2009 MLB Awards: Who Should Win

Dave MeiselContributor IOctober 14, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 17:  Starting pitcher Zack Greinke #23 of the Kansas City Royals pitches during the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 17, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

This is partially your typical awards piece, and partially an attempt to "set straight" the process by which the MVP and Cy Young awards are selected.

Lately, it seems that both the MVP and Cy Young awards have started to go to the pitchers who don't deserve it most. I'll tell you right here, first, who deserves them the most for 2009.


The uncontested NL MVP is Albert Pujols. Pujols, frankly, is the best player in baseballand is one of the five-best right handed hitters ever to play. I don't need to be telling you this, but Pujols best exemplifies what the MVP award should be. Take a look at the Cardinals' lineup without Pujols...now imagine if they didn't pick up Matt Holliday. Terrible, right?

Albert Pujols carried an entire lineup for half a season, and was picked up by his teammates and new acquisitions when he cooled off.


My AL MVP pick is Joe Mauer. When a team loses its best slugger in Justin Morneau, and heats up after that, the utmost credit must be given to its heart and soul. Joe Mauer was that and morehe is their catcherwhom has a huge effect on the pitching staff. He was the center of their lineup and practically the team. Take Mauer out of that lineup and you essentially have a bunch of seven, eight, and nine hitters. Jason  Michael Cuddyer had solid years, but saw pitches to hit just because they were behind Mauer and Morneau.

Without getting too far into sabermetric numbers, I'll give you one stat. Albert Pujols contributed 8.4 wins to his team this year, second in the majors. My AL MVP pick, Joe Mauer, was third with 8.2. The only guy who contributed more to his team's success was Ben Zobrist, and this was mostly a function of his fielding. He's not only versatile, but he's GREAT at playing any position in the field.

Simply put, the numbers say that Pujols and Mauer helped their team more than any other player (besides Zobrist) in the MAJORS, and this is proven with numbers.

The MVP SHOULD BE the player who is the most valuable to his team. It's not right to give it to the best player. That's why i think his team has to have some success for him to earn it; I think his success can also be reflected in the numbers of the players around him.

When we talk about the Cy Young, we're talking about the best pitcher in the league. Not the winningest pitcher, but the most dominant one. DOMINANCE, in my opinion, reflects who the Cy Young should be.

AL Cy Young

That's why I can't stand that C.C. Sabathia is in the Cy Young race. Sabathia, through the course of the year, simply was a very good innings eater. Sabathia was only ever REALLY good for a 10-start stretch in August and September where he allowed no more than three runs in each start and only allowed three runs twice, racking up 80 Ks over 71.1 innings.

Not to take anything from Sabathia, but there are guys who were this good over the entire season. To win the Cy Young, you usually have to dominate the whole year. There are two other guys in the AL who did a better job at this than CC.

These guys are Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez. I'm going to breeze over King Felix a bit, because while he was unbelievable, and would have won the Cy Young in almost any other year, he was a rocky beginning of the season (and about one poor start) worse than Greinke.

Greinke's numbers this year were simply obnoxious. His ERA in the first two months was 1.10, with four complete games and two shutouts (and another CG without an earned run). Grienke struck out six or more in all but seven starts. He racked up 242 strikeouts total in 229.1 innings, and came one bad inning from a sub-2.00 ERA.

It's funny, because Greinke, after seeming like a shoe-in for the Cy after May, started putting up numbers that just weren't as good as his start, and he fell out of the spotlight. His team started losing a ton of games, and screwed him out of multiple wins. Despite putting up an ERA of 2.21 in the second half (as opposed to a 2.12 first half ERA), Greinke only won six games in the second half.

His record was 16-8. All the pundits will tell you about "16 wins isn't enough" or it would be the least wins for a Cy Young pitcher in the modern era. Wins aren't a fair stat to pitchers. Often, you can pitch well enough to win, and lose, and just as often, you pitch poorly enough to lose, but you win. A pitcher contributes to his team's ability to win, but it's ultimately up to the 8 guys behind him to score the runs that actually DIRECTLY win you the game.

The point is, wins are an ambiguous stat. Often, they are a good indicator, but they are not a good indicator a significant amount of the time. My thought is that this is a significant enough effect to discredit wins as an indicating stat of dominance.

NL Cy Young

My NL Cy Young choice reflects my thoughts about this. It's not a St. Louis Cardinal. It's Tim Lincecum.

No one embodies dominance like Timmy. He racks up a TON of strikeouts. He's got three of the best pitches in the league. Want to know the scary thing? His command of the strike zone isn't even that great. This guy can get better. General stuff aside, his 2009 season was better than his Cy Young-winning 2008, and yet he probably won't win it.

Why? Wins...only a 15-7 record won't be good enough. He got terrible run support. He also only won ONE game where he gave up more than two runs. That's plain ridiculous. He had eight starts where he gave up less than two runs and either lost or got a no-decision. His also had fewer bad starts (giving up four-plus runs, by my definition) in 2009 than in 2008. 

Did Carpenter really pitch better than Lincecum? Before looking at stats, here's my first problem. The more starts a pitcher makes, the more starts he has where he will get hit hard. This means that it's harder to maintain a lower ERA as you make more starts, because each bad start has a relatively drastic impact on the ERA. Carpenter made four fewer starts than Lincecum (for a much better team) and won two more games. All but six starts were quality starts.

When you take a look at Carpenter's game logs, there is a lot less variation than in Lincecum's. He had fewer bad starts because he made fewer starts. But Lincecum had far and away more strikeouts (by over 100) in just four more starts.

I think Lincecum did do enough to beat Carpenter for the Cy Young. My point in this whole argument is that the way the voters evaluate players for the respective awards often doesn't do them the proper justice. I hope that public opinion can eventually show the flaws in things such as wins for pitchers, among many other things.


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