NL Cy Young: Statistics Aren't Facts; They're Opinionated

Gabe SimondsContributor INovember 21, 2009

I lied in the headline.  Statistics are in fact, well, a fact.  But my point is that the way people use stats are opinionated.  I'll use the hotly debated Cy Young award as an example.

Here's a statement that is false:  "Stats are stats.  Lincecum's stats are just better. It's a fact."

Why is that false?  Well, the three pitchers are three different types of players.  Lincecum is dominant, Wainwright is a workhorse and Carpenter is just efficient. 

Certain stats support all of this.  Saber metrics favor Lincecum, E.R.A. Carpenter, and Wins/IP Wainwright.  Personally I'm not a fan of saber metrics.  When saber metrics get you to vote Javier Vazquez over Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, something is wrong.

Since I'm going down that road, I'll use Keith Law as an example.  To support his claim, he used THREE stats to support why Javier Vazquez was better: FIP, WAR, and VORP.  That's his opinion.  In his opinion, those are the three most important stats.  Just because Vazquez led does not make him the better pitcher.  It's not a fact.

They should define how to select Cy Young winners.  Does it mean most dominant, most efficient, or greatest impact?  I think the 2009 race showed the answer to be most dominant. 

People will endlessly argue that Lincecum also had the greatest impact on his team.  But I find 15 wins, bad offense or good, to disprove that statement.

So next time you want to say, "Stats are stats. And (insert name) is just plain better.  It's a fact," don't say it.

There is a couple of exceptions.  Albert Pujols in MLB, Tom Brady in NFL, Alex Ovechkin in NHL and (used to be) Shaquille O'Neal in NBA.  But those are rare and notably all sure-fire Hall of Famers (except Ovechkin right now).

Unless a player thoroughly outplays the rest of the field in almost every statistic (some would argue Lincecum did), it's not fact.  The person is just basing it on his favorite stat.