Tuesday, September 21, 2004

He was third in the AL in innings pitched. He was tied for second in starts. He surrendered the fewest hits per nine innings of anyone in the league. Although he finished seventh in strikeouts, he lead the loop in ERA (2.48.…the pitcher who finished second was 2.69), adjusted ERA+ (171.…the pitcher who finished second was 154) and Runs Saved Against Average (RSAA)--47.…the pitcher who finished second was 39--all by reasonably comfortable margins. His team won 99 games and the division title.

A Cy Young candidate?

You’d think so.

He didn’t finish in the top three in voting; he didn’t finish in the top five [in voting]; he finished seventh.

Did he fare any better in the MVP voting?

He didn’t even finish in the top 25. Some of his teammates did however. This player .289/.369/.536 27 HR 84 RBI 142 OPS+* finished seventh in the voting. This player .275/.327/.479 28 HR 95 RBI 116 OPS+** finished eighth. Three of his fellow pitchers finished 20th and tied for 21st … one was a reliever who finished 20th and pitched 40 innings, with a 3-3 record, 13 saves, and a 2.02 ERA (209 ERA+)***. One of the two who tied for the next spot finished sixth in the Cy Young voting (17-10, 3.45 ERA, 123 ERA+)****. The other was a middle reliever who posted a mark of 11-0 (impressive to be sure) 3.32 ERA (127 ERA+ in 105 2/3 IP)*****. Finally at 24th in the MVP voting was a light hitting middle infielder who went .282/.302/.377 with 8 HR 65 RBI and OPS+ of 83 and created 467 outs (16th in the AL, 22nd in MLB)******.

Why did this workhorse pitcher finish so poorly in both the Cy Young balloting and the MVP voting, especially when you consider his team won the division? Players on division winning teams generally are given a boost when it comes to passing out the post season hardware. Indeed this higher profile allowed a middle reliever and a non Gold Glove outmaking middle infielder that was subpar even for his position (-8 Runs Created Against Position--RCAP) to garner MVP votes.

He went 14-13 that year. Here is his stat line:

What's a guy gotta do to get a little respect?
1413 2.48 36  8   2265206 73 96167   171   47

Blue Jays’ fans can tell you of whom I speak; this was Dave Stieb in 1985.

So what’s with the history lesson? Well this year, there’s a pitcher who leads the league (tied for first) in ERA (2.74), strikeouts (268), and RSAA (43) is second in IP (223.2), is tied for third in complete games (4) and sports the following record:

What's a guy gotta do to get a little respect? II
1413 2.74 32  4   2223.2154 68 41268  164   43

Compare that to Stieb’s 1985 season:

1413 2.48 36  8   2265206 73 96167   171   47

And he may not sniff the Cy Young Award due to his barely .500 record. Granted, Randy Johnson has a few things working in his favour. He’s won the award five times previously (then again one of his fellow candidates--Roger Clemens--has won six!). He’s a first ballot Hall-of-Famer (then again, so is Clemens), he’s an historic strikeout artist having a typically excellent year in this regard (then again, so has Clemens). However, Clemens, while eighth in IP (201), fourth in ERA (3.00), sixth in RSAA (28) and fifth in strikeouts (198) sports a far sexier won-loss record (18-4).

Let’s not forget about Roy Oswalt (18-9, 3.48 ERA, 23 RSAA, 191 K/217.1 IP) or Jason Schmidt (16-7, 3.24 ERA, 29 RSAA, 232 K/205.2 IP).

Will a pitcher that’s thrown 215 IP, struck out 237 while walking just 29, has an ERA that’s third best in the NL (2.80) and is second in RSAA (39) get any votes?

Probably not….Ben Sheets of the Milwaukee Brewers is just 11-12.

In my opinion, Randy Johnson is the best pitcher in the National League. Whether that translates into a sixth Cy Young Award remains to be seen. I’m guessing Clemens will notch number seven for his grandson Kash’n’Kerry. It’ll be interesting to see if the voters have learned much since 1985. I’m not saying Stieb should’ve won, but I am saying he should’ve placed higher than seventh.

You’ll notice I’ve added a comments feature to my blog so feel free to flame, complain, bellyache, and question my ancestry to your heart’s content. If you’d like to suggest a link or join my wife in letting me know how wrong I am [again], please do.

*Jesse Barfield

**George Bell

***Tom Henke

****Doyle Alexander

*****Dennis Lamp

******Damaso Garcia

Best Regards