Do both Cy Youngs signal shift?

November, 19, 2009
11/19/09
2:36
PM ET
It's just one year. I'm not quite ready to declare that the paradigm has shifted.

As I wrote a few months ago, Bill James' method to predict Cy Young Awards has always worked quite well, even in recent seasons. The only caveat is that the Predictor really doesn't know how to handle relief pitchers, for the simple reason that Cy Young voters have never demonstrated any sort of consistency with relief pitchers.

When it comes to starters, though? The Predictor has been good. Really good.

But not this year.

This year, the Predictor gave Felix Hernandez a sizable edge over Zack Greinke, who won only 16 games and didn't pitch for a winning team. Nevertheless, Greinke garnered 25 first-place votes; Hernandez got two.

Still, one example doesn't prove anything, and it seemed apparent that Greinke was going to win. As I wrote earlier this week, Greinke just had that certain (if indefinable) buzz.

What happened in the National League is a completely different thing.

Where Greinke finished the season second on the Predictor list, Lincecum finished fourth. And more relevantly, third among starters. And not just third; a deep third. While Zack Attack finished 14 points behind King Felix, Lincecum finished 15 points behind Chris Carpenter and 26 points behind Adam Wainwright.

And yet Lincecum, who won four fewer games than Wainwright and posted a higher ERA than Carpenter while not pitching for a postseason team, won the Cy Young Award. It's been at least 10 years since anything remotely like this has happened.

Granted, Lincecum didn't run away with the award. He actually picked up 11 first-place votes to Wainwright's 12. It seems likely that if Wainwright had managed to win 20 games -- and remember how close he came! -- he would have won the award, because we can guess that at least a few voters still believe there's a big difference between winning 19 games and winning 20.

Still, I think we're in the midst of a sea change, due in some small part to the BBWAA opening its doors, however slightly, to non-traditional writers (and voters). We know that Keith Law participated in the National League Cy Young balloting. Anyone care to guess who he voted for?

Meanwhile, I'm ready to nominate for sainthood the only voter who gave Javier Vazquez his only support, a second-place vote (unless this was an Atlanta voter, in which case I must regrettably chalk it up to the typical provincialism).

Update: Keith Law, consider yourself nominated.

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