Whether a pitcher wins a Cy Young award as part of an otherwise pedestrian career or because baseball writers are more fascinated with wins than Tammy Faye is with makeup, the winners of the award are diverse and often undeserving. Here is a tribute to the 10 most head-scratching, chin-molding of the lot.
10 Roger Clemens NL 2004 18-4 2.98 214 IP
This spot could have gone to a number of pitchers, but as long as it’s fresh in our minds…
Clemens had a great but not dominant year for a playoff team, while Randy Johnson had one of his most effective years ever for the worst team in baseball. Oh that Jake Peavy had pitched forty more innings.
W-L IP ERA WHIP SO 1st Place Votes
Roger Clemens 18-4 214 2.98 1.157 218 23
Randy Johnson 16-14 246 2.60 0.899 290 8
Roy Oswalt 20-10 237 3.49 1.245 206 1
What if Clemens and Oswalt had finished the year with each other’s stats? I say this becomes a dead heat three person race.
9 Sparky Lyle AL 1977 13-5 2.17 26 sv 137 IP
This was essentially a four-way race, with Lyle beating three pitchers who hurled over 290 innings each. Dennis Leonard won 20 games for the first place Royals, Jim Palmer won 20 games for second place Baltimore, and Nolan Ryan won 19 and fanned 341 batters.
But the Yankees won the AL East, and voters cited 68 strikeouts coupled with a higher WHIP than Leonard or Palmer as the factors that put Albert Walter Lyle over the top.
The third Cy Young award winner of all-time, Turley’s selection helped pave the way for decent pitchers with gobs of wins to beat out more effective pitchers with lesser records. In this case, his Yankee teammate Whitey Ford had an ERA almost a full point below Turley’s (2.01). It’s an irony that Ford, whose record was usually more impressive than his ERA, didn’t get any of the sixteen Cy Young votes cast in what was arguably his most effective year as a pitcher. But as the bold states…
W-L IP ERA WHIP ERA+
Ford 14-7 219.1 2.01 1.076 176
Turley 21-7 245 2.97 1.247 119
To look for a comparable modern gaffe, compare 1996 winner John Smoltz (24-8, 2.94) to Kevin Brown (17-11, 1.89). Wins are obviously the goal of the game, but a pitcher’s win-loss record is a by-product of other players to a far, far greater extent than his ERA. Why award individual honors for a team-dependent stat?
7 Steve Bedrosian NL 1987 5-3 2.83 40 sv 89 IP
Awarded simply because only two pitchers had over 16 wins, and they were teammate Shane Rawley (17-11, 4.39) for the fifth place Phillies and Rick Sutcliffe (18-10, 3.68) for the last place Cubs. Sutcliffe came in second place. Bedrosian’s ERA was fairly pedestrian for a reliever, as were his peripheral stats.
Now you should know that we disagree on many things here at BaseballEvolution.com. Keith thinks that reliever innings are significantly more valuable than starter innings. I find them nominally so. But we can both agree that there are too many instances of relievers with a fabulous number of saves and a miniscule ERA to ever give the award to one without awe-inspiring numbers.
To compound matters, Nolan Ryan produced an enigmatic year within an anomalous career. He easily led the league with a 2.76 ERA yet somehow finished 8-16! I’m not such a ‘Figure Philbert’ that I don’t see a plausible argument against giving the award to Ryan, but that still doesn’t excuse the selection of Bedrosian.
Does Rick Sutcliffe deserve the ‘87 Cy Young more than Andre Dawson deserves the ‘87 MVP?
Every team in the NL is your bitch, and you have no individual stars on your stellar pitching staff…is it 2004 or 1967? Even with no Cardinals in consideration for the award, it’s hard to see why McCormick dominated the voting 18-1-1.
W-L IP ERA WHIP SO
Mike McCormick 22-10 262 2.85 1.148 150
Jim Bunning 17-5 302 2.29 1.039 253
Fergie Jenkins 20-13 289 2.80 1.082 236
Is there anyone out there who knows something about this season that might shed light on such a lopsided vote? Did McCormick beat Bunning and Jenkins three times each? Did he spearhead a late Giant surge into second place, 10½ games behind the Cardinals? Let me know at email@example.com
This was an odd year. Hoyt was the premier control pitcher in the league, with the most wins and on the most dominant team. But not all was gravy and cream. His ERA was unremarkable. Teammate Rich Dotson (22-7, 3.22) was at least as deserving, and Dan Quisenberry had a monster year for a reliever (5-3, 1.94, 45sv, 139 IP).
There were other candidates, too. But none were as loveable or as devilishly handsome as La Marr. Did I mention that I look a little like him?
4 Jim Lonborg AL 1967 22-9 3.16 273 IP
The bold stats speak volumes:
W-L IP ERA WHIP team W-L
Jim Lonborg 22-9 273 3.16 1.138 1st
Joe Horlen 19-7 258 2.06 0.953 4th
Lonborg’s Red Sox won the AL by one game over Detroit and Minnesota, and by three games over Horlen’s White Sox. Lonborg won the Cy Young vote 18-2. His career was marked by plenty of wins and a below average ERA. Horlen finished just under .500 for his career but had an ERA 10% better than his league.
In terms of enjoyment and information gathering, Cubs broadcaster Steve Stone being replaced by Bob Brenly is the equivalent of John Paul II being replaced as pope by Satan. Sorry, I just had to get that out of the way.
In one of the closest races of all time, Stoney edged out Mike Norris of the A’s, although both received 13 first place votes. Norris (22-9, 2.53) was clearly the more dominant pitcher, but the Orioles won 100 games. Though they finished bridesmaid to the Yankees, the pennant race clearly helped showcase Stone.
There were no clear cut ace in the league this year. You’d think a tight pack would force voters to take a closer look at the candidates, but the robots instead gave the nod to Vuckovich, the best pitcher on a pennant winning club. Vuckovich only ranks #2 on this list because he is probably the worst pitcher to ever win the award. He had an incredibe 1.502 WHIP! County Staduim in Milwaukee even played as a pitchers park. With a mediocre ERA, under 20 wins, and bad peripheral stats under favorable conditions, he oozes fraudulence.
27 wins. Such a mighty number. Only Welch and Steve Carlton have reached that mark since 1970. But even mightier was the season that Roger Clemens put together, the second best of his magnificent career:
W-L IP ERA WHIP SO ERA+
Bob Welch 27-6 238 2.95 1.223 127 126
Roger Clemens 21-6 228 1.93 1.082 209 211
The AL ERA for the season was 4.07. Clemens’ 1990 was one of only 34 times in ML history that a starter had an ERA less than half the league ERA.
As a runner-up usurper, fellow A’s pitcher Dave Stewart (21-11, 2.56, 267 IP) had just won 20 games for the fourth consecutive season. Consistent success and a glare of steel cemented his huge popularity with fans in Oakland and across the country. Irrespective of Clemens, think of Welch beating Stewart in terms of Maris beating out Mantle for the 1961 MVP. Mantle was more productive and popular, but Maris had the biggest Sexy Stat.