As frustrating as award season can be in Major League Baseball, the most maddening portion for me is -- bar none -- having to hear about a pitcher's won/loss record as the main indicator of a Cy Young candidate. The inclusion among many other factors is reasonable, because the pitcher's job on any given night is to give his team a chance to win.
It's pure laziness and insanity to glance just at the record of each pitcher, though, when deciding who deserves the Cy Young. Consider a pair of different outings to illustrate how accurate a measure wins and losses are when relating to pitching performance:
May 28th: Livan Hernandez went six innings. He gave up 13 hits and eight runs, six of which were earned. He did strike out a whopping two hitters. He also received enormous run support and came away with the win.
July 21st: Rich Harden went seven innings, and yielded only a hit. The problem was, it was a solo home run (landing in the first row). He also struck out ten. His team gave him zero runs in support and he took the 1-0 loss.
Based upon the archaic W/L criteria some Cy Young voters use, Livan Hernandez was the better pitcher of those two examples.
If that sounds really stupid, it's because it is. There are some that would have you believe the pitchers with more wins gave their teams better chances to win. Can you really argue Livan gave his team a better chance to win on that night than Harden did on his? If so, please post how in the comments section. I'd love to hear it.
It's out of this world ridiculous to think like this, yet you have Cy Young voters committing flagrant violations of the spirit of the Cy Young voting every season, which is supposed to award the best pitcher in each league.
Brandon Webb is the Cy Young front-runner at this point, and he leads the league in wins. That's not to say he doesn't deserve the award on many other levels. He's a damn good pitcher and one of the league's elite. He also realizes how little the won/loss record should matter. Check out this exchange in a recent Q&A with the Cy Young contender:
Q: Lincecum hasn't been mentioned as often even though he leads league in ERA and strikeouts. It might be because he doesn't pitch for a contender. Should that be a factor in Cy voting, as it is in MVP voting?
A: I think Cy Young is different. An MVP does a lot of things to help a team go to the playoffs. With Cy Young, you can't help what the other four guys in your rotation are doing.
Q: And what about who has the most wins?
A: The thing with wins is we've got no control. You could have a 1.00 ERA but if your team doesn't score, you're going to go 0-30. It's not something you control. That's why the wins and losses are skewed.
Q: Are there any stats you prioritize when you're judging yourself after a season?
A: I go by innings, those are big, and hey, ERA is a pretty good indication of how you're doing.
Kudos to Webb, especially when the lazy voters would likely just choose him based upon wins. He could have easily come with the self-serving, "duh, but the pitcher's job is to win games" junk. Instead he told the truth, as everyone with a brain sees it.
Unfortunately, this might anger some of the old curmudgeons that get pissy every time someone "invents" a new stat and doesn't just stick with the basics.
Wouldn't that be ironic if Webb costs himself the Cy Young by preaching to old, stubborn reporters that wins don't matter, when he leads the league in wins?