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 American League’s top pitcher, the Walter Johnson award recipient.
2010 was definitely a season for top tier pitching, and the American League definitely had its’ share of excellent pitchers. The hard part for me is that there is no clear cut pitcher who is head and shoulders above the rest of his counterparts. 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 AL 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.
|C.C. Sabathia||NYY||21-7||3.18||1.19||197||74||237 2/3||3.75||3.54||5.1|
|David Price||TAM||19-6||2.72||1.19||188||79||208 2/3||3.82||3.42||4.3|
|Justin Verlander||DET||18-9||3.37||1.16||219||71||224 2/3||3.43||2.97||6.3|
|Francisco Liriano||MIN||14-10||3.62||1.26||201||58||191 2/3||3.02||2.66||6.0|
|Cliff Lee||SEA/TEX||12-9||3.18||1.00||185||18||212 1/3||3.03||3.06||7.0|
|Trevor Cahill||OAK||18-8||2.97||1.11||118||63||196 2/3||4.16||4.19||2.2|
|Jered Weaver||LAA||13-12||3.01||1.07||233||54||224 1/3||2.97||3.06||5.9|
|Felix Hernandez||SEA||13-12||2.27||1.06||232||70||249 2/3||3.19||3.04||6.2|