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2010 AL Cy Young Award: C.C. Sabathia On Track For His Second Cy Young

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst ISeptember 2, 2010

2010 AL Cy Young Award: C.C. Sabathia On Track For His Second Cy Young

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    It may be all over except for the crying.

    With eight innings of one-hit ball on Thursday afternoon against the Oakland Athletics, C.C. Sabathia has become the front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, and he may have even clinched it.

    Why?

    Well, I'll tell ya.  C.C. Sabathia will be the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner because . . . 

Clay Buchholz Doesn't Have The Strikeouts Or The Innings

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, is currently 15-5 with a league-leading 2.21 ERA (198 ERA+). He is probably a better pitcher than Sabathia this season, but do these numbers stand up?

    He has six fewer starts than C.C., and won't start 30 games this season. In theory, if he has five starts left and wins all of them, he will have 20 wins, but to what end?

    Buchholz has only struck out 101 batters in 146.2 innings pitched; as paltry as Sabathia's 165 strikeouts is, 101 strikeouts is very low for a Cy Young candidate. He has also walked 55 batters, which means his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 1.84; only C.J. Wilson's ratio is worse amongst the top 25 AL starters.

    If Buccholz ends up with under 190 innings pitched and under 130 strikeouts, his ERA would to be under 2.00 to win him the Cy Young Award.

Francisco Liriano Hasn't Gone Enough

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    He is the ace of the Minnesota Twins, probably a better pitcher than Sabathia, and close to regaining his pre-Tommy John surgery form. He has more strikeouts than Sabathia in about 40 fewer innings, and has allowed only three home runs.

    Of course, those 40 innings are the sticking point. So far Liriano has fewer wins and a worse ERA in 40 fewer innings and three fewer starts.

All Jon Lester Has Is Strikeouts

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Jon Lester leads Sabathia in strikeouts by a margin of 186 to 165, despite the fact that Sabathia has about 30 more innings pitched. He's also got fewer home runs allowed, and fewer hits per nine innings.

    But Lester is 15-8 with a 3.27 ERA, while Sabathia is 19-5 with a 3.02 ERA.  That's two Triple Crown categories.

    You can't beat a guy who leads you in two of the three Triple Crown categories. 

Trevor Cahill Is a Product Of The Team Around Him

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Trevor Cahill has a 2.82 ERA, which before getting lit up on August 30th was a 2.43.

    Cahill's success, though, is completely built upon playing for the Oakland A's, i.e., built upon the players around him.

    The numbers he can control–his walks, his strikeouts, and his home runs–are terrible, while the numbers he relies upon his defense for–his hits, his ERA–are pretty good.

    His "FIP", which is the ERA adjusted for statistics that he controls, is amongst the worst in the American League, amongst qualifying pitchers.

David Price Has Returned to Earth

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Until recently, just about the only advantage Sabathia had over the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price was wins. Price had the better ERA, more strikeouts, and fewer hits allowed per nine innings?

    And now? Well, after a merely solid August (1-1, 3.48 ERA, 37 K's), Price and Sabathia look awfully similar. Sabathia has pulled ahead in strikeouts, is almost even in ERA (3.02 after today vs. 2.93) and virtually identical in hits allowed per nine.

    The only areas in which they aren't neck-and-neck, now, are wins (19 vs. 16) and innings pitched (202.2 vs. 172.2).

    Sabathia is, frankly, the better candidate.

Jered Weaver Doesn't Have The Wins

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Like Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver is a better pitcher than C.C. Sabathia.

    Weaver leads Sabathia in strikeouts, hits allowed per nine innings, strikeout-to-walk ratio, WHIP, and some other categories.

    But Weaver is only 11-10.

    There is no way a guy with less than 15 wins tops a guy with 20 wins.

Cliff Lee Went To The Rangers

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When Cliff Lee was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA, five complete games and a shutout, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14.83 after 13 starts, I was relatively convinced he was going to win the AL Cy Young.

    Since that time, he has been traded to the Texas Rangers, where pitchers go to die, and gone 2-5 with a 4.69 ERA and 10 home runs allowed in 11 starts.

    Ouch.

Felix Hernandez Plays For a Bad Team

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    Never let anyone tell you that the Cy Young Award is given to the best pitcher in each league. It is not.

    If it were, then the AL Cy Young Award in 2010 would be going to Felix Hernandez. With one of the worst teams in all of baseball behind him, all he has done in 2010 is lead the American League in games started, innings pitched, batters faced, and strikeouts.

    He is second in the AL behind Clay Buchholz in ERA and ERA+, which adjusts a pitcher's ERA for his ballpark, and he is second in the AL behind Francisco Liriano in FIP, which adjusts a pitcher's ERA for the factors he can't control.

    And yet, at 10-10, he has absolutely no chance of winning the AL Cy Young Award.

And C.C. Sabathia Has The Numbers

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    At 19-5, C.C. Sabathia now has three more wins than any other American League pitcher, and like it or not, the Cy Young Award is still very much about wins.

    Never mind the fact that he plays for the best team in baseball; wins are wins.

    C.C. has also now pitched over 200 innings. Cy Young Award voters love the work-horses, and only Felix Hernandez (again, absolutely no shot) has more innings than Sabathia.

    And after today, Sabathia now has 165 strikeouts. That won't win any power-pitcher competitions, but it does make him–even if only temporarily–the seventh ranked strikeout pitcher in the American League.

    It all comes together nicely.

    At the end of the day, the best pitcher in the AL isn't going to win the Cy Young Award in 2010, but the voters could do a lot worse than C.C. Sabathia.

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