Voting for MLB’s major awards can be as much about voter behavior as player performance.
Now, as the postseason fades into the awards season, the Mets’ Jacob deGrom looms as a National League Cy Young candidate who might upend assumptions about voter behavior the same way the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez did in winning the American League Cy Young in 2010.
The Cy Young predictor, which first was presented by Bill James and Rob Neyer in their 2004 book ‘‘The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers,’’ is designed to model voter behavior. It does the job well, correctly spotting 13 of the 16 Cy Young winners since 2010.
But voters traditionally have liked flashy won-lost records, and deGrom — the NL leader with an 8.8 WAR on Fangraphs.com — was only 10-9. He ranks fifth in the Cy Young predictor, but his overall performance has him in the thick of award discussion.
There’s no question deGrom was dominant, leading the NL with a 1.70 ERA, well ahead of the Phillies’ Aaron Nola (2.37) and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (2.53). By park-adjusted ERA+, deGrom’s 216 means he was 216 percent as effective as an average pitcher, compared with runners-up Nola at 175 and Scherzer at 168.
But deGrom’s won-lost record pales by comparison to those of Scherzer (18-7), Nola (17-6), the Cubs’ Jon Lester (18-6), the Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas (18-4) and the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland (17-7), and his 144 points by the Cy Young predictor ranks him well behind Scherzer (180.6) and Nola (170.6).
Here’s the Cy Young predictor formula: ((5*IP/9) – ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + shutouts + ((W*6) – (L*2)) + VB. VB is a victory bonus, with 12 points awarded to pitchers on division-winning teams.
The Mets averaged only 3.5 runs per deGrom start, while the Nationals averaged 5.4 runs for Scherzer.
That leaves deGrom in much the same boat Hernandez occupied in 2010. Hernandez led AL qualifiers with a 2.27 ERA but was only 13-12 for the 91-loss Mariners. The Cy Young predictor showed him as the seventh-most likely AL pitcher to win the award.
If deGrom wins the Cy Young, it would be a break in past behavior by voters, but it would be one grounded in the notion that victories are dependent on offense and defense and that pitchers only can do their bit to prevent runs.
AL Cy Young: By the Cy Young predictor, the AL leader is the Rays’ Blake Snell (21-5, 1.89 ERA), who led the league in victories and, among qualifiers with at least 162 innings, ERA.
He’s followed by Athletics reliever Blake Treinen (9-2, 38 saves, 0.79 ERA) and the Indians’ Corey Kluber (20-7, 2.89 ERA). By fWAR, however, the leader is the Astros’ Justin Verlander (16-9. 2.52 ERA) at 6.8. Kluber is fifth at 5.6, Snell seventh at 4.6 and Treinen 10th at 3.6.
If Snell doesn’t win, it might be a rare year in which the Cy Young predictor misses in both leagues. That last happened in 2009, when Hernandez and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright led the predictor but the Royals’ Zack Greinke and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum won the awards.