Predicting the Cy Young and MVP winners

In The Hardball Times Annual 2009, I built a model for predicting the winners of the MVP and Cy Young Awards. My model(s) have historically done pretty well (note: in-sample testing), getting the winner right around two-thirds of the time (a little worse for the MVP and a little better for the Cy Young). Last year, the model was two-for-four, correctly guessing the MVPs but whiffing on both Cy Youngs. I figured I would take a look at what the model is thinking this year before the awards actually get handed out.

(Note that the model hands out MVP and Cy Young points on a 1,000 point scale, with 1,000 points indicating a player who should win unanimously. Also, please remember that it is exponential, so small differences can get magnified at the high-end, as they tend to be in awards voting.)

Josh Hamilton | .359 BA | 32 HR | 100 RBI | 434 MVP
Robinson Cano | .319 BA | 29 HR | 109 RBI | 237 MVP
Miguel Cabrera | .328 BA | 38 HR | 126 RBI | 201 MVP

Hamilton looks like the clear favorite in the American League. Cabrera would have been slightly favored had the Tigers made the playoffs, but without that he has little chance.

Joey Votto | .324 BA | 37 HR | 113 RBI | 322 MVP
Roy Halladay | 21-10 W/L | 2.44 ERA | 250.2 IP | 299 MVP
Albert Pujols | .312 BA | 42 HR | 118 RBI | 204 MVP

If the Cardinals had made the playoffs, Pujols would be the hands-down favorite for a third-straight MVP. Instead, it looks like Votto will take the prize this season, though the model also really likes Halladay. I don’t think the voters will see it as quite such a close race.

AL Cy Young
CC Sabathia | 21-7 W/L | 3.18 ERA | 237.2 IP | 357 Cy Young
David Price | 19-6 W/L | 2.72 ERA | 208.2 IP | 292 Cy Young
Jon Lester | 19-9 W/L | 3.25 ERA | 208.0 IP | 127 Cy Young

If Felix Hernandez wins the Cy Young Award this season that will be a strong sign that the Cy Young model needs to be re-calibrated for a new, more intelligent era of voting. Last season, it whiffed on both Cy Youngs, thinking voters wouldn’t pick a 15 and 16-game winner when there were candidates with 19 wins and good numbers to choose from as well. In the past, this race would definitely have gone for Sabathia, but I’m not so sure that will happen this time around.

NL Cy Young
Roy Halladay | 21-10 W/L | 2.44 ERA | 250.2 IP | 982 Cy Young
Adam Wainwright | 20-11 W/L | 2.42 ERA | 230.1 IP | 384 Cy Young
Ubaldo Jimenez | 19-8 W/L | 2.88 ERA | 221.2 IP | 287 Cy Young

Halladay is the only player to completely run away with one of the awards, as far as the model sees it. From start to finish, he had a truly fantastic season in 2010.

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2 Comments on "Predicting the Cy Young and MVP winners"

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Sven Jenkins
Sven Jenkins

Poor Felix.  The guy was unreal this year.  What’s even more amazing about his poor W/L is that he got three wins against the Yankees and one against the Red Sox.  He’s my pick for AL Cy Young, as I’m sure he is the pick for most of us that aren’t married to the pitcher’s W.

But will he win?  Doubtful.  I have to agree with David’s model.  Sabathia nearly doubled Felix’ wins and threw 30 more innings than Price and Lester, putting up similar numbers.  Sabathia will get it.



I would be astonished if CC won, even Heyman picked Felix near the end of the season based on talking to GMs and/or execs.

The real issue is why Felix is acually the SABR pick (he is mine but i’m not a FIP guy) – shouldn’t it be C. Lee?

Felix (had he made his final start) would’ve been 1st in ERA and K – 2/3 triple crown cats, so he is more of a TRAD pick than a SABR pick really.