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Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"King" in contention for AL Cy Young

By Albert Larcada

We are a long way from March Madness and college basketball teams sweating out Selection Sunday, but just for fun let’s play a little game of blind resume. The question at hand: Who should be this year’s American League Cy Young Award winner?

I think you can see where I'm going with this one. Pitcher C leads in every category listed.

Based on the same research we did for the Superior Start metric, Pitcher C – on average – gives his team a 68 percent chance to win. That just so happens to be the highest percentage in the American League. Pitcher A and Pitcher B are at 63 and 62 percent (5th and 6th in the AL), respectively.

So, Pitcher C is surely the front runner for the Cy Young, right?

Well, Pitcher C is the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez. Pitcher A is the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price and pitcher B is the New York Yankees' CC Sabathia.

At this point, the general consensus among baseball experts would say it’s a two-way race for the award between Price and Sabathia. Current reasoning washes away all of the previously mentioned arguments and uses a number I purposely omitted from the chart above, pitching record. Hernandez is 9-10 with the Mariners in last place in the AL West, while Price (15-5) and Sabathia (17-5) are on playoff-contending teams.

The merit of grading starting pitchers based on their win-loss record has long been questioned as the starter has no control over his team’s offense or fielding abilities. Baseballprospectus.com has created a metric known as support-neutral wins (SNW), which is defined as “the pitcher's expected number of wins assuming he had league-average support”. The blog "Dock of the Rays" also did some evaluations on their favorite team using a "deserved win" total, with Fielding Independent Pitching as the basis for calculation.

Here at Stats and Information we are using a metric similar to those two called xWIN. This measure simply multiples the average probability a pitcher gives his team to win by the total number of starts for that pitcher. Here ‘s the current AL leaderboard for xWIN.

Sabathia (17) and Price (15) have predicted win totals that are nearly identical to their actual number of wins. Hernandez, on the other hand, should have almost 10 wins more than he actually does! This is the largest gap between xWIN and actual wins in all of baseball. Hernandez also leads the AL in SNW.

I am not predicting Hernandez will win the Cy Young award, but I am advocating using both traditional and non-traditional methods because Hernandez should at least be considered.