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Thursday, November 10, 2005

If I Were a Carpenter...and You Were a Rocket

Results from the NL's Cy Young voting have been announced, and the sportswriters responsible for the results have, as they so often do, covered themselves in dog shit.

Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals won the trophy. He is a very good pitcher. He finished 21-5 this season with an ERA of 2.87 for the division-winning Redbirds. Marlins lefty Dontrelle Willis, who finished second in the voting, had a better year than Carpenter, but the voters didn't see fit to reward him.

Pardon my presumption, but the only real option for the award was Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros, who turned 43 in August 2005 while enjoying one of the best years ever for a pitcher.

He finished third, with two of the 32 possible first-place votes.

Here's a little table to ponder.

Pitcher Starts Innings W-L K's Walks ERA
Carpenter 33 242 21-5 213 51 2.83
Willis 34 236 22-10 170 55 2.63
Clemens 32 211 13-7 185 62 1.87

Taken alone, those statistics might not seem overwhelmingly supportive of Clemens, although that little difference of ONE ENTIRE RUN in ERA convinces me.

The Rocket had fewer raw strikeouts than Carpenter, but he fanned .876 men per inning, while Carpenter struck out .88, an infinitessemal difference.

And let's look closer. Clemens pitched in Minute Maid Park, a hitter's park with generous home run dimensions. His home ERA? 2.33, lower than Carpenter's or Willis' TOTAL ERA. And on the road, in 15 starts, Clemens' ERA was 1.32. I mean, that's ridiculous.

Willis pitches his home games in cavernous Dolphins Stadium (although in 2005, unlike in 2003-04, Willis was more effective on the road), while Carpenter's park is fairly neutral.

So what does Carpenter have? It can't just be the 21 wins; Willis won 22. Is is it the division title? How could you argue that Carpenter's year meant a division title to St. Louis and that Willis' didn't mean as much just because the rest of his team didn't win? And what about the Astros? They made the playoffs, too, and certainly had better pitching than the Cardinals.

Maybe the voters thought that since Clemens won the Cy Young award in 2004, giving him seven such trophies, that it was someone else's turn. Anyone who thinks that way is obviously too demented to be given the responsibility of a vote.

Much was made of Carpenter's string of 17 consecutive starts (from 6/14 through 9/13) in which his team won. Sportswriters love that kind of stuff, you know; it means Carpenter is a "winner" and a "gamer" and all that. But it's an incredibly deceptive bit of sophistry.

In his "unbeatable" stretch, Carpenter pitched 138.1 innings with a 1.56 ERA. That's simply outstanding. But in April, he was 4-1 despite a 4.01 ERA--because of the Cardinals' fanstastic offense. In May, he was 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA. And immediately following his big 17-game stretch, Carpenter allowed four, NINE, and five runs in his final three starts.

Sure, Carpenter had a great 17-game stretch. But that alone doesn't make a season. Neifi Perez hit .368 in April; should he get an MVP vote?

During 2005, Clemens gave up 5 earned runs in two starts, 4 earned runs two times, and 3 earned runs once. In his other 28 starts, it was either 0, 1, or 2 runs.

Roger Clemens was so easily the best starting pitcher in the league that it's not even funny. Add Clemens' 11 unearned runs to his ERA and it's 2.34--still far lower than either Carpenter or Willis' marks.

And we haven't even talked about team support. Carpenter won 21 games with the best offense in the league behind him. Clemens, on the other hand, had the Astros. The Rocket had ten no-decisions in 2005, pitching five innings in one, six in another, eight in another, and seven innings in the rest, for total of 68 innings. And what did he do in those 68 innings?

He allowed SIX earned runs. That's an 0.79 ERA, my friends, in ten games for which the Astros couldn't even bother to score enough runs to get him a win. Rather than being rewarded for his great pitching, Clemens is punished by the voters because the Astros had a crappy offense.

One might think that people who watch baseball every day would eventually realize that pitchers have less control of "victories" than any other statistic, but this concept doesn't seem to have penentrated many skulls in the front rows of the various press boxes around baseball.

I'd love to see a breakdown of the voting by writers (two writers covering each NL club are eligible) so that I could send notes of support to the two who were actually paying attention.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bob Purse said...

Can't disagree with your logic on this, so it's probably a good thing that I don't get to vote. I'd consistently disqualify anyone pitching for Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego or Atlanta 'cause those are the teams I can't stand. Tough luck, you guys.

But I don't get to vote. The above is just one of many, many reasons.

Maybe they just thought it was time to give Carpenter the award, based on his recent dominance - not just this year. And almost all of the awards seem to have been reserved for division winners, in recent years, haven't they?

But no one from Houston (or the team) should ever win anything.

4:45 PM, November 11, 2005

 
Blogger Larry Epke said...

"I'd love to see a breakdown of the voting by writers (two writers covering each NL club are eligible) so that I could send notes of support to the two who were actually paying attention."

Yes, but it would not be unreasonable to presume they're the Houston writers, pumping up their own guy. Maybe not, but if it were them, would they get kudos for being right, even if it's for the "wrong" reason?

2:09 PM, November 14, 2005

 
Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Larry, good question. If the two first-place votes were from Houston, you'd certainly have to question their motives. But I still think that whoever the two are, they were right.

2:51 PM, November 14, 2005

 

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