American League Cy Young Candidates

Yes, this is pretty much the same introduction I used to open last week‘s column save for a couple of minor adjustments

We’re almost eighty-odd games into the 2005 campaign and thought we’d check out who’s in the running for this year’s Cy Young Award. A little criterion—this isn’t strictly about the numbers to date, although it’s a large part. We’ll also go by a player’s history. For example, suppose at this juncture Roy Halladay was 7-5, 3.92 ERA, and Aaron Sele weighed in at 8-3, 3.53 ERA—I’d give Halladay the nod since most likely come the end of the season Sele would regress to his career norms whereas Halladay would likely improve to his normal level of play. Furthermore we have to take the BBWAA’s various voting prejudices into play (such as fixation on the W-L record over other peripheral stats).

I’m not necessarily looking for the most deserving candidates but rather who I think the voters might think are the most deserving [candidates].

It’s not a perfect system but we’re trying to take as many factors into account as possible.

So, without further ado, we’ll begin by looking in at the candidates in the American League:

Roy Halladay: 11-4, 2.40 ERA, 131 IP 16 BB 98 K 0.94 WHIP

Last start: ND vs. TB 9.0 IP 7 H 1 ER 1 BB 7 K
First in ERA, WHIP, IP, CG, T1 in shutouts and quality starts, second in wins (on a .500 club no less), third in K (one behind Randy Johnson) … in other words, first on this list. Halladay averages 1.1 BB/ 9 IP and has a BB/K ratio of 6.1:1. At this rate, he has an excellent shot at 20 wins and his second Cy Young Award. After a solid April (4-1, 3.40 ERA), Halladay has warmed up with the weather going 7-3, 1.88 ERA since. What’s amazing about Halladay is the economy of his pitches—he has gone nine innings six times and has averaged 107 pitches each time and has only topped 120 pitches once this year. He doesn’t have the raw stuff of Dave Stieb, but Stieb never had Halladay’s incredible command. Assuming health and tenure, he may go down in history as the greatest pitcher the Blue Jays ever developed.

Mark Buehrle: 10-1, 2.42 ERA, 122.6 IP 17 BB 79 K 1.04 WHIP

Last start: WIN vs. DET 6.2 IP 8 H 1 ER 0 BB 6 K

Second in ERA, IP, and T2 in shutouts, third in WHIP, T3 in CG and quality starts … in other words, second on this list. Although he hasn’t lost since April 10, Buehrle really started to heat up in May. He was 4-1, 4.00 ERA before his start in Toronto on May 8 and has been 6-0, 1.51 ERA over his last ten starts and is 3-0, 0.29 ERA over his last four [starts]. Simply put, the only thing keeping him from atop this register is Roy Halladay.

Kenny Rogers: 9-3, 2.46 ERA, 98.6 IP 33 BB 44 K 1.28 WHIP

Last start: LOSS vs. LAA 3.1 IP 10 H 6 ER 3 BB 0 K

Rogers started 2005 on a roll and was 9-2, 1.98 ERA after going 6.2 IP/1 ER against the Nationals before hitting the wall—or rather a water cooler. Rogers gambled that he was tougher than the cooler and lost, fracturing the pinkie on his right hand. How much it distracted him we’ll never know, but in his next outing he had the worst start of the season at Chavez Ravine where he coughed up six runs (all earned) and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Although he’s third in the AL in ERA. he’s tied for 21st in WHIP averaging close to 3 BB/9 IP and has a miserable 1.4 K/BB ratio. If he doesn’t improve, you can expect his ERA to catch up to his other numbers. Now it looks like he might be in line for an extended vacation as Rogers auditioned for America’s Crankiest Home Videos. Expect Bud Selig to take firm and decisive action, most likely in the form of insisting that a salary cap would curb such abuses in future. On the bright side, at least he didn’t try to slap the camera out of cameraman’s hand.

Bartolo Colon: 10-4, 3.02 ERA, 110.3 IP 23 BB 82 K 1.15 WHIP

Last start: WIN vs. TEX 8.0 IP 8 H 3 ER 0 BB 5 K

Colon is quietly having himself a fine year helping the Angels build a commanding lead in the AL West (7.5 games in first). Granted, there’s a lot of baseball to be played, but the Rangers’ pugilistic Rogers Balbonehead who failed to differentiate between a tomato can and a water cooler might have made the Halos’ life a little easier. The Angels are getting it done this year with pitching, and Colon is a big reason why—they‘re first in the AL in ERA (3.44) while being seventh in OPS and fifth in runs scored. Colon’s fine 8 IP/3 ER outing against the Rangers made him 6-1, 3.12 ERA over his last eight starts. Colon is third in the loop in wins, fourth in ERA and IP, fifth in WHIP, and sixth in strikeouts.

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Jon Garland: 12-3, 3.25 ERA, 108 IP 19 BB 53 K 1.06 WHIP

Last start: LOSS vs. CHC 7.1 IP 4 H 1 ER 1 BB 5 K

Like Mark Buehrle, Garland is a big reason the White Sox are atop the AL Central. Garland has received a decision in every game he’s started, having pitched into the sixth inning every time he’s taken the ball. Garland opened the season red hot going 8-0, 2.41 ERA, and while he continued to pitch well, is just 4-3, 4.28 ERA since. His loss to the Cubs back on June 26 (above) snapped a four game winning streak (3.86 ERA/28 IP). Garland’s two complete games this year came on back-to-back starts on April 25 and May 1. Garland is first in the AL in wins, tied for third in quality starts, fourth in WHIP and sixth in IP. Garland’s record is partly due to superb run support; he gave up 6 ER/5.2 IP on May 7 in Toronto, 7 ER/6 IP in Texas on May 29, and 6 ER/6 IP on June 15 against Arizona and was 2-1 in those starts.

Others to watch…

No Pedro? No Schilling? No problem. The red hot Red Sox are getting fine work from Matt Clement who upped his record to 9-1, 3.33 ERA after a 7 IP/1 ER performance over the Philadelphia Phillies. Not to be counted out is the defending Cy Young award winner—the Minnesota Twins’ ace Johan Santana who leads the Junior Circuit in K’s with 131, is second in WHIP, and has walked just 21 in 112 IP. The bad news is that he’s been pretty average of late going just 2-3, 4.36 ERA over his last nine starts, leaving him with a 7-4, 3.78 ERA record. However Santana’s peripherals are excellent, and he should be able to rebound.

Deserves a mention but don‘t expect the BBWAA to take note…

The Tribe’s success has been partly due to the mound corps of Kevin Millwood, who’s having a fine season (3.08 ERA) but is just 3-5, and Cliff Lee, who sports a solid 8-3, 3.28 ERA. One of the weirder seasons belongs to the Twins’ Carlos Silva who is a fine 6-3, 3.55 ERA; what makes his totals so funky is that in 96.3 IP he’s struck out just 32 and walked only five. Rounding out the ‘honorable mention’ section is the Rangers Chris Young whose 7-4, 3.21 ERA can be attributed to clean living and letting the veterans take care of the ornery water coolers in the dugout.

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