— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Baseball Primer’s 2003 N.L. Cy Young Award
Going, Going, Gagne?
Cy Young voting is always interesting in that it brings up the problems with evaluating the contribution of relief pitchers to their teams compared to the contribution of the starters. How do you evaluate a purely situational pitcher? Thankfully, I get to sidestep that issue a bit and look at what the Primer contributors think. Overall, this was probably the closest of the award races.
1st - Mark Prior - Chicago Cubs - 88 points (4 of 8 1st-place votes)
It’s hard to not vote for a pitcher such as Mark Prior - a young strikeout artist in his first full season. Only turning 23 the last month of the season, Prior is as nearly complete a pitcher as Tom Terrific was more than 3 decades ago. Finishing 3rd in strikeouts and ERA help, too. Joe Mauer may be a terrific catcher in the future, but how would the Twins look with a Prior-Santana 1-2 for the rest of the decade?
2nd - Jason Schmidt - San Francisco Giants - 75 points (1 of 8 1st-place votes)
Schmidt led the league in ERA and even playing in an excellent pitchers’ park, had the best park-adjusted ERA in the NL this season. However, what likely hurt Schmidt in the voting is that his 2003 season is significantly above his prior established level of performance. Even if he’s destined to return to the solid, but unspectacular pitcher he was before 2003, Schmidt was a workhorse for the Giants, keeping a rotation that featured The Ghost of Voros catching up with Kirk Rueter and Damian Moss afloat through most of the season.
3rd - Eric Gagne - Los Angeles Dodgers - 74 points (3 of 8 1st-place votes)
Gagne just lost out on the runner-up slot by virtue of being as low as 7th in the balloting where Prior’s worse was 5th and Schmidt never below 3rd. The Gagne that actually knows how to pronounce his name had one of the most dominating closer performances in history, striking out an amazing 137 batters in 82.1 innings with a mere 37 hits. On one hand, that was only 82.1 innings with the other Cy candidates pitching to more than double the batters than Gagne and the fact that Gagne entered games seeing fewer runners than the Vanuatu Summer Olympic team. But that’s mitigated by Gagne being given the job of shutting down the opposition in the 9th and doing that every single time. 55 chances, 55 conversions.
4th - Kevin Brown - Los Angeles Dodgers - 51 points
Gagne got the entire Dodger pitching press but Kevin Brown was another primary reason that the Dodgers were able to do as well this season as they did featuring a quasi-Tiger offense. The 14-9 record will not woo many of the BBWAA voters, but the Primer voters evidently were happy with Brown’s 2.39 ERA in 211 innings, his first healthy season since 2000.
5th - Javier Vazquez - Montreal Expos - 34 points
After the big 4 in the voting, there’s a sizable dropoff to Vazquez and the rest of the field. Most of the press surrounding Vazquez has been focused on his imminent departure from the Expos, but Vlad’s pitching counterpart as The Best Player You’ve Never Heard of But That Everyone Has Heard of, had his best season to date, putting up a 3.24 ERA in 230.2 innings, for an ERA+ of 153.
Livan Hernandez - 32