Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 AL Cy Young: Pitcher Wins

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) will announce the 2010 AL Cy Young in about 10 minutes (as of this posting)

The two main contenders would figure to be:

CC Sabathia of the NY Yankees: 21 - 7  3.18 34 starts, 237.2 innings, 74 walks, 197 strikeouts
Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners: 13 - 12 2.27 34 starts, 249.2 innings, 70 walks, 232 strikeouts

Every SABR stat in the world says that Hernandez should win easily over Sabathia (who might not even be the 2nd best pitcher in the AL this year).

But the BBWAA hasn't always been receptive to sabermetric ideas.  One of the most galvanizing statistics is pitcher wins.  Traditional wisdom says that the pitcher with the most wins must be better-he has more wins.  Wins of course don't really reflect how a pitcher pitched as much as it reflects how the pitcher pitched, how the other pitcher pitched, how the team hit, how the other team hit, how the team fielded, how the other team fielded and a good dose of luck.  But some people still cling to pitcher wins despite well thought out articles like this one.

Just for fun I'm going to take a quick look at pitcher wins in this case and still show that Felix was the better pitcher this year.

Felix won 13 games this year, while losing 12-a 52% winning percentage
Sabathia won 21 games this year, while losing just 7-a 75% winning percentage

How can Felix be better?
The Seattle Mariners won 61 games this year while losing 101-a 38% winning percentage
The New York Yankees won 95 games this year while losing 67-59% winning percentage

Clearly the Yankees were a better team.

If we take out Felix's wins and losses the Mariners won 48 games while losing 89 games-a 35% winning percentage
If we take out CC's wins and losses the Yankees won 74 games while losing 60 games-a 55% winning percentage.

Dividing Felix's winning percentage (52%) by the Mariners' winning percentage (35%) without Hernandez we get a ratio of 1.48.  Felix won games 48% more often than the team as a whole.

Dividing CC's winning percentage (75%) by the Yankees' winning percentage (55%) without Sabathia we get a ratio of 1.36.  CC won games 36% more often than the team as a whole.

Looking at it this way Felix Hernandez had a higher winning percentage than Sabathia.

If anyone besides Felix Hernandez walks away with the AL Cy Young today the BBWAA writers aren't properly valuing wins.

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