goal here. Unlike FIP, ERA does deal with a specific pitcher’s performance without making assumptions on batted ball data. I don’t know of any stat that does this, but I think you’d be better off with something that starts with a pitcher’s RA, and then adds or subtracts runs based on the team’s UZR split while he’s pitching, or something like that.

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  18. Matt says:

    To Wilson C: xFIP normalizes homerun rate to league avg(11% FB rate I believe) and Liriano still leads all pitchers in that catagory.

    To db: I would argue that FIP indeed shows how well that particular pticher has performed as it takes in consideration only the metrics which has control over and doesn’t let the quality of the defense behind a pitcher skew the results. Basically as offensive output directly influences W/L record, defensive quality influences ERA.

    I’m not saying that Liriano is the clear choice for the Cy Young merely that he should be considered for the discussion.

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  19. Sox27 says:

    As a Sox fan (and a person who hates the Twins), the Sox have handed this division to the Twins. It’s not discount the fact that the Twins have played exceptional ball in the second half, but they tried to keep the Sox in it and the Sox simply weren’t good enough to take advantage. Saying that Price’s team has more wins is a valid criteria for saying he deserves more consideration than Liriano is ridiculous. Felix is the true Cy Young, but Liriano absolutley should be in the discussion ahead of Price and CC. Can you really say Price is the reason that the Rays are in a first place battle, and at the same time discredit what Liriano has contributed to the Twins by being a true ace?

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  20. baty says:

    Compiled stats sort of go against the whole purpose of evaluating a 36 start baseball season for pitchers. If the whole purpose of baseball is to win games, then why is everything getting lumped together in a manner that disregards the per game element. We know that by looking at the compiled numbers, both Felix and Liriano have been both very good, but in addition to that, which pitcher keeps a team in the best position to win a game and win lots of them? Which pitcher has allowed optimal bullpen usage? Liriano has 12 starts where he hasn’t lasted more than 6 innings (and 3 starts with 8+ IP) with Felix only having 4 starts of lasting 6 innings or less (also 13 games with 8+IP). With both being dominant this season, I’ll take the guy who consistently hands the game over to your top RPs. Isn’t that a crucial element to keeping loses as far out of reach as possible?

    I understand coaching and health plays into these happenings, but efficiency should be a major component to this decision.

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    • frank says:

      Completely agree and I have made several comments about this in other articles (so sorry for repeating this). I think we need to look at std dev of some of the rate and counting indicators not just a season aggregate.

      Pitcher A – 3ER, 2ER, 2ER
      Pitcher B – 0ER, 6ER, 1ER

      or for those FIP inclined

      Pitcher A – 7K/1BB/2HR, 7K/2BB/0HR, 7K/2BB/1HR
      Pitcher B – 9K/5BB/0HR, 10K/0BB/3HR, 2K/0BB/0HR

      Both would have the same ERA and FIP (if I didn’t screw up the #’s), but is one pitcher better (or more valuable) than the other? Or is this equivalent in people’s mind? Does consistency (which is not measured in most traditional or “advanced” stats) matter?

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  21. Rollo says:

    Yeah, let’s give the CY award to a six-inning pitcher who’s not even in the top ten in innings pitched (and who’s not even the best pitcher on his own team) with an ERA+ 30 points lower than the league leader who also leads the league in innings pitched.

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    • scottz says:

      This whole IP business doesn’t fly for me as an argument. Yes, 50 IP is a large difference. However, could some of that 50 IP be attributed to the differences in bullpens between the two teams? Or difference in philosophy between the two (three – 2 for Seattle, 1 for MN) managers? Gardenhire and the Twins are quite comfortable pulling their starters out and handing the game to their bullpen early if their pitcher is at/approaching 100 pitches or doesn’t appear to be overly sharp as the game progresses. Liriano also has been given an extra day of rest on a couple of occasions. The philosophy of the club tends to be to try to take care of the arms so they can be fresh in October. Should that count against the pitcher?

      I love all the sabermetric stuff. Love it. It is a great way to expand your knowledge of the game (I know it has been for me, the more I learn), but, like anything, it can be relied on too much (opinion, obviously…I’m sure many here differ with that opinion). I don’t know who I’d vote for if I had a CY vote…but I know I’d try to look at the entire spectrum of things, and not just stats – advanced or traditional.

      If CC wins, I don’t think you can just claim East coast bias. He has some great traditional stats, some good advanced stats, and some extra weight (not a CC is fat pun) that has to be given him because the rest of the Yankees pitching staff has fallen down a bit, and he has been very, very solid when they’ve needed him to be.

      I don’t think Felix wins simply because the difference in wins is too great. This isn’t the same as last year when voters picked Greinke (16-8) over Felix (19-3). Felix is 11-11 this year. I know, wins is a meaningless stat…except it isn’t. A difference of 3 wins like last year is a lot easier to justify ignoring than a difference of 6-8 wins. (Note…I don’t think Liriano is in the mix because his traditional stats and advanced stats are very good, not great.)

      Respectfully,
      scottz

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      • bill says:

        So what? Innings pitched is basically the best counting stat there is for evaluation, because you can say “rate stats being equal, more innings pitched = better pitcher.”

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      • scottz says:

        True, the more innings someone excels at something, the more weight can be given to the stats compiled in those innings. I’m not arguing that Liriano deserves to get more votes than Felix. I’m saying that they are in different situations. Felix, on a bad team, is asked to do a ton. Liriano, on a good team, is asked to do less. CC, on a good team but with a weaker rotation and questionable late-inning bullpen (excepting Rivera), is probably asked to do more than Liriano, less than Felix. And on top of that, CC probably has many more situations where his team is up by more than a run or two and has the freedom to just throw the ball across the plate and take his chances. Price has his own set of circumstances. Bucholz and Lester, too. And they all affect their universe just as their universe affects them.

        None of this stuff is in a vacuum. And awards given by a group of people with varying opinions shouldn’t be expected to just look at one set of stats or another (advanced or traditional) and say “well, this pile of stats says that pitcher A is the Cy Young winner”. Opinions matter. Perspective matters. Nuance matters. And thank God that it does, because otherwise, baseball would be nothing more to me than sitting in my friend’s basement in junior high playing MicroLeague over and over and over.

        Respectfully,
        scottz

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  22. Tom says:

    Does it matter that given a two run lead last night in the 5th the F-Bomb blew it? Does it matter after next inning he was losing?
    As a twins fan I am not 100% positive that I wasnt him starting game one, which means he shouldn’t win the Cy Young, something has to be said that CC and Price went head to head for 8 inning without giving up a run in a game for 1st place.

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    • Mark says:

      Yeah, last night was a great example of why he’s not the best starter in the AL. He might get there, he has the stuff to get there, but he’s too much of a headcase. There’s a “timebomb” quality about him, where the old overthrowing Liriano can reappear at a moments notice.

      Though if not for his poor defensive play on the comebacker, 2 of those runs wouldn’t have scored.

      And yes, as a Twins fan I agree about him starting game one. He’s the best pitcher on the staff, no question, but I still trust Pavano more.

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      • JTC says:

        I totally agree. As a long (long, long) time Twins fan, I’m really glad to have him, but he’s not there yet due to not going deep enough into games and still being a bit of a head case. I’m not exactly sure how to address those from a stats standpoint, but they are very relevant to a starting pitcher’s value. For me, if I were starting a team for next year, my AL big board would be : 1) Cliff Lee 2) Price 3) Hernandez 4) Sabathia 5) Liriano

        P.s. I’m extremely glad the Twins have the bullpen that they do going into the post season.

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    • JTC says:

      However, if Sabathia or Price were to pull a Carmona on the Twins in game 1, I think I’d much rather have Pavano pitching game 2 than Liriano with the added pressure.

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  23. pft says:

    After Lirianos triple shutouts against CLE, KCR, SEA he posted a 3.61 ERA against tougher competition the rest of the way. Even so, CC and King Felix have had tougher opponents in the 2nd half.

    Then there is that 1.25 WHIP.

    Then you look at that H_A split (2.51 ERA H, 4.19 ERA A) and his extremely low HR rate, and you think maybe that big park had something to do with his success. King Felix OTOH has a 2.13 ERA at H, 2.65 ERA on the road, so park does not figure to be a big factor in his season.

    It should be King Felix all the way, with weaver as runner up, unless folks are still attached to the W as a meaningful stat. Shame on those who do.

    Of course, the season is not over.

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  24. WilsonC says:

    For a hitter, what’s the better string of 4 PA:
    1. a groundout, a walk, a single, and a homerun, or
    2. a homerun, a single, a groundout, and a walk?

    The answer is that it’s dependent on events out of his control (the other hitters in the lineup) so based on the information we have, they’re valued equally.

    Now answer the same question for a starting pitcher. The answer should be obvious. an out followed by three runs is worse that one run with either one out and men on first and second or two outs with a man on first (depending on the DP).

    A hitter’s context is created by the other players on his team, whereas a starting pitcher is largely responsible for the context he creates. He starts each inning with the bases empty and no outs. A metric like FIP ignores this key difference between the two and uses a similar logic as linear weights does for hitters. For a forward-looking stat like xFIP, that’s fine, because it’s not a particularly repeatable skill, but when looking at past value, however you approach the subject, it’s important to be mindful of one obvious fact.

    For starting pitchers, unlike for hitters, the order of events matters.

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  25. WTell says:

    Liriano rarely goes more than 6 and has he ever gone 7 innings? How can you dominate when you duck out early? I’d take Pavano over him, and if he gets a third shutout (not many chances now…) I see him getting more votes. He is near the top in IP, tied with Lee for Complete games, low ERA, and tied for first with 2 shutouts.

    Obvious Hernandez deserves it–nobody has dominated the league like he has–but I’ll bet Price gets it. Plus Hernandez never gets to pitch against Seattle ;)

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