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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.

Roy Halladay
22-7, 3.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 204 K, 266 IP

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.

Tim Hudson
16-7, 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 161 K, 240 IP

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.

Esteban Loaiza
21-9, 2.90 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 207 K, 226.1 IP

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
14-4, 2.22 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 206 K, 186.2 IP

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
17-8, 3.40 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 195 K, 214.2 IP

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
J. Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: October 26, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Danny Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:53 AM (#613748)
Mark Mulder finished 5th in the AL in SNWAR, 5th among AL pitchers in VORP, 4th in the AL in ERA, tied for 1st in complete games, and tied for 1st in shutouts, yet he is named to less than half the ballots?
   2. Graeme Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:53 AM (#613749)
That keith Foulk first place vote is incredibly random
   3. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613769)
I could see how some could put Pedro as low as 6th. There needs to be some allowance for the fact that he had only 29 starts and 186 2/3 innings. There are good arguments for putting him behind Halladay and Hudson for sure, and less-good but not idiotic arguments for putting him behind Loaiza, Mussina, and Moyer as well.

Mulder's injury took him off a lot of radar screens, as well.

-- MWE
   4. Alan Shank Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613774)
Of the top three vote-getters, Loaiza had the best performance on fielding-independent events. His xRuns/PA on HR, K, BB and HBP was .090, compared to .114 for Halladay, .118 for Hudson and .201 for the Al overall (Pedro's was an other-worldly .031!). Loaiza also had the highest percentage of "pitcher-only" events, 31.9%, so he was less dependent on his fielders than the others. Due to this, although he pitched 40 fewer innings than Halladay, he "decided" 19 more PA than Halladay.

The writer makes it sound as if it's OK to have a higher ERA, as long as it's "just due to homers." In fact, preventing homers is one of a pitcher's "prime directives," just as preventing walks is; you can't defense either one. Also, having a high GB/FB ratio is not something to rate a player by (2nd to Lowe). Ground balls are more likely to become hits than fly balls, and despite the high GB/FB he did allow the 26 homers.

Cheers,
Alan Shank
   5. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 27, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613777)
The writer makes it sound as if it's OK to have a higher ERA, as long as it's "just due to homers." In fact, preventing homers is one of a pitcher's "prime directives," just as preventing walks is; you can't defense either one. Also, having a high GB/FB ratio is not something to rate a player by (2nd to Lowe). Ground balls are more likely to become hits than fly balls, and despite the high GB/FB he did allow the 26 homers.

Al, you make me sound like an idiot. I wasn't *rating* Halladay by his G/F ratio; I was using it to demonstrate what Halladay's style was like this season.

As for the homer problems, damn right I take them seriously, and they are a problem. Again, I was pointing to what Halladay was doing in 2003, which was to go right at hitters and challenge them to hit the ball. I wasn't trying to explain the homer problems away, and even indicated that they were a reason not to vote for Halladay (which is why I said that his candidacy was not a runaway).

This is sort of offtopic, but as for your point about more groundballs becoming hits than flyballs, that is true but the hit rate is alleviated by flyball pitchers' hits being slightly more likely to be doubles and triples.

Then you have the double plays. All other things being equal, a pitcher with a 4.00 G/F ratio will have twice as many double plays turned behind him as a pitcher with a 0.67 G/F ratio. That is a massive advantage. But as I said, I wasn't rating Halladay by G/F ratio.
   6. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: October 29, 2003 at 03:54 AM (#613788)
What about jaime moyer? With those 21 wins, he surely deserves more recognition.

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