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Monday, September 8, 2008

Lee Not A Lock for AL Cy Young

Cliff Lee is pitching his ass off.

For emphasis, I allow that statement to get the room is deserves. Any pedestrian account would certainly puts Lee and his phenomenal wire-to-wire performance above that of any pitcher in the Bigs. According to ESPN, he currently ranks:

• Ranks 1st in AL in W (21)• Ranks 2nd in AL in IP (201.2)
• Ranks 8th in AL in SO (154)• Ranks 1st in AL in ERA (2.28)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in WHIP (1.05)• Ranks 1st in AL in WPct (.913)
• Ranks 2nd in AL in CG (4)

A wholly impressive body of work that will without doubt award Lee Cy Young honours, right? Lets take the time to appropriately consider Roy Halladay's parallels:

• 2nd in AL in W (18)• 1st in AL in IP (218.0)
• 3rd in AL in SO (185)• 2nd in AL in ERA (2.64)
• 1st in AL in WHIP (1.04)• 10th in AL in WPct (.667)
• 1st in AL in CG (8)

In and of themselves these data doesn't fully represent how close the race is. The superficial illustration above ignores more sophisticated models of performance: sabermetics. For that, please see this brilliant data table prepared by zeppelinkm which was shared over at Batter's Box. Courtesy of their efforts (summarized in the graphic below) we know that Cliff Lee has consistently faced inferior competition -- both opposing starters and opposing hitters.

This graphic shows the startling difference in the conditions under which Halladay and Lee have pitched. Roy Halladay has consistently faced more winning clubs who hit better, get on base more often and produce more runs on average, all while watching his club battle against stronger opposing pitchers and consequently produce less runs. Every metric posted above serves in favor of Halladay for the Cy Young.

If you're still unconvinced, consider the following data provided in the comment section to the aforementioned Batters Box article.

Against .750+ OPS Teams (Top-15)
Pitcher -- Games/IP/W-L/ERA

Roy------- 23 /163.1 /13-9 /2.98
Lee--------12 / 79.1 / 9-1 / 3.06

In the face of formidable opposition Lee has been outstanding. However, he's thrown half the innings against the baseball-crushing, pitching-stat inflating clubs that have hurt Halladays' numbers. To further this comparison, Magpie from Batters Box says:

"There are only five teams in the majors on pace to win 90+ games: Boston, Tampa, the Angels, and the two Chicago teams. Halladay has made 11 of his 29 starts against those five teams, and they account for 5 of his 9 losses (he has 6 wins against them). On the other hand, while Lee has made just 5 starts against those teams, he's been absolutely brilliant against them - he's 4-0, 1.15 in those five starts."
Vs. -.750 ops teams (Bottom-15)
Pitcher -- Games/IP/W-L/ERA

Roy ------- 7 /54.2 / 5-0 /1.65
Lee------- 15 / 113.1 / 11-1 / 1.91

This is self-explanatory: They both dominate poor-hitting teams. Note the difference in IP, a ratio that nearly mirrors that above.

The debate is raging and I am happy to propagate it here with some input of my own (with the acknowledged help of the data from others). Is there any hope for Halladay in the face of Lee's shiny 21-2 record? Probably not since the voters are less likely to consider all the quantifiable variables outlined herein. Maybe, just maybe they'll see this wonderful piece and change their minds! Digg it, Bark it, Email it and Subscribe -- for Roy's sake, not mine!

Thanks for reading and come back soon. Cheers, Derek.

Update: Here is another convincing piece from BP which quantified their strength-of-opposition in the EqA fashion.


Henry said...

Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, but Cliff Lee has the Cy Young on lock.

Innings-wise, Doc has pitched 2 more games than Lee and 4 more CG, not to mention pitching against the Yankees, RedSox and Rays plenty of times. But as good as that is, Cliff Lee is something like 21-2 with a 2.28 era, now thats just ridiculous. Pitching in the 2nd most powerful division in the MLB. Not only that, but Lee has been consistent throught the entire year and for him to not get the Cy Young he would have to allow 10+ runs in every of his starts left.

Lee has been the favorite the entire year and he well deserves it.

Now the NL Cy Young? Thats another story......

Derek from Cloud9 Sports said...

Their are some poorly-read MLB writers who feel that Dice-K is in the discussion as well. Pleeeease, that is Red Sox pandering taken to levels of absurd bias.