King Felix Won’t Be Alone: Five Should Be Cy Young Winners Since 1980
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Even casual baseball fans will agree: Felix Hernandez has been the best pitcher in the American League this year. But because of long held biases emphasizing the importance of a pitcher’s record, he’s unlikely to take home any awards this year. Here are five other pitchers that have pitched well but missed out on the Cy Young.
2002: Pedro Martinez Loses out to Barry Zito’s 23-5 Campaign
Pedro was everyone's daddy in 2002.
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In the late '90s and early 2000s, Pedro Martinez was absolutely dominant. In 2000, he pitched perhaps the greatest season in baseball history—allowing less than one batter to reach base per inning (less than three-quarters of a batter, in fact!). In 2002, after an injury plagued 2001 season, Martinez was spectacular, leading the league in strikeouts and ERA despite pitching under 200 innings. He again allowed less than one base runner per inning and even managed a stellar 20-4 record, but he lost to Barry Zito.
1999: Kevin Brown Dominates; Loses to Tom Glavine
Kevin Brown, pre-wall
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Alleged wall-puncher Kevin Brown bested Tom Glavine by 100 strikeouts, allowed fewer walks, and even had a lower ERA. than 1999’s National League Cy Young winner. He even pitched an impressive 257 innings that season. But he managed two less wins than Glavine’s 20 and missed out on the Cy Young.
1990: Roger Clemens Goes 21-6, 1.93 ERA, but Is Beaten by Bob Welsh
Roger Clemens was denied hardware in his best season
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In what may have been his best Boston (read: pre steroid) years, the "Rocket" led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio and had an ERA under two—a feat he would only repeat once. Unlike some of the other candidates on this list, Clemens managed a very respectable 21-6 record on a decent Boston team. Welch, on the other hand, had an ERA more than a run higher, fewer strikeouts, and more walks than Clemens, with only ten more innings pitched (Clemens only managed 30 starts that year). But Welch garnered an impressive 27-6 record and took home the award.
1987: Nolan Ryan Leads League in ERA and K's, but Comes in Fifth
The Ryan Express was derailed in 1987
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Over his 27-year career, Ryan threw seven no hitters—easily the most in history. He holds the record (and it’s not even close) for most strikeouts in a career with 5,714. Somehow, despite being a dominant pitcher, Ryan managed to never take home pitching’s ultimate honor: the Cy Young. In 1987, Ryan was again sawing through bats (at age 40 no less!), leading the league with 270 strikeouts. He commanded the strike zone well, dishing out 3.10 K’s before issuing a walk. He even lead the league with a 2.76 ERA. Yet, playing on a poor Houston Astros team, Ryan only managed an 8-16 record, coming in fifth in the voting and losing to a reliever with a higher ERA.
1984: Doc Gooden Loses to Rick Sutcliffe
The Doc was dealing in his first major league season
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Dwight Gooden’s rookie campaign was spectacular and a harbinger of greatness to come in his 1985 Cy Young campaign. In his 1984 season, Gooden was dominant: he lead the league in strikeouts, base runners per inning, and hits per nine innings. But what makes his 1984 snubbing egregious? He bested winner Rick Sutcliffe in wins, ERA, innings, strikeouts, and base runners per inning but still took second place in the voting.