2018 AL Cy Young

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(ok actually in imaginary world i'm gonna take snell. but still)

Karl Malone, Thursday, 1 November 2018 20:15 (one year ago) link

other things being equal, bauer's 70-grade assholery earns snell my vote

mookieproof, Thursday, 1 November 2018 21:00 (one year ago) link

plz stop

Ditto. For three or four years, I ignored all the idiotic stuff you misattributed to me. I won't anymore. If you act civil--which you were doing a pretty good job of for a while--or, better yet, just don't engage at all with me (overtly or implied), we won't have a problem.

As always, I want to look at game logs before deciding who had the best year. I think this year, in the AL, that might really make a difference. Snell was phenomenal, but I suspect he really threaded the needle on a lot of under-seven-inning starts. So the things NoTime posted above, but applied to Snell vs. Verlander/Kluber.

clemenza, Thursday, 1 November 2018 21:25 (one year ago) link

When I go through game logs, I like to look at the most basic thing of all: how many times did a starting pitcher give his team a good chance to win the game? The quality start isn't very useful, because it lets in games where a guy gave up three runs. You could call that quality in the PED-era, but making your team score at least four runs to win a game today doesn't seem like anything special. Then you have to decide where to set the inning bar, and that's where Snell's season becomes tricky.

I've always counted starts where the guy goes at least 7 and gives up 2 or fewer runs--to me, that's a quality start. Using that (and adding Kershaw's and Verlander's MVP seasons for purposes of comparison):

deGrom – 18/32
Scherzer – 14/33
Kluber – 14/33
Verlander – 10/34
Snell – 7/31

Kershaw (2014) – 17/27
Verlander (2011) – 19/34

Snell only went 7 innings seven times this year, and all seven times he gave up two or fewer runs. If you drop the inning requirement to 6, Snell moves all the way up to 19/31--he had 12 starts of 6/6.1/6.2 innings where he pitched very well. But Verlander moves to 23/34 (Kluber to 18/33...and deGrom, 23/32).

(Sidebar: at least by this method, deGrom's season was right there with the two MVP seasons. Percentage-wise, he was better than Verlander in 2011.)

So...When I complained about the way Counsell used his starters, the general feeling around here seemed to be that that's the game now, get used to it, the days of starters pitching into the seventh are gone. (Or maybe just in the postseason, I don't know.) If that's your viewpoint, I think you can make a case for Snell, but even there, Verlander's even better--he had 13 starts of 6/6.1/6.2 where he gave up two or fewer runs. If you use the seven-inning threshold, Kluber's the best.

Snell will probably win, and if you don't dwell on the IP, it's not difficult to lay out the case for him. Game logs would give me pause...but truthfully, I still don't know what the right answer is (and I haven't even included Sale; with at least three other really good candidates, I can't see voting for a starter who fell short of 162 innings).

clemenza, Saturday, 3 November 2018 17:11 (one year ago) link

7+/2- for Sale: 8/27
6+/2- for Sale: 14/27

Doesn't compare with the others--and, again, because of the injury, he didn't pitch six innings or more after July 27.

clemenza, Saturday, 3 November 2018 17:24 (one year ago) link

i'd give it to verlander

ciderpress, Saturday, 3 November 2018 19:04 (one year ago) link

i totally agree that other things being equal, more innings is better, but snell can only pitch the innings his manager allows him to. and what if the extra innings aren't that good? verlander had a 4.60 ERA in the sixth inning this year and a 4.85 ERA in the seventh. maybe letting him pitch 33 more innings than snell actually hurt his team.

that's something of an outlier -- the other guys we're discussing got worse, but not by so much -- but while your seven-inning/two-run benchmark feels nice on a per-game basis, it's just as arbitrary as celebrating the guys who hit the 17-homer/23-steal mark. we have stats that better capture players' contributions.

i'm not saying snell's the correct answer -- certainly b-ref and fangraphs differ on his value -- but creating your own arbitrary quality-start metric isn't a huge improvement on simply going by wins

mookieproof, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:06 (one year ago) link

very good points. and here's another way to look at it:

2nd time through order (sorted by wOBA)

3rd time through order (sorted by wOBA)

verlander and snell are similarly dominant the 2nd time through - wOBA in the .230 range. they're also similarly much worse the 3rd time through - .wOBA around .310. the difference is that verlander's manager kept him in for 51 innings, while snell's manager pulled him earlier.

(interestingly, Carrasco and Cole both got better as they progressed through the order for the third time)

Karl Malone, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:22 (one year ago) link

for anyone that's curious, here's the first time through:


Karl Malone, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:27 (one year ago) link

It is arbitrary, I agree, but I think it's a reasonable bar on that basic question: did you give your team a good chance to win? I wouldn't use it on its own to decide anything--I like to look at everything--and most years it's going to turn up the same result as WAR, or ERA+, or any other basic starting point. I check it, though, and see if anything interesting turns up. This year, I think it does at least underscore Snell's limitations. (Or his manager's handling of him in relation to how you win awards. He's bound by what his manager does, no argument there.)

verlander had a 4.60 ERA in the sixth inning this year and a 4.85 ERA in the seventh. maybe letting him pitch 33 more innings than snell actually hurt his team.

That's a great point. I feel like the AL Cy Young this year does reflect something about the way things are changing.

clemenza, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:27 (one year ago) link

How did Kluber fare there?

clemenza, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:31 (one year ago) link

oh shoot, i don't how i forgot to add him in. let's see...

first time through the order: .278 wOBA (seventh out of 8 pitchers), 2.33 ERA (sixth)
second: .282 wOBA (sixth), 3.06 ERA (seventh)
third time: .242 wOBA (first), 3.02 ERA (third)

here's a link to the leaderboard, which will hopefully work

Karl Malone, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:36 (one year ago) link

anyway, i still have no idea who should win. i'd say probably NOT snell, though, especially looking at how lucky he was the first time through the order (1.01 ERA vs a .218 wOBA). he was very, very, very good first time through the order, but so was gerrit cole, and he gave up twice as many earned runs.

Karl Malone, Saturday, 3 November 2018 20:37 (one year ago) link

So Kluber was clearly stronger than Snell or Verlander the deeper he got into the game. Which just scrambles everything up a little more.

clemenza, Sunday, 4 November 2018 05:44 (one year ago) link

I'd disregard Kluber for his division. Twelve of his starts were against the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers -- three of the four worst AL offenses.

Andy K, Monday, 5 November 2018 16:39 (one year ago) link

this must exist somewhere, but there has got to be a way to account for strength of competition, both with batters and with pitchers. real plus-minus in basketball attempts to do this (also accounting for the strength of teammates)...I'm surprised a version in baseball hasn't gained acceptance

k3vin k., Monday, 5 November 2018 16:50 (one year ago) link

FWIW Snell faced the Red Sox 4 times, Yankees 3. Indians and Astros twice.

Mad Piratical (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Monday, 5 November 2018 21:12 (one year ago) link

Blue Jays three times but whogivesafuck.

Mad Piratical (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Monday, 5 November 2018 21:12 (one year ago) link

Took another stab at this with the top 3.


Verlander and Kluber pitched more innings because they pitched more games, not because they went deeper into games--they only threw 14 innings between the three of them after the 7th inning. Verlander pitched the best, but you're looking at 4.2 innings. Hardly seems worth noting--just like everyone else, they're all seven-inning pitchers, more or less.

In those first seven innings...

1) Snell had the best ERA+ by a good margin
2) Verlander had the best WHIP by a good margin
3) Verlander's K/BB ratio was a little better than Kluber's and a lot better than Snell's
4) Verlander and Kluber threw an extra 30 innings each

Elsewhere, Snell led the league in ERA, ERA+, and H/9. (And wins.)
Verlander led the league in combined WAR (BR/Fangraphs), WHIP, strikeouts, and K/BB.
Kluber led the league in BB/9.

Verlander and Kluber threw one shutout each, Snell had none.

I guess it comes down to Snell's ERA+ vs. Verlander's K/BB, and how much credit you give to Verlander for the extra 30 innings (again, a function of pitching more often, not pitching deeper into games).

So I still have no idea. It's a coin toss. Either one is fine.

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 01:39 (one year ago) link

The point above about strength-of-opposition seems worth looking into in a close contest.

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 01:48 (one year ago) link

it looks like baseball prospectus has some useful quality of competition stats for pitchers. it's not easily linkable, but here's a summary:


opposing AVG: .253
opposing OBP: .320
opposing SLG: .423
oppOPS: .743
oppTAv: .265
oppRPA+: 104
PPF: 100
PVORP: 38.4


opposing AVG: .223
opposing OBP: .257
opposing SLG: .367
oppOPS: .730
oppTAv: .262
oppRPA+: 101
PPF: 104
PVORP: 38.1


opposing AVG: .247
opposing OBP: .318
opposing SLG: .421
oppOPS: .739
oppTAv: .263
oppRPA+: 103
PPF: 96
PVORP: 57.8

oppTAv is opponent's True Average, a measure of total offensive value scaled to batting average. Adjustments are made for park and league quality, as such the league-average mark is constant at .260.
oppRPA+ is the opponent's player's runs per plate appearance, relative to the league average - 100 means average, 120 is 20% better than average, etc.
PPF is Pitching Park Factor. 100 is average, above 100 is a higher run scoring environment, below 100 is a lower run scoring environment.
PVORP is Value Over Replacement Player as a pitcher

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 November 2018 02:12 (one year ago) link

yaaaarg, i got kluber's stats totally wrong. here's the corrected version:

opposing AVG: .250
opposing OBP: .316
opposing SLG: .413
oppOPS: .730
oppTAv: .262
oppRPA+: 101
PPF: 104
PVORP: 38.1

there. that makes a lot more sense.

Karl Malone, Saturday, 10 November 2018 02:16 (one year ago) link


Andy K, Saturday, 10 November 2018 03:14 (one year ago) link

Verlander allowed fewer baserunners (8.45/9, including HBP; Snell allowed 8.82) and struck out more batters (12.2/9 vs. 11.0/9), yet Snell's ERA was 0.63 lower. Possible explanations:

Home runs: Verlander did give up more (1.2/9 vs. 0.8/9--12 more HR in ~35 innings)
How many inherited runners scored: I don't think Baseball Reference has this data...does someone keep track of it?
Sheer luck?

The quality-of-competition data looks fairly even to me: Snell (.253/.320/.423), Verlander (.247/.318/.421). Snell's opposition was a little better, but a few percentage points over a couple of hundred innings can't mean that much, can it?

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 15:03 (one year ago) link

One obvious explanation: many more GIDP for Snell (Snell had a 15-3 advantage in ~35 fewer innings). Sabermetrics gives credit to the defense there, right, not the pitcher?

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 15:10 (one year ago) link

So 1) Verlander was better at not allowing baserunners, and 2) he struck out more batters, but when people were on base, Verlander 3) gave up quite a few more home runs, and 4) Snell (or his team) started a lot more double plays. I don't know what the prevailing wisdom is, but I wouldn't be that confident in saying Snell was just a lucky bystander in all those double plays. He definitely wasn't a lucky bystander in not giving up the extra 12 home runs.

I know that's a reductive version of a whole bunch of factors, but based on that reading of why Snell was better at run prevention, I'd have to go with Snell. (At which point, you circle back to the extra 35 innings Verlander gave his team...)

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 15:21 (one year ago) link

"Bequeathed Runners Scored"--I'd like to see this data before I cast my vote. If that were to show that Snell clearly got a lot more help from his bullpen in cleaning up what he'd left behind, I'd consider voting for Verlander. If not, I'll go with what I wrote in the previous post and vote for Snell.

clemenza, Saturday, 10 November 2018 16:43 (one year ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Monday, 12 November 2018 00:01 (one year ago) link

I bequeathed my vote to Snell. Murky, but I think he was the best (with the possible exception of Sale).

clemenza, Monday, 12 November 2018 00:35 (one year ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Tuesday, 13 November 2018 00:01 (one year ago) link


Anyways - right guy won!

Mad Piratical (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Tuesday, 13 November 2018 04:32 (one year ago) link

I almost wonder if someone hit the wrong Blake button. Not that he didn't have a great season--more or less as good as Gagne's big year--but those days are gone forever, right?

The real vote may be just as close as this one.

clemenza, Tuesday, 13 November 2018 04:50 (one year ago) link

If you were to go by this piece (different writers, mind you), I'd look for Verlander to win today.


clemenza, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:30 (one year ago) link

wow, Blake Snell won! honestly didn't expect that. barely beat Verlander (169 to 154). Kluber in 3rd with 71.

Karl Malone, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 23:53 (one year ago) link


Karl Malone, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 23:53 (one year ago) link

i was expecting Verlander to win too; but am pleasantly surprised ol' Snelly Cat got the votes!

Mad Piratical (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Thursday, 15 November 2018 00:01 (one year ago) link

i guess he's the first cy young winner with less than 198 innings pitched, too

Karl Malone, Thursday, 15 November 2018 00:06 (one year ago) link

first in a non-strike season, at least

Karl Malone, Thursday, 15 November 2018 00:06 (one year ago) link

The actual vote is basically identical to ours proportionally.

Do the same writers vote for each league? I hope so--it will spare us whining about how Snell won because of his wins.

clemenza, Thursday, 15 November 2018 00:07 (one year ago) link

Congratulations, Ian Snell.

Andy K, Thursday, 15 November 2018 03:06 (one year ago) link

the votes rotate, and no writer votes for more than one award per year

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 15 November 2018 12:22 (one year ago) link

I didn't think it was the same voters...The two Cy votes seem fairly consistent to me, although with deGrom and Scherzer, you're looking at tiny margins. Scherzer and Verlander had more innings, better WHIPs (in those two categories, Scherzer and deGrom were essentially tied), and had the flashy strikeout seasons; deGrom and Snell had big ERA advantages and pitched for lesser teams.

clemenza, Thursday, 15 November 2018 12:47 (one year ago) link

Chris Sale is the only pitcher ever to finish in the top 5 in AL Cy Young Award voting in 6 consecutive seasons (2013-18). The only other pitchers to do that in either league are Greg Maddux (7), Clayton Kershaw (7), and Roy Halladay (6). Sale also finished 6th in 2012.

— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) November 15, 2018

mookieproof, Thursday, 15 November 2018 15:05 (one year ago) link

You can add Scherzer to that list too; 1st/5th/5th/1st/1st/2nd.

clemenza, Friday, 16 November 2018 05:10 (one year ago) link

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