Great perspective on Cy Young discussion

Posted By on August 26, 2010 2:41 pm

My earlier discussion of Trevor Cahill’s Cy Young candidacy, and a related tweet, sparked a debate with one of my followers, which led me to this well-timed, excellent piece by Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.

(Ironic, if you recall a little spat between me and Cameron, or more specifically, between me and Cameron’s followers, from last year. Anyway, now I work at FanHouse and FanGraphs is one of our partners, so we’re all friends.)

Back to the point, I have often argued that FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) got too much play when it came to Cy Young discussion. It was my reasoning for suggesting that Chris Carpenter deserved the Cy Young over Tim Lincecum last year, and I got into it a little more this year. Well, Trevor Cahill is shaping up to be this year’s Carpenter, a guy who gets a lot of outs, but gets no respect from the sabermetric community because he’s not racking up enough strikeouts. They say he’s just lucky.

Cameron’s piece today describes what I’ve been trying to say, but maybe it will carry more weight will all of the saber guys I’ve been fighting against because it comes from one of their own:

But FIP was not designed to give us a better insight into what actually happened, but, instead, what is likely to happen in the future. FIP is part of the collection of metrics that do a good job of predicting what will happen in the future by focusing on things that are under a player’s control. FIP was never designed to be a backward-looking metric designed to tell us what actually did happen. And there’s a decent argument to be made that the Cy Young award should be awarded based on what did happen, not on what should have happened or what will happen in the future.

What I try to tell people when I have this argument — and I have it a lot — is that I don’t think the Cy Young is about figuring out who is the best pitcher, it’s about figuring out who pitched the best.

In the past.

While I agree that things like defense are beyond a pitcher’s control, I refuse to believe that a pitcher has no impact on the way a ball is put in play. It just doesn’t make any sense. I’ve spent too much time talking to pitchers and listening to them talk about keeping hitters off balance, taking the sting out of the bat, etc. If you make good pitches, you will get more outs, even on balls in play.

So if I’m evaluating how well a guy pitched — not predicting  how well he will pitch — I think it’s perfectly appropriate to give a pitcher some credit for his outs on balls in play.


One Response to “Great perspective on Cy Young discussion”

  1. TalentScout says:

    Hell yes! Thank you very much for setting the record straight with this prediction vs what we’ve actually observed gulf that seems to exist whenever baseball people and the SABR crowd attempt to describe the same players.

    I’d suggest the vast majority of times non SABR people are simply asking the question of what’s the best stat to confirm what our eyes have seen already (or think they’ve seen) in terms of who’s the best at their position for a given season.

    Simple as that.

    No need to get into a long academic dissertation over the predictiveness or how what’s been observed is dismissed as “luck” when it’s common knowledge amongst baseball men for decades there are some skills the SABR crowd have yet to capture or quantify.

    Seems to me, we have fans/beat writers on one extreme & the SABR (predictive guys) on the other end of the spectrum both adamantly believe their view is an absolute truth.

    In reality, neither is quite right or wrong, but their unyielding devotion to their beliefs (and pet metrics) have become a shrill battleground of defensive verbal sparring & mis-communication which simply doesn’t map to what a casual observer of the game sees.

    Are we all watching the same game or have the SABR abstractions & sports-writer prejudices become so entrenched those two parties just refused to admit they might not be the smartest kid in the room?

Leave a Reply