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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Baseball Primer’s 2002 NL Cy Young Award
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson pulled away from teammate Curt Schilling with a spectacular September to win his 2nd consecutive Baseball Primer Cy Young Award.
Johnson was fantastic down the stretch as Arizona wrapped up their second consecutive NL West crown. In the season’s final month the 6’ 10” lefty was 5-0, with an 0.66 ERA, allowing just 3 earned runs in 41 IP.
Johnson finished the year 24-5, with a 2.32 ERA, 334 strikeouts and 30 quality starts in 35 tries. He led the league in ERA, innings (260), strikeouts, quality starts, opponents batting average (.208) and complete games (8). He was 2nd to Florida’s A.J. Burnett (12th in the voting) with 4 shutouts and his 35 starts were second only to Tom Glavine’s 36. Johnson accomplished all of this despite hurling 21 of his 35 starts at home in a hitter’s park and playing in the toughest division in the NL.
The choice for Johnson was nearly unanimous, as he received 15 of 16 first place votes, teammate Curt Schilling finished 2nd and received the other first place nod.
If the 32 BBWAA voters agree with our staff, Johnson should emerge with his 4th consecutive NL Cy Young Award next month, and it will be the 5th of his career. He was obviously the best pitcher in baseball for the 2nd year in a row. He’s under contract for next year ($15 million if he wins the BBWAA Cy Young), he’ll be free agent in 2004.
Here’s a look at a few of the other top contenders.
2nd Curt Schilling, Arizona 141 points
Schilling was the frontrunner most of the season, due to his outstanding won/loss record (18-3 entering August) and incredible strikeout/walk ratio (212:18 entering August). Over the last two months of the season though, Schilling’s ERA was just 3.91 and he was only 5-4. Part of this was due to a shellacking in Colorado on September 20, where he gave up 9 runs (8 earned). Then, with home field advantage for the first round on the line, he was bombed again by St. Louis on September 25, giving up all 6 runs in a 6-1 loss.
All in all though, it was an outstanding year for Schilling, who finished 23-7 with a 3.23 ERA. He fanned 316 and walked just 33 in 259 1/3 IP (he and Johnson were the only NL pitchers over 233). He tossed 27 quality starts, second only to Johnson and was clearly the 2nd best pitcher in the National League again this season. Schilling is under contract to the Diamondbacks through the 2004 season ($10 million 2003, $12 million 2004).
3rd Roy Oswalt, Houston 113 points
The sky appears to be the limit for this recently-turned (August 29) 25-year old righthander. Oswalt built on his outstanding rookie season and proved that he could shoulder the load of an ace on a contending ballclub. He was third in the NL with 233 IP and tied for 4th with 34 starts. He posted the 5th best ERA in the league (3.01), despite pitching in the 2nd best hitter’s park in the league. Oswalt was also third with 19 wins (9 losses) and 5th with 208 strikeouts. He only allowed 17 HR this year as well and his 24 quality starts were tied for 4th in the NL.
Oswalt doesn’t need to improve to have a Hall of Fame career. He just needs to stay healthy and pitch like this for the next 10-11 years. He’s the best young pitcher in the National League and is now 33-12 in his career, with a 2.91 ERA. The sky is the limit for this kid and he won’t even be eligible for free agency until after the 2007 season.
4th Greg Maddux, Atlanta 105 points
Another year, another outstanding season, Maddux keeps turning these in like clockwork. This year’s version finished 2nd in the NL in ERA (2.62), with a 16-6 record in 34 starts. However, he only tossed 199 1/3 innings (5.86/start), so despite his great ERA he was dropped a few rungs in the voting. Some of his other peripherals were off a little as well. He dipped from 6.7 to 5.3 strikeouts per 9 IP. His BB/9 almost doubled from 1.04 to 2.03. He is 36 years old, so those numbers can be expected to start slipping.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a very good pitcher. Some wonder if he can go deep into games any more (just 3 starts of 100 pitches and no complete games this year). I think he can still go 220 IP a year. He was hurt a lot this year and Bobby Cox had his best bullpen to date, so it made sense to keep Maddux on a short leash.
The durability issue is a big one, as he’s likely to be leaving Atlanta this winter. It will be interesting to see where he ends up and how well he does next year. I think he’s still got a lot of good innings left, and he should win his 300th game in August of 2004.
5th Tom Glavine, Atlanta 87 points
Glavine jumped off to a quick start in 2002 (11-4, 2.27 ERA at the all-star break), and turned in his best season since his Cy Young campaign of 1998. He finished the year 18-11 with a 2.96 ERA (3rd in the NL), tossing 224 2/3 innings and leading the NL with 36 starts.
He’s within striking distance of 300 wins, he’s now 242-143 for his career and he’ll be 37 next year. I’d say it’s 50/50, as he’ll have to be effective (14-15 wins a year) until he’s 40 to have a shot. It’ll be interesting to see what the Braves decide to do about him this winter. The early buzz is that Glavine will stay and Maddux will go.
6th Odalis Perez, Los Angeles 57 points
Perez had a breakthrough season for the Dodgers this year, finishing 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA (4th in the NL). His numbers were propped up a little by Dodger Stadium, but it was a still a great year for the young lefty, who turned 25 in June. He only walked 38 batters all year, and tossed 222 1/3 innings. He also whiffed 155. Maybe that Sheffield trade wasn’t so bad after all? Perez won’t be a free agent until after the 2006 season.
7th Eric Gagne, Los Angeles 56 points
Gagne burst onto the national scene this year after showing signs of brilliance the last two seasons (209 K in 253 IP). He finally put it all together after a move to the bullpen. Gagne was the best closer in the NL this season, fanning 114 and walking just 16 in 82 1/3 innings. He had a 1.97 ERA and 52 saves in 56 opportunities. The 26-year old righty also allowed only 6 HR and held opponents to a .175 average. Gagne won’t be a free agent until after the 2006 season.
Honorable mention Bartolo Colon Cleveland/Montreal (11th NL, 12th AL)
Colon had his best season in 2002, but split it between two leagues, thus he didn’t do well on either ballot. In 33 starts he pitched 233 1/3 innings, finishing 20-8 (for two non-contenders), with an ERA of 2.93. His strikeout rate was down, as he only whiffed 149 batters. However, he compensated by only walking 70 batters, his best control season in the bigs. Colon has always been a pretty good, hard-throwing starter that was prone to inconsistency.
Now, it appears he’s turned the corner. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, in the small pack just behind Johnson and Schilling. If he had played the whole season for the Expos, I’d have voted him 4th, I voted Johnson-Schilling-Oswalt the top in the NL, just like my brethren.
The Expos have a $6 million option on him next year, he’ll be a free agent next winter.
It’s interesting to note that John Smoltz, who some have mentioned as an MVP candidate finished 14th in our Cy Young balloting. Our 16-man panel gave him 1 eighth, 1 ninth and 1 tenth place vote. He was better than his 3.25 ERA would suggest. He allowed 8 runs in 2/3 of an inning April 6 against the Mets (score was 2-2 when he entered). What if he just been terrible that day, instead God-awful?
Let’s say after he allowed 3 runs Cox would have lifted him, which sounds reasonable. He would have a 2.69 ERA and the team’s record wouldn’t be any different. He only blew 4 saves all year. Overall, he had a pretty good year (Gagne’s road ERA was 2.63), better than most here would suggest. Because we don’t want him to be the MVP (and rightfully so), we knocked him a little more than he deserved this year.
Here’s the rest of the voting:
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