The Cy Young Award in the American League is more than likely going to go to Cliff Lee, and deservedly so. After all, he leads all starters in WPA/LI, has the highest K/BB in baseball, the lowest WHIP, the most innings, the most complete games, ranks third in strikeouts… oh wait, that’s Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays. Throughout this entire season we have watched in shock, disbelief, and awe as Cliff Lee put together one tremendous season. His season, however, is not that much better than Roy Halladay’s, and many fans could make very good cases that Halladay has had the better year.
On the season, which happens to be the best full season of Doc’s career, Roy has a 5.06 WPA/LI (5.19 when you count his one relief appearance), a 5.60 K/BB ratio, a 1.06 WHIP, 2.79 ERA, and a 2.98 FIP. By all accounts, his is one of the best season’s over the last eight or nine years, but it is very likely it will not be recognized as such when the baseball writer’s vote. Now, I’m never one to cry over “injustices” especially when these athletes are making more money than my entire street combined, but in a year when K-Rod broke the saves record and Cliff Lee came out of nowhere to post ridiculous numbers, Halladay will be lucky to even receive some first or second place votes.
If you look past the rates, his numbers get even better, as his 228.2 IP lead all AL starters, as do his 8 complete games. His 196 strikeouts ranks third in the junior circuit. W-L record, as we know, is a terrible evaluative barometer, but it is extremely hard for many to look at a record like Lee’s 22-2 and think that someone who went 18-11 was more effective. Run support could help explain this, though; Lee has the fourth highest at 6.16 RS/9 while Halladay’s is twelfth lowest at 4.57 RS/9. If Halladay had anywhere near the run support of Lee, and his record was more like 23-5 or 21-7, don’t you think more people would be discussing him as a legitimate contender?
This just magnifies the problems with W-L record, not just in the mainstream but even in the world of analysis, because whether realized or not, it is very, very difficult to block the W-L out of our minds. Moving forward, Halladay is much more likely to repeat, or come close to repeating, this year’s performance. Even though both have very sustainable BABIP’s hovering around the .300 mark, Lee’s LOB% is close to 80%, which might be sustainable for Randy Johnson 2001-03 or Pedro 1999-00, but probably not the Cliffmeister. Additionally, his HR/FB is an unsustainably low 4.9%. Halladay’s numbers in these areas are very close to the league average.
Aspects like moving forward or which pitcher is “more real” are not taken into account in a Cy Young Award race, and Lee will very likely win the award based on his performance and how good of a story it is, but make no mistake, Roy Halladay is putting the finishing touches on his best year, a masterpiece of a season, one just as good, if not better than Lee’s, and he deserves all the accolades that may or may not come his way.