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It’s a Jake Sale! AL Fantasy Cy Young

Looking back at the 2012 season, we’re out to attempt to identify players that represent the very best return on the dollar in the respective “award” categories. Recall that this is a best value kind of series, not necessarily the best player.

To that end, we need to award the American League Cy Young to the pitcher who provided you the most production for the least possible cost. And among the staff votes, we have a tie between Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, thus the regrettable title of this piece. And it’s not hard to see why we’re divided.

Sale was perhaps less the known commodity heading into 2012 as he was a converted reliever with some genuine question marks about whether he would be successful and/or stick in the starter role. Interestingly, he actually didn’t stick in that role all season as some obscure arm issues put him back in the bullpen for all of one relief appearance in May.

But on the whole, Sale’s season was an obvious success. A 3.05 ERA (3.27 FIP), 9.0 K/9 rate, 1.14 WHIP, and 17 wins over his 192 innings pitched made a lot of fantasy owners happy. In 18 of his 29 starts, Sale gave up two or fewer runs and you could make a pretty decent argument that he really only had one truly bad outing, which was his last start of the season against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Sale started off the season sizzling with a 10-2 record, 2.19 ERA, and 0.95 WHIP. His second half wasn’t quite as dominant with a 4.03 ERA, and 1.34 WHIP. But I’m not sure you can say that he “tired” down the stretch as his strikeout rate was 24.6% in the first half and 25.1% in the second, although his fastball velocity was down just a hair. It could be that hitters merely adjusted or perhaps that little BABIP devil showed up as his first half BABIP was .256 and his second half was .338.

Regardless, this is about his relative fantasy value, so we ought to take all of the above in context of what he cost you. In auction drafts, it looks like Sale was typically going for about $7 bucks on average and in Ottoneu, he generated 965 points. In snake drafts, I’ve got Sale going somewhere in the low 200’s for overall picks, so roughly 17th round-ish. In any reasonable format, Sale was an absolute steal.

But was he a better value than Jake Peavy?

Peavy, despite obviously having a much broader history of success as a starter, was actually the riskier pick going into 2012 due to health concerns which has limited his innings to just over 100 for three consecutive seasons. But for the first time since 2007, Peavy gave owners over 200 innings, and while it might not have been vintage Peavy, this is the best he’s been since winning the Cy Young five years ago.

Peavy put up a 3.37 ERA (3.73 FIP), 1.10 WHIP, and struck out 194 batters over 219 innings pitched. If you’re a standard roto manager, he came up short in the win column, however, with just 11, mostly due to a miserable amount of run support. On the season, Chicago gave Peavy roughly 4  runs per start on average, but fully ten games where they gave him two or fewer runs. Peavy’s record in those games was 0-8.

His splits also mirror Sale’s (which tend to trend with Chicago’s record in fact) with a second half 4.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in contrast to his 2.85 ERA and 0.992 WHIP in the first. Peavy actually did seem to tire a bit in the second half with a slightly slower fastball and a declining strikeout rate (22.9% K rate first half, 20.8% K rate second half), and he won only four of his 15 starts.

But in most formats, Peavy was either a waiver wire acquisition or he was drafted very late and/or quite cheaply. From a cursory glance at my own spreadsheets and reliable online sources, Peavy could be had for a buck in most auction formats, and prior to the season beginning, Yahoo! had his average draft position as 553. So unless you had 46 rounds in your draft, Peavy was a waiver wire pickup in most leagues. In Ottoneu, Peavy went for $1 on average and produced 1002 points and was recently featured in the post highlighting the best team money can buy in that format.

Maybe you like ESPN’s Player Rater (you probably shouldn’t), which says Sale was a teensy bit more valuable than Peavy. Maybe you like this little thing called WAR which says Sale by 0.5 WAR. But if we’re saying who is the best overall value here for your dollar, you probably have to go with Jake Peavy, which, is kind of funny since I voted for Chris Sale.

I love arguing with myself.