Purple Row Awards: NL Cy Young

Debates about the 2010 NL Cy Young Award began early on in the Year of the Pitcher, as Ubaldo Jimenez set off the year literally chasing Bob Gibson-type records.  When Ubaldo Jimenez cooled off, steam picked up for Josh Johnson.  Then Adam Wainwright was the flavor of the month.   Since the beginning of September, no one has been better than Tim Lincecum.   

In a year littered with mind-bending pitching performances, Ubaldo Jimenez stood out, setting nearly every franchise record in Rockies history.  Purple Row is a Rockies blog, so it's probably not surprising that the writers panel unanimously selected their choice for NL Cy Young.  But it wasn't Jimenez.

 

First Place - Roy Halladay

After facing AL East lineups throughout his career, "Doc" was the overwhelming preseason favorite for NL Cy Young after a shift to the National League.  While other pitchers had more impressive streaks, Halladay was consistently elite throughout the season.  At this point, there is little to defend any other choice for the award.  Let me count the ways.

Roy Halladay

#34 / Pitcher / Philadelphia Phillies

6-6

230

R

R

May 14, 1977

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Roy Halladay 21-10 33 33 9 4 0 0 250.2 231 74 68 24 30 219 2.44 1.04
Halladay threw almost 251 innings, fifteen more than any pitcher.  His walk rate was barely above one per nine innings, half of any NL pitcher.  His K/BB was a ridiculous 7.30, nearly double any other NL pitcher.  He faced nearly 1000 batters, but only felt the need to intentionally walk one...the least in the NL.
Halladay trailed only his teammate Roy Oswalt for WHIP, but boasted a 2.44 ERA, notable considering Citizens Bank Park.  That allowed for him to have the second best ERA+ (park-adjusted ERA) in the NL at 165.  The Colorado native had as many complete games (9) as the next top two pitchers combined.  Same with shutouts (4).  
While he led the league in wins, sabermetric stats back Halladay as the clear choice as well.  He was the only MLB starter to have an xFIP below 3.00, a difficult accomplishment given the stat penalizes pitchers for allowing fewer home runs.  He led the NL in WAR (Fg) a, had the highest first-strike percentage, had the league's most valuable cutter, and led the league convincingly in WPA, WPA/LI, RE24, and REW.
Did I forget to mention he also threw a perfect game and led the Phillies to the NL's top record?  There were a lot of incredible seasons by starting pitchers in the National League in 2010, but Halladay outclassed them all.

Second Place - Ubaldo Jimenez

The Chief was Purple Row's unanimous runner-up to Halladay....well almost, ahem, WM.  Ubaldo started off the season on fire, winning 13 of his first 14 starts with just 1 ER allowed in his loss, tossing the Rockies' first no-hitter along the way.  His ERA after 11 starts of 0.78 put him among history's leaders, and Jimenez had to pitch at Coors Field.

As loud as the national praise was for Ubaldo, the SABR community recoiled against Ubaldo, putting a bad taste in the mouths of Rockies fans.  Jimenez' ERA did increase all the way to 2.88 by season's end, dropping him to eighth in the NL.  He failed to get 20 wins, settling for 19 after going 4-7 over his last 15 starts.  Ubaldo trails Adam Wainwright in wins, ERA and WHIP, the three most notable pitching stats on baseball cards.  So now, ironically, it is SABR stats that suggest Jimenez might have been the second best pitcher in the National League.

Ubaldo Jimenez

#38 / Pitcher / Colorado Rockies

6-4

210

R

R

Jan 22, 1984

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Ubaldo Jimenez 19-8 33 33 4 2 0 0 221.2 164 73 71 10 92 214 2.88 1.15

Coors Field displayed a definite disadvantage for pitchers, and Ubaldo's park adjusted ERA+ of 161 place him behind only Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay.  He actually leads all MLB pitchers in WAR at Baseball Reference and is third behind Halladay and Johnson at Fangraphs.

The Chief trails only Halladay in WPA, WPA+, RE24, REW, and WPA/LI.  He limited home runs better than all but two NL pitchers and only Jonathan Sanchez had a lower batting average against.  He will be penalized for his perceived poor second half, but his ERA's of 2.83 and 3.57 (supported by FIPs of 2.54 and 3.06) in August and Sept/Oct suggest he was still pitching incredibly well down the stretch.  In fact, he had eight quality starts in his last 12 appearances, winning none of them due to an offense that managed more than two runs in just 6 of his last 12 starts.

As long as he isn't shafted out of the top 5 in the voting, Ubaldo will earn a $50k bonus for placing in the top five and an additional $150k for reaching 220IP.  Good for him.  Ubaldo turned a lot of kids - and adults - into baseball fans this year.

 

 

Third Place - Adam Wainwright

The 29-year-old Cardinal had yet another phenomenal season, and his resume has three huge things going for him to earn that 2nd place finish in the Cy Young voting.  

First, his traditional visible stats are very convincing.  Wainwright had the second-lowest ERA to Josh Johnson in the NL, second in wins, third in WHIP and second in complete games and shutouts.  That is a resume that is hard to ignore, and those traditional stats put Wainwright as MLB's top pitcher according to ESPN's player rater

Adam Wainwright

#50 / Pitcher / St. Louis Cardinals

6-7

230

R

R

Aug 30, 1981

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Adam Wainwright 20-11 37 33 5 2 0 0 230.1 186 68 62 15 56 213 2.42 1.05

Second, among all the "flavors of the month" pitchers, Wainwright was the last to get popular backing before Halladay took over.  That lasting image, supported by 2.81, 2.46 and 2.71 FIPs in each of the last three months, could be enough to push him over Jimenez, who is perceived to have fallen flat after a run of good luck.

Third, there could be a sympathy vote.  Say what?  Following several writers on twitter gives a unique pulse on the thought processes of those in the industry.  Some are already beginning to feel that Wainwright is consistently among the league's top pitchers, but poor Adam is always usurped just slightly for the Cy Young Award "just like Juan Marichal."  (Side note:  Marichal only received votes for Cy Young once in his career, when he finished 8th in 1971).

I would not be shocked if Wainwright comes in second.  He has some incredibly eye-popping statistics across the board which, in most season, would be enough for a lock of the Cy Young Award.

 

Honorable Mention - Josh Johnson

The league leader in ERA was Florida's Josh Johnson, which forced me to write his name four times in this article prior to now.  Unfortunately for Johnson, he was shut down with a month to play, hurting all of his counting statistics, vital in a Cy Young race.  

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Josh Johnson 11-6 28 28 1 0 0 0 183.2 155 51 47 7 48 186 2.30 1.11

The right-hander led the league in FIP and HR rate and was second to Halladay in K/BB rate, but his lack of wins, visibility and longevity hurt him in the end.  But don't blame the lack of wins on him.  Johnson was saddled with a no decision on five occasions when he allowed one or less runs, and even lost a game in which he did not allow an earned run.  He figures to challenge for future Cy Young awards often.

Others not receiving votes here that may in the BBWAA voting:  Roy Oswalt, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Clayton Kershaw, Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter and Mat Latos.

 

Your final tally for the AL Cy Young Award:

Name

Points

Roy Halladay

21

Ubaldo Jimenez

13

Adam Wainwright

5

Josh Johnson

3

 

Russ Jeff Fish Mart Bryan Silverblood Greg
Halladay Halladay Halladay Halladay Halladay Halladay Halladay
Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Jimenez Wainwright
Johnson Wainwright  Johnson Johnson Wainwright Wainwright Jimenez
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