Yesterday I decided to begin reading a few more of the essays in The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (I would highly recommend any book by either to anyone who even mildly likes baseball) so after I got through the Bob Friend and injury pieces I ran across one entitle "E=M CY Squared." (Page 467) Amazingly the piece is quite timely since one of the hot topics right now is the Cy Young races, and in this article, by Bill James, he created a formula that is about 80% accurate in predicting the Cy Young winners and does a nice job picking the top three overall.
Naturally I decided this could be worth replicating on site. If nothing else we have an 80% chance at nailing them. To begin here's the formula, per James:
Wins multiplied by six, then minus losses times two, then add strikeouts divided by 12, then add saves times 2.5, then add shutouts, then add runs saved versus a pitcher with a 5 ERA, then add 12 points for a first place team.
For runs saved I took the ERA, divided it by nine, then times it by the innings that pitcher pitched. I am assuming this is correct and there is no pre-set measure on innings for the 5.00 ERA pitcher. As for my sample group I simply went to THT and took the pitchers with 10 or more wins from each of the leagues (with one very special exception). Since simply giving the top three isn't fun I will provide the top five and then post the entire list at the conclusion of this article.
First up, due to alphabetical order and such, the American League.
This probably is not too much of a surprise. Lee runs away with the award due to his wins and runs saved. Lee is having an incredible season in every regard. Even if most of his success has come against weaker foes I’m not sure you can discredit his victory. After all Lee’s tRA is almost a half run better than Halladay; 2.86 to 3.35. What’s amazing is that Lee was offered this past off-season for Delmon Young yet the Rays passed. There’s no guarantee he repeats this performance on any other team but talk about a diversity in seasons between those two.
The first place team bump puts Matsuzaka far too close to Halladay despite Halladay being the supreme pitcher in every regard except losses. That is perhaps the trickiest part about this. James knows and takes into account the mainstream voter’s mindset. The award is not truly about who is the best pitcher, otherwise win-loss records would obviously be the first thing discarded. To the voters Matsuzaka is a good pitcher, but to the more informed, he is okay, but not even a top 20 American League starter.
Onto the National League…
As is the case in the A.L. neither league has a pitcher on a first place team in the top two spots. Lincecum is incredible however that shutout was not the cake but rather the sprinkles. His strikeout numbers are beyond amazing and on an awful team, going 17-3 is quite the accomplishment.
Then there is Brandon Webb. His team has a legitimate shot at the playoffs which would help his case, yet even if the Diamondbacks were in first he would need to make up four points on Lincecum somehow. Perhaps winning out with Lincecum losing out and not striking anyone out would help. Of course relying on Lincecum to fail all but seals Webb as the runner up this year, but I hear Bruce Bochy wants to ensure that this will not be a problem in the future.
Now, Sabathia. With his N.L stats Sabathia finished with 102 points, blame only nine wins – despite the limited playing time – for that. I had a bit of a debate with someone when discussing whether I should include his Indians stats as well and we were split. He argued that voters should only talk about what he did in the N.L. due to the league specific award, I argue that you simply cannot ignore half of his season. Since I am the one writing this I included them. Whether the writers will or will not consider his Indians half is irrelevant to me.
The rest: American League
The rest: National League
The Hardball Times stats database
The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (buy it!) page 467.