Every season in the MLB, a pitching award is given to the best pitcher from each league. This honor comes in the form of the Cy Young Award, named after the all-time leader in wins.
Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will analyze a group of pitchers who have performed at the highest level most of the year. One pitcher from the National and American Leagues win the award.
In 2008, the awards were taken home by Tim Lincecum of San Francisco Giants and Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians.
I was thrilled to see Lincecum come away with the prize and it was well deserved. He out-dueled 22-game winner Brandon Webb, brief N.L. starter C.C. Sabathia (then with Milwaukee), and Brad Lidge who was perfect in 40 save opportunities.
Lee was a surprise 22-game winner himself in the A.L. He bounced back tremendously from a year that saw him spend most of 2007 in the minors. His claim of the 2008 Cy Young was more of a runaway than Lincecum’s.
Lincecum’s win total was five less than Webb’s at 18, but he only lost five times. Timmy led the league in strikeouts and posted a better ERA than the other candidates.
So what exactly determines why one pitcher deserves it over another?
Here are five points to look at when deciding the Cy Young winner for either league:
Wins aside, check the number of losses a pitcher totals to see where they really stand. A pitcher who wins 15 games and loses 12 isn’t as impressive as one who finishes 13-5. It goes to show that the pitcher with less losses factored in more no decisions rather than straight losing a game.
A pitcher’s ERA or earned run average is one of the most important statistics in pitching. It informs you how many runs scored on average against a pitcher are earned. A.L. pitchers’ ERA will usually be higher than N.L. due to the designated hitter rather than hitting pitchers. Keep an eye on any starting pitcher with an ERA under three.
Walk + Hits/Innings Pitched. That’s the equation. This is a stat that should never be overlooked. It exemplifies how talented and controlled a pitcher is. A pitcher whose WHIP hovers around one displays excellent command and low BAA (batting average against).
4. Team Impact
How does the player impact the team? What’s the team’s record? Does the player get teammates fired up? Do batters seem to have an extra step when their pitcher takes the mound? How much does the team’s rank in the standings matter? These are the intangibles. I personally am more impressed by a pitcher who posts a 18-5 record on a losing team than on a winner. Run support is almost essential in winning for pitchers unless they’re expected to throw near flawless games each time out.
5. Stand Out Stat or Story
Find or see something about the player that shoots his status pass the rest. Last season Lincecum led the league with 265 strikeouts in just his second full season. People generally fell in love with the young 24-year-old stud at the time.
As we mentioned for Lee, he was pretty much the comeback player of the year. His story of majors to minors and back to the majors to elite status was news. Not many pitchers win 20 games in a season; Lee had 22 wins and did it in dominating fashion.