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What is the Cy Young Award?

The Cy Young Award is awarded to the best pitcher in each league each year.  However, 'best' has two possible definitions: best results (Rally WAR) or most talent (FIP).  Some years it's not a factor, as the same guy leads both categories.  When 2 different pitchers lead a category, what mode of thinking have the voters tended to select?


Here are the NL Cy Young Award winners, along with 4 other categories.  A 'y' indicates the award winner leading that category.  FIP Leader is the lowest FIP amongst qualified starters, and the number in parentheses is the difference between the leader and the winner of the award.  Below 2nd is the margin between the FIP leader and the 2nd lowest FIP.  The same concept applies to the Rally side.

 

NL Winner        FIP Leader (Diff) Below 2nd Rally Leader (Diff) Above 2nd
2009 Lincecum y 0.43 y 0.3
2008 Lincecum y 0.39 y 0.5
2007 Peavy y 0.37 y 0.1
2006 Webb y 0.12 y (Arroyo) 0
2005 Carpenter Clemens (0.03) 0.02 Clemens (2.4) 0.8
2004 Clemens Johnson (0.81) 0.35 Johnson (2.2) 1.1
2003 Gagne Prior 0.17 Prior (1.9) 0.3
2002 Johnson Schilling (0.26) 0.26 y 2
2001 Johnson y 0.92 y 1.1
2000 Johnson y 0.64 y 1.1
1999 Johnson y 0.38 y 1.8
1998 Glavine Brown (1.27) 0.48 Brown (2.8) 1.9
1997 Martinez y 0.04 y 0.9
1996 Smoltz y 0.09 Brown (1.4) 1.2
1995 Maddux y 0.61 y 3.9
1994 Maddux y 0.37 y 2.6
1993 Maddux y 0.08 Rijo (2.4) 2.4
1992 Maddux y 0.12 y 2.4
1991 Glavine Cone (0.54) 0.01 y 1.9
1990 Drabek Gooden (0.84) 0.39 Whitson (2.3) 0.2
1989 Davis Hershiser 0.18 Hershiser (2.5) 0.3
1988 Hershiser Ojeda (0.82) 0.18 y 1.5
1987 Bedrosian Ryan 0.47 Hershiser (4.1) 0.1
1986 Scott y 0.62 y 1.7
1985 Gooden y 0.45 y 4.2
1984 Sutcliffe Gooden 0.92 Gooden (1.7) 0.2
1983 Denny Hammaker (0.30) 0.08 y 0.5
1982 Carlton y 0.01 Rogers (2.7) 1.3
1981 Valenzuela Gullickson (0.33) 0.17 y (Carlton) 0
1980 Carlton y 0.47 y 3.4
1979 Sutter Richard 0.9 Niekro (2.1) 0.7
1978 G. Perry Richard (0.12) 0.08 Niekro (4.4) 2.6
1977 Carlton Rogers (0.55) 0.02 Reuschel (2.9) 0.2
1976 Jones Seaver (0.70) 0.29 Montefusco (1.6) 0.3
1975 Seaver y 0.07 y (Jones) 0
1974 Marshall Matlack (0.17) 0.17 Matlack (5.5) 1.1
1973 Seaver y 3.3
1972 Carlton y 4.6
1971 Jenkins y (Seaver) 0
1970 Gibson y 0.6
1969 Seaver Gibson (3.4) 2
1968 Gibson y 4.4
1967 McCormick Bunning (3.4) 1.6

The FIP leader was chosen 18 of the 36 years and the Rally WAR leader was chosen 25 out of the 43 years.  If a pitcher led both categories, they won the award 15 of the 22 years, and the award winner led neither category 13 of the 36 years.  For the NL, the Rally WAR leader was chosen 58% to FIP's 50%.  The American League has the same trend.

AL Winner FIP Leader Below 2nd Rally Leader Above 2nd
2009 Greinke y 0.47 y 2.2
2008 Lee y 0.2 y 0.8
2007 Sabathia Beckett (0.06) 0.06 y 0.2
2006 Santana y 0.25 y 1.6
2005 Colon Santana (0.95) 0.3 Santana (1.9) 0.8
2004 Santana y 0.19 y 1
2003 Halladay Martinez (1.02) 0.84 y 0.1
2002 Zito Martinez (1.63) 0.73 Halladay (0.4) 0.3
2001 Clemens Mussina (0.37) 0.1 Mussina (1.1) 0.6
2000 Martinez y 1.33 y 4.5
1999 Martinez y 1.86 y 2.6
1998 Clemens y 0.75 y 0.6
1997 Clemens y 0.57 y 2.6
1996 Hentgen Appier (0.55) 0.04 y 0.7
1995 Johnson y 1.4 y 1.6
1994 Cone Johnson (0.62) 0.19 y 0.2
1993 McDowell Appier (0.71) 0.15 Appier (4.3) 0.4
1992 Eckersley Clemens 0.06 Clemens (4.9) 0.3
1991 Clemens y 0.18 y 0.5
1990 Welch Clemens (2.01) 0.56 Clemens (7.0) 2
1989 Saberhagen y 0.06 y 2.8
1988 Viola Clemens (0.78) 0.63 Gubicza (0.3) 0.3
1987 Clemens y 0.34 y 0.8
1986 Clemens y 0.3 Higuera (0.5) 0.5
1985 Saberhagen y 0.27 y 0.2
1984 Hernandez M. Witt 0.09 Stieb (2.9) 1.5
1983 Hoyt Righetti (0.46) 0.25 Stieb (2.7) 1.1
1982 Vuckovich Koosman (0.96) 0.11 Stieb (4.1) 1.6
1981 Fingers Barker 0.37 Blyleven (0.8) 0.7
1980 Stone May (1.05) 0.16 Burns (2.9) 0.9
1979 Flanagan Guidry (0.22) 0.07 Eckersley (3.2) 0.3
1978 Guidry y 0.52 y 1
1977 Lyle Guidry 0.03 Ryan (4.7) 0.4
1976 Palmer Blue (0.76) 0.15 Fidrych (2.1) 0.8
1975 Palmer Tanana (0.47) 0.47 Tanana (0.2) 0.2
1974 Hunter Blyleven (0.80) 0.39 G. Perry (1.8) 0.6
1973 Palmer Blyleven (3.1) 1.3
1972 G. Perry y 0.8
1971 Blue Wood (1.9) 1.9
1970 J. Perry McDowell (4.4) 1.8
1969 Cuellar/McLain McLain (3.2) 1.2
1968 McLain Tiant (1.3) 1.3
1967 Lonborg Merritt (1.7) 0.5


Winners:  FIP 15/36 (42%),  Rally 19/43 (44%),  Both 14/20, Neither 17/36
Here are the ML winners.  Fangraphs only has pitching leaderboards back to 1974, so that is why the FIP section stops then.

ML Winner Rally Leader (Diff) Above 2nd
1966 Koufax y 1.8
1965 Koufax Marichal (1.0) 0.9
1964 Chance y 0.7
1963 Koufax y 0.5
1962 Drysdale Farrell (1.7) 0.2
1961 Ford Cardwell (2.1) 0.1
1960 Law Drysdale (2.5) 0.4
1959 Wynn Wilhelm (4.7) 0.1
1958 Turley Jones (3.2) 0.2
1957 Spahn Sullivan (1.4) 0.2
1956 Newcombe Wynn (4.1) 0.6

 

It's fun to see how bad some of the picks were: McDowell in '93, Welch in '90 (27 wins, I know), any reliever...   We can also see how dominant Randy, Roger, and Pedro were.  We see forgotten pitchers to many, such as Dave Stieb and Kevin Appier.  Also, how long ago would Blyleven have been elected to the HOF if he had won a couple of the awards he probably deserved? 


This confirms what I thought to begin with: fewer runs allowed is more important to the voters than true talent.  As much as I love FIP, I think the results, lucky or not, should be the more important part of the voting process.    

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