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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Baseball Primer’s 2003 A.L. Cy Young Award
Is it a happy Halladay for Pedro?
Our winner has a first name, it’s it’s H-A-R-R-Y, our winner has a second name, it’s L-E-R-O-Y… yes, Roy Halladay won the 2003 Baseball Primer Cy Young Award, in a well-contested but decisive contest over Esteban Loaiza and Tim Hudson who finished in a second-place tie.
As was the case last year, the balloting for the 2003 Baseball Primer Cy Young Award voting matches the MVP voting procedure. Each voter included ten pitchers on the ballot, and points were given based on the 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scheme the MVP award uses. 17 pitchers in total received votes, and although there was considerable agreement on our final winner, six different pitchers received top-three votes (and four different hurlers were placed first), indicating the strength of this year’s field.
A dominant year from Harry Leroy Halladay won him six first-place votes and the Baseball Primer AL Cy Young Award. Halladay not only led the AL in wins, complete games, and innings pitched (by a substantial 24 innings over Bartolo Colon), he led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and in fewest pitches per inning, and was second in OBP allowed to Pedro Mart?nez and second in groundball/flyball ratio to Derek Lowe.
Add that together and you get the picture of Halladay’s season. Having had the good fortune to watch him all year long, I can safely say I have never seen a more efficient pitcher at work, not even Dave Stieb in his glory days. Halladay simply throws his four pitches for strikes (a cutter, a sinker, a split-finger, a curve), makes you hit them, challenges you beat him. Every time. He takes the ball, gets the sign, rears back, and throws a strike. The Jays’ front office have said on several occasions that they want pitchers “who throw strikes, and work quickly”. They have a master already in residence.
It means a Roy Halladay start is over before you can say “complete game”, and before you know it, he’s out on the mound again. Halladay did everything he was asked to do, including leading a Jays experiment with the four-man rotation that he obviously relished (Halladay commented that he felt sharper on three days’ rest, and routinely complains of not being sharp when he has to take five days’ rest). Halladay was not an obvious choice for the Cy Young by any means - homeritis problems hurt his ERA this year - but a September in which he had five complete-game wins in six starts (and would have had six but for an overzealous umpiring crew and an insane pregame directive from MLB’s front office) sealed the deal. If the Jays can improve the infield defense behind him (especially the left side of the infield, quite weak this year with Chris Woodward and Eric Hinske) Halladay’s performances could become even more spectacular.
A tough-luck but spectacular season for Tim Hudson that ended with another piece of bad luck as he was involved in a late-night altercation in Boston during the AL Division Series that the A’s lost, and had to leave his Game 4 start after just one inning.
Hudson was consistently terrific throughout the year, with 27 Quality Starts in 34 outings, and finished second in ERA and third in innings pitched. With just a 16-7 record, one might think Hudson received little run support… he didn’t, but a lot of that support was late and his bullpen let him down several times. His career record is already an eye-popping 80-33; if Hudson can continue to pitch as he has this year, that record may get even more impressive.
Last August, Blue Jays pitching coach Gil Patterson took Esteban Loaiza aside during a side session and taught him how to throw a cutter… how to grip the pitch, how to release it, and so forth. Patterson claims that he has never had a faster pupil. Three days later, Loaiza had added the cutter to his fastball/slider arsenal and was using the new pitch in a game, a win against the Baltimore Orioles. Five days after that, he pitched a complete-game victory against the Yankees.
There were some in the Blue Jays organization who wanted the team to re-sign Loaiza in the offseason, but there was too much history there—Loaiza struggled badly in September, and had lallygagged his way through two poor seasons in Toronto after an initial successful half-season. So Kenny Williams and the White Sox a chance on him, signing him to a $500,000 minor-league deal, with a $4 million option for 2004.
Williams has made a lot of very good deals in his time, but this one was the best he’s ever done. Loaiza was spectacular in 2003; it may have been against less-than-overwhelming opposition, but he won 21 games, and finished in the top six in the AL in every category worth discussing (and leading the league in strikeouts). That cutter has turned a sub-.500 pitcher into a Cy Young contender, and he well deserves his shares second place finish in the Primer voting. It will be interesting to see whether Loaiza’s improvement is “for real”, but to those who saw him pitch for the last two years and saw him this year, it is obvious he is a different pitcher. Loaiza’s confidence is palpable on the mound now; the White Sox are thanking Gil Patterson (and J.P. Ricciardi) for the one that got away.
Pedro Mart?nez, though always dogged by controversy, pitched like Pedro Mart?nez this year. No higher complement can be paid to a contemporary pitcher, and nothing more need be said. When he’s able to pitch, he’s the best many of us have ever seen, and if he’d been able to pitch more than 29 starts this year, he would very likely have won this award.
Mike Mussina’s year (which ended frustratingly incomplete, without a chance to top off his superb win in Game 3 of the World Series) was another exercise in quiet, consistent, across-the-board excellence. Mussina moved himself to within one win of 200 (his career record of 199-110 is superb and as a result Mussina is beginning to collect a Hall of Fame buzz about himself) and placed in the top 10 across the board, including 4th in WHIP and strikeouts.
Here are our AL Cy Young picks:
Player 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 #Ballots Pts R. Halladay 6 1 2 9 109 T. Hudson 1 4 1 3 9 79 E. Loaiza 1 3 3 2 9 79 P. Martinez 1 2 3 1 2 9 62 M. Mussina 3 5 1 9 47 J. Moyer 1 1 3 1 2 8 42 K. Foulke 1 1 1 2 5 28 B. Zito 4 2 1 1 8 25 M. Mulder 1 1 1 1 4 14 J. Santana 3 2 5 11 B. Colon 2 1 3 7 A. Pettitte 1 1 1 3 7 J. Pineiro 1 1 2 7 R. Clemens 1 1 2 5 B. Donnelly 1 1 2 5 D. May 1 1 2 3 R. Soriano 1 1 1
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