Before the Cubs even started their postseason run to the World Series championship, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voted on its major awards. That includes the Cy Young Award, which is given to the top pitcher in each league.
The BBWAA announced the three finalists in each league Monday. The Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester are vying with the Nationals’ Max Scherzer in the National League, and the Red Sox’ Rick Porcello, the Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander are the big three in the American League.
The NL race to succeed 2015 winner Jake Arrieta of the Cubs is difficult to gauge. How much weight will voters give Hendricks’ league-leading 2.13 ERA? Will they turn to wins and losses and prefer Lester’s 19-6 with an NL runner-up 2.44 ERA to Hendricks’ 16-8 record? What about Scherzer, the NL’s only 20-game winner at 20-7 but with a 2.96 ERA?
In the AL, Porcello (22-4, 3.15 ERA) would seem to have a leg up on Kluber (18-9, 3.14) and Verlander (16-9, 3.04). But when Kluber won the award in 2014, some voters cited fielding-independent pitching as a factor. This season, Kluber led the AL with a 3.26 FIP to Porcello’s 3.40.
Which factors are given the greatest weight is up to each voter, but there is a formula to predict voter behavior. Bill James and Rob Neyer, who now works for ESPN.com, devised the Cy Young Predictor and published it in ‘‘The Neyer/James Guide to Pitching.’’ You can find the predictor online at http://www.espn.com/mlb/features/cyyoung.
Wins, losses, innings pitched, earned runs, shutouts and strikeouts are taken into account. So are saves, which might have been a factor this year had voters turned to the Dodgers’ Kenley Jansen for a Cy of relief.
The complete formula: Cy Young points = ((5*IP/9) – ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + shutouts + ((W*6) – (L*2)) + VB. VB is a victory bonus, 12 points awarded to pitchers on division-winning teams.
By that formula, Scherzer emerges as the most likely NL Cy Young winner with 193.5 points in a tight race with Lester at 190. Hendricks is at 167.7, sixth in the league. Arrieta, who isn’t a finalist this time around, is eighth at 162.5.
In the AL, Porcello is an easy leader with 197.6 points. Kluber is a distant second with 167.4. At 148.7, Verlander is third among the finalists and fifth in the AL overall.
Last year, the formula correctly predicted Arrieta as the NL honoree but had the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel second to David Price in the AL. It correctly predicted both winners the previous four years. Before Keuchel, the last winner it missed was the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez in 2010, when his 2.27 ERA impressed voters despite a 13-12 record on a weak team.
If newer metrics gain enough foothold to strongly influence results, the formula might have to be adjusted. For now, though, the Cy Young Predictor has a strong track record, and it points toward Scherzer and Porcello as the
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