Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we have been voting on our award winners for the regular season. Previously I have announced my votes for the Connie Mack awards (Best Manager of the Year), the Willie Mays awards (Top Rookie), and the Goose Gossage awards (Top Reliever). Now we’re starting to get down to the big boys, as I take a look at my vote for the National League’s top pitcher, the Walter Johnson award recipient.
As good as the pitching was in the American League, the sheer quantity and quality of the candidates in the National League may be even better. So many excellent season out of the league’s top pitchers lead me to believe that there had definitely been a shift of the balance towards pitchers in the National League. Before going into the candidates themselves, let’s go over a bit of what I think the top pitcher should represent:
Wins, Losses, and Run Support
The top pitcher doesn’t necessarily need to lead the league in wins, as they are pretty clearly not a great indicator of how a pitcher actually fared. That said, they aren’t worthless either, and I think that it’s important to acknowledge that the goal of the game is to win. But with the shift to specialists out of the bullpen, I think that a pitcher has less control than he has ever had over wins. While we as baseball analysts try to find a way to establish what a pitcher is truly responsible for and what he is not, it is impossible to ignore that run support given to a pitcher also plays a key piece of wins. A pitcher could throw a perfect game, but if the team doesn’t score any runs for him in the game, he won’t necessarily still earn himself a win.
ERA, WHIP, FIP, SIERA, and WAR
I’ve discussed before why ERA is a deceiving statistic, and I think it will definitely show itself to be true as we review the cases for the top pitchers. But coupled with advanced statistics like FIP, SIERA, and WAR, I think we start to get an idea of whether or not a pitcher was truly dominant, a bit lucky, or somewhere in between. They provide value to look at, but can’t be the end all of statistics to look at. WHIP falls a bit in the same category for me as well.
Strikeouts, Walks, and Innings Pitched
Strikeouts and walks are really two of the few things that a pitcher can really exert control over. More strikeouts generally are a good thing, and less walks are always a good thing. They are also taken into the picture by me and are given weight along with the other statistics. Innings pitched to me represent not only the trust that the manager of their team places in their ability to get out of jams, but also their ability to get outs.
There’s always a little bit of the human element to pitching, and I think it’s important to look at some of the things that aren’t necessarily measurable. These can include, but are definitely not limited to: whether the pitcher is in the playoff race, what kind of stories are occurring around the team, and even the role that the pitcher is being asked to fill.
With all that (phew!), here’s my top candidates for the NL Walter Johnson award. Players are listed from east to west, and my vote will be at the bottom. For this award, it’s a 5 person ballot. Also, when you’re talking about the best of anything, it invariably ends up a bit nit-picky when it comes to differentiating candidates. Everyone on this list had a great season, and it just comes down to trying to determine small ways in which one was better than the rest. There’s not a whole lot to say about each player as a result, and so instead here are the statistics that I looked at for each player, and then I’ll go into my logic for my decision.
|Roy Halladay||PHI||21-10||2.44||1.04||219||68||250 2/3||2.93||3.01||6.6|
|Roy Oswalt||HOU/PHI||13-13||2.76||1.03||193||55||211 2/3||3.33||3.27||4.7|
|Josh Johnson||FLA||11-6||2.30||1.11||186||48||183 2/3||3.07||2.41||6.3|
|Clayton Kershaw||LAD||13-10||2.91||1.18||214||81||204 1/3||3.47||3.12||4.8|
This one was pretty clear cut. To me, there was no pitcher who was more dominant in the National League than Roy Halladay. He lead the league in wins, complete games (9), shutouts (4), innings pitched, strikeouts, SIERA and WAR. He finished second in WHIP, and third in ERA and fourth in FIP. He also threw a perfect game, and had one of the most dominant pitching seasons in recent memory. Not that any of this should discount the season that Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals had. Wainwright finished second in wins, ERA, innings pitched, and FIP. My thoughts about some of the other candidates:
- I was definitely surprised to not be including Tim Lincecum in this list, not just in the top 5 but also in the top 10. His season, while recovered to be much better, just wasn’t quite at the same level as the ten I listed above.
- Ubaldo Jimenez was really looking like he would run away with this award after the first half of the season, and while he still pitched reasonable well down the stretch, he definitely came back down to earth, and finished a distant 3rd in this vote from me.
- Someday we are going to see what Josh Johnson is going to do with some run support and a full season. While I think on a per inning basis he was the best pitcher in the league, the fact that Wainwright threw 50 more innings and Halladay threw 70 more was just too much of a factor to ignore.
- Mat Latos really had a very good season, and at first glance I thought it had more to do with the fact that he got to pitch half his starts in San Diego. But he threw 19 starts on the road compared to 12 at home, and some of his key numbers (most notably K/9) actually went up on the road compared to the home splits.
- In most years, Tim Hudson, Brett Myers, and Clayton Kershaw all would have been likely to be at the top of the voting or very near it anyway. It was just that good of a season that they really received no consideration from me past the final 10 pitchers.
- I am really looking forward to seeing what Roy Oswalt does with a full season of the Phillies’ lineup to support him. In his 12 starts for the Phillies, he went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA and a 0.895 WHIP. He could very well end up at the top of the voting next season.