2019 Award Elections – NL CYA

Hello again, HHS readers! We’ve done our big award in the NL – the MVP. We’ve seen the AL Cy Young. And we’ve even voted on our minor awards (rookie and manager) in both leagues. It’s time for a trip back to the senior circuit and to pick the league’s best pitcher!

In the NL, we started with a blistering first half by a West Coast pitcher finally having a breakthrough year. After playing only partial seasons for the last four years (including sitting out 2015 entirely), Hyun-Jin Ryu paced the NL with a 2.32 ERA and 179 ERA+. He gave up 2 or fewer earned runs in each of his first FIFTEEN starts, a run yielding a 9-1 record and 1.27 ERA. Ryu cooled off a bit in the second half (how could he not?), but nevertheless was effective enough to merit strong consideration for this year’s award.

The opposite was true for Cardinal Jack Flaherty, who allowed a total of only 7 earned runs over his final 12 appearances, compiling a 0.77 ERA in 82 IP for August and September. Flaherty’s pitching genius helped the Cards to a division crown, overtaking the Cubs and holding off the streaking Brewers (you knew I’d get in a reference somehow!). Flaherty’s full-season 0.968 WHIP was also tops in the league.

The Nationals posted three strong contenders: Max Scherzer (243 strikeouts in only 172 innings!); Stephen Strasburg (league-best 18-6 record); and Patrick Corbin (141 ERA+). The former two are certainly deserving of consideration as the league’s top pitcher, while the latter was really only the third-best pitcher on his team (but this was certainly the team to be on for that accolade!).

Speaking of teammates, Ryu’s teammate Walker Buehler also deserves more than a mention, following up last year’s 3rd place RoY season (behind phenoms Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto) with another solid campaign, posting a league-best .778 winning percentage (14-4), and third best marks for FIP (3.01) and SO/BB (5.81).

Mike Soroka of Atlanta (169 ERA+, second in NL), Sonny Gray of Cincinnati (.196 batting average against, second in NL), and maybe even perennial candidate Clayton Kershaw (nothing spectacular, but solid numbers across the board) are others who may merit some down-ballot consideration.

But the big question is whether last year’s winner, Jacob deGrom, can pull off the repeat. Finishing 11-8 with a league best 255 strikeouts and second ranked ERA (2.43), FIP (2.67) and WHIP (0.971), deGrom again pitched splendidly for the struggling Mets. Will his effectiveness again be enough to overcome an underwhelming W-L record? That’s for you (and also the actual Cy Young voters) to decide!

Rules: Vote by making a comment below and numbering your choices with 1 being the MOST preferred candidate, and 5 being your LEAST preferred candidate of your five choices. Your ballots will be EXACTLY five places, just as the BBWAA does. You must vote for 5 players. Scoring will be 7-4-3-2-1, just as the BBWAA does. You are not required to vote in all elections; only vote in the ones you would like to vote in. You may make vote changes, if the discussion so moves you. If you change your vote, please do so in a new comment, not as a reply to your original comment (it’s a lot easier to find new comments than replies to old ones). Please don’t vote strategically; we’re trying to get the best result, not to manipulate the vote totals based on what others have done. Voting will remain open about one week. When players are tied, tiebreakers go as follows: first tiebreaker is number of ballots on which players were named; second tiebreaker is highest placement on a ballot; third tiebreaker is the first player to be named (as this usually only happens when a bunch of players are tied for last). Results will be posted when balloting closes.

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Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

Let’s give this a full week, given the holiday: Monday, 12/2, 11:59:59 PM as a deadline.

Doug
Doug
8 months ago

While he likely will not be a major threat in the CYA vote, it would be remiss to not acknowledge Sonny Gray’s bona fides for Comeback Player of the Year. His future couldn’t have been brighter after the 2015 season, after 10+ WAR in fewer than 500 IP to start a career that was then just heading into its peak. Few would have predicted what came next: three “wilderness” years totaling 92 ERA+ and less than 3 WAR. But, a move to the NL (a great pickup by the Reds for next to nothing) has revived the old Sonny Gray… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago

I’d be interested in a treatment of all CYA leaders, in, say, the last 30 years that backs out, say, their worst 3 starts.

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks, Doug. Random question for HHS commenters: What seems more impactful to you: The pitcher who doesn’t have many complete blow-ups, but a higher peak in non-blow up games, or the one who more consistently keeps you in it?

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Mike L If the guys on the list make, on average, 32 starts, why not throw out three mulligans? While it hasn’t been suggested to eliminate a “worst 15 games” for the everyday eight guys, those same everyday eight don’t have the “pressure” to perform that starting pitchers do. If even a cleanup hitter goes 0-4 with 4K’s, there are 7 or 8 guys in the lineup to pick him up. Who picks up a struggling starting pitcher who defecates the bed and leaves his team down 5-0 after three innings? Ryu, I believe, was coming off an injury or… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Agreed on the 250+ IP and 20W. My friend the economist uses the term “Marginal Utility” and I suppose it’s a good one for this type of analysis. Instinctively, we know that in most games, the guy who, in the 4th inning, scores the seventh run or the starting pitcher who gives it up probably (not always) didn’t commit that much of WPA event. The marginal utility of the seventh run is relatively low, akin to points in basketball “garbage time”. Then, you probably need to bore down even more: The Dodgers won their division by 21 games. Ryu had… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

In a similar vein, I would say that the answer to the question of whether consistency or variance is more valuable, at a team level, depends on this question: how good is your offense? If your offense is very good, consistency, it seems to me, has more value. If your offense is BAD, the only way for you to win is with an excellent start in which you limit opponent runs. Overall, I would say that the latter is worth more, in a similar way that I would say that I would say a player who had 8, -1, and… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Interesting point, Doom. I wonder how many 8,-1, 8 WAR players there have been (excepting for an injury-shortened year). Norm Cash had that crazy 9.2 BWAR 1961 season sandwiched between a 2.9 and a 3.7 and Willie Davis’ 1964 season (8.3) was between a 2.7 and a 2.6.

Doug
Doug
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

Haven’t found a sequence as stark as 8, -1, 8, but there have been a few along those lines, albeit less pronounced. – Roger Clemens (1992-94) 8.7, 2.6, 6.0* and (1994-96) 6.0*, 1.9, 7.7 (*1994 would be higher absent strike) – Mark Langston (1991-93) 7.3, 3.3, 8.5 – Bert Blyleven (1987-89) 4.4, -0.7, 6.0 – Bret Saberhagen (1985-87) 7.1, 2.0, 8.0 and (1987-89) 8.0, 3.8, 9.7 – Vida Blue (1978-80), 5.8, -0.9, 5.0 – Catfish Hunter (1972-74) 5.7, 1.8, 6.9 – Gaylord Perry (1970-72) 7.6, 2.3, 10.8 – Christy Mathewson (1905-07) 8.9, 2.2, 7.7 – Cy Young (1905-07) 7.3, 2.0,… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
Funny thing – I would have thought Vida Blue’s 1971-’72-’73 seasons would have been more likely to make your list. He had an incredible 1971 season where everyone was captivated by his performance and another 20 win season in 1973. But, I believe he held out in 1972 and went 6-10. He won 4 of those by pitching shutouts!! His failure to play the entire season in 1972 kept the White Sox in contention till the last week of September and, quite possibly, resurrected the franchise and kept baseball on the South Side till this day

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I wasn’t thinking that there actually was such a player, but someone who came to mind (among non-pitchers) was Dale Murphy, 1980-82: 6.6, 1.7, 6.1 (of course ’81 was a strike year, but Murphy ranks as barely above-average via WAR, irrespective of the strike). Another, though not the quality of player we’re generally talking about, is George Scott, 1967-69: 4.4, -2.8, 2.3. Scott is truly illustrative of the theory here, though: 1.3 WAR over each of three seasons does almost nothing for you. But seasons of 4.4 and (to a lesser extent) 2.3 WAR actually help a team. And while… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

DOOM, DOUG, Per Doom…and not to pick on Doom: “Roy Campanella, a famous #OddYear player (like Doug’s mention of Saberhagen) is another of extremes, particularly 1953-55: 7.0, -0.1, 5.2. I have to say that a stretch like that seems to me superior to a stretch of 4.1, 4.0, 4.0, for example.” Most of this group has been adamant about Lou Whitaker being a Circle of Greats / Hall of Fame “gottabe” and I believe the basis of that thinking has always been his consistency. IIRC, without researching it, it seems that he had an awful lot more 4-5WAR seasons than… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

Jackie Robinson lost 4.2 WAR from ’53 to ’54. Carl Furillo, 2.0. Junior Gilliam, 1.1. Duke Snider, 1.0. Carl Erskine, 1.4. Collectively, they lost 13.8 hitting/fielding WAR, and 3.6 pitching WAR. Hard to put that all on Campy, isn’t it? The Dodgers collectively underperformed ’53 and ’55 in ’54. Besides, they still won 92 games, and Willie Mays was having an absolutely crazy season that was worth more – and this is true – than the ENTIRE Dodgers’ pitching staff (10.6-9.1). It just wasn’t in the cards for ’54. Also, here’s the thing: most teams don’t win pennants. You can’t… Read more »

Doug
Doug
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Great exposition, Doom. Makes sense.

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Doom, “…hard to put it on Campy?” No, not dificult at all. He dropped 7.1 WAR off an MVP season. They gave him credit for being the MVP the year before when the Dodgers blew away the rest of the NL. They finished 5 games behind NYG, he dropped 7 WAR, Not hard to blame him at all. In retrospect, to play THAT poorly, he HAD to be injured Whitaker? I don’t even believe him to be a Hall of Famer and I don’t believe he was, during the course of his career, the best player on his own team.… Read more »

bells
bells
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Doom, you said: “That means that, relative to consistency, a guy with BIG peaks and DEEP valleys contributes more to your chances of winning, over the long-term, than Whitakers do.” I do agree that if you isolate it that far, that’s a sound sentence. But I think it overlooks and undervalues the contribution that someone like a Whitaker makes. Extending your idea, if you were constructing a roster, would you rather have two players that consistently get 2-3 WAR plus one high-variance guy, or one player that gets 4-6 WAR and two high-variance guys? I haven’t run numbers or anything,… Read more »

Doug
Doug
8 months ago
Reply to  bells

To Doom’s point, a check of pennant winning teams (excepting 1981) shows that only two did not have at least one 4 WAR batter: the 1995 Braves (short season) and the 1932 Cubs. Different story with pitchers, as 50 pennant winners (22%) did not have a 4 WAR pitcher, the 2018 Dodgers being the most recent.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

The 1995 Braves didn’t have a 4.0-WAR player, but 1.) there were only 12 such players in the NL, an unusually low number; 2.) David Justice was tied for 14th with 3.8 WAR; and 3.) they had the #1, #3, and #9 pitcher in the NL, which sort of makes up for it. As for 1932, the Cubs sort of prove the rule. The 1932 National League may have been the most middling league of all-time. In an 8-team league, 7th place belonged to a team that went 72-82… nearly .500! The Cubs were a bit fortunate relative to their… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Doom, Doug, Bells So, agreed, teams need players with high value seasons in order to win pennants. But, generally speaking, you’re really stating that you need players with “talent” …and, by “talent” we mean the exceptional player since, who else but a really talented player will pull off an 7+ WAR season? However, in the example originally given, really talented players don’t go 7 WAR, 2 WAR, 7 WAR in consecutive seasons, barring injury of course. Campanella appears to be the exception… When you think about it, in order to pull off a 7-8 WAR season, a player would HAVE… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

I looked at the Big Red Machine:
1975 (108-54). Highest pitching WAR 3.1 (Don Gullett)
1976 (102-60), highest pitching WAR 3.6 (Pat Zachry)

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

So, I’ve been thinking WAY too much about this, specifically the “there’s no such thing as 15 guys at 2.0 WAR” part. So warning, this is going to be long. I want to take a quick look at the teams who had the most number of players at certain WAR cut-offs – most with 10+, most with 9+, etc. It’s easy to start, because there’s only one team with more than one player of 10+ WAR. 11+ WAR or more: 2 (# of teams, 1: 1927 Yankees (Gehrig, Ruth)) 10+ WAR or more: 2 (# of teams, 1: 1927 Yankees(Gehrig,… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago

Cursed, I’m worried about you…..

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

It’s alright, this exercise only took away from time that would have been spent on meaningless things like my job…

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

CC – Thanks for all the research. Three teams I want to highlight. First, the 1996 Mariners. Griffey and A-Rod were outstanding, yes. But their best hitter was actually Edgar Martinez, with a 167 OPS+. He managed only 139 games, though, and the replacement level for a DH is quite high. So he doesn’t get there, but he could’ve As a homer, since I basically ALWAYS have to talk Brew Crew, the 1978 Brewers are sneakily a really impressive team, the first of the successful decade Milwaukee had from 1978-1987. Unfortunately for the Brewers, the 1978 AL East was kind… Read more »

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

I s’pose I’ll just get my vote out of the way early: 1. Jacob deGrom – I had deGrom second in my rankings until sometime in the last month of the season. That blistering final stretch put him in first for me. 2. Max Scherzer – Scherzer was, in my opinion, the second-most effective pitcher in baseball last year, when health. I have him deserving of a .745 winning percentage, second only to Gerrit Cole. Scherzer’s problem this year was just health, otherwise I’d have had him first. Unfortunately for Scherzer, deGrom threw 32 innings more than he did, and… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
8 months ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Doom
Regarding your point about better pitching squads versus better scoring squads, per pythagoras, you’re correct.
Teams that, on average, score 5 runs and give up 4, win 98 games. But, teams that give up only 2 runs and score only 3, would win about 112. This might be a better explanation of the dead ball squads winning so many games (1903-1909 Pirates; 1906-1910 Cubs; 1905-1913 Giants) and appearing so dominant than mere “superior” talent itself? Maybe pitching really was 90% of the game at one time 🙁

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago

Doug, for what it’s worth, I just found three replies to my comments in my spam box in Gmail. Not sure if it’s a WordPress problem, or a HHS one.

Doug
Doug
8 months ago
Reply to  Mike L

I’ll see if I can figure out what’s happening. Usually, pingbacks are blocked by the site.

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Just had another one go to spam.

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug

Email me directly and I’ll send you the diagnostic.

Josh Davis
Josh Davis
8 months ago

1. DeGrom (easy choice for me)
2. Ryu
3. Flaherty
4. Soroka
5. Strasburg

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

I’m not seeing as many votes in this race, and I’m thinking people DO want to chime in, they are probably just too busy with the holiday weekend. So let’s extend a little more. Let’s say Wednesday night, 11:59:59. Thanks!

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
8 months ago

1. de Grom
2. Flaherty
3. Scherzer
4. Soroka
5. Ryu

Mike L
Mike L
8 months ago

A reminder that you can find Richard Chester on twitter at @rchester2. Anyone else here?

koma
koma
8 months ago

1. DeGrom
2. Ryu
3. Flaherty
4. Soroka
5. Scherzer

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

Just a reminder: we’re keeping voting open for another couple days (until Wednesday night). We’ve had 7 or 8 voters in each round so far, so people who haven’t voted yet are more than welcome to come do so! Please feel free to put out a vote, if you’d like! Thanks.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
8 months ago

Results! As always, it’s player, vote points (first-place votes). Here you go: 1. Jacob deGrom, 39 (6) 2. Hyun-Jin Ryu, 18 3. Stephen Strasburg, 14 (1) 4. Jack Flaherty, 12 5. Max Scherzer, 10 6. Mike Soroka, 8 7. Clayton Kershaw, 1 A dominant win for deGrom. Only he and Ryu were named on all seven ballots, and deGrom was first on all but one (on which he finished second). Flaherty actually appeared on more ballots than Strasburg, but Stras had a first-place vote that pushed him ahead. Only four voters named Mike Soroka, and all four had him in… Read more »