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The 2021 IBWAA Awards (My Ballot): AL Cy Young

It’s week two of my releasing my ballots for the various end-of-the-season awards across Major League Baseball. These are the same ballots/players that I submitted to the IBWAA before the postseason began.

This week we will go through all the American League Awards, continuing with the AL Cy Young!

 

Preface:

For the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), voters get to vote for the Top-10 players for the MVP, the Top-5 pitchers for the Cy Young, the Top-3 players for the Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and the Top-3 managers for the Manager of the Year awards.

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To me, a reliever really has to shine through the crowd in order to make the Top-5 for my Cy Young voting. And, while I tried to rationalize finding a spot for one of my top relievers of the year, it just wasn’t able to happen given the vast talent seen in both the American and National Leagues. So without further ado, here were my 5 best starting pitchers:

 

Number Five:

Name: Shohei Ohtani

Team: Los Angeles Angels

Pitching Line: 23 G, 9-2 Record (.818 WP%), 3.18 ERA (141 ERA+, 3.52 FIP), 130.1 IP, 1.090 WHIP, 156 K’s (10.8 K/9), 44 BB (3.0 BB/9), +4.1 bWAR/+3.0 fWAR

Shohei Ohtani is a batter-first, pitcher-second player. But, he’s also the only player in the modern history of baseball to do both, successfully, at the same time. And, even though this is an award for pitching performance only…well, it’s impossible to separate the both when voting. The biggest thing going against Ohtani for a down-ballot Cy Young vote was that he technically didn’t qualify by innings pitched. However, even so, Ohtani had the 7th best bWAR for pitchers (and would’ve been tied for 10th for fWAR). And by rate-stats (if they stayed consistent), Ohtani would’ve been 3rd in ERA, 4th in WHIP, and 4th in K/9.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Four:

Name: Lucas Giolito

Team: Chicago White Sox

Pitching Line: 31 G, 11-9 Record (.550 WP%), 3.53 ERA (123 ERA+, 3.79 FIP), 178.2 IP, 1.103 WHIP, 201 K’s (10.1 K/9), 52 BB (2.6 BB/9), +4.4 bWAR/+4.0 fWAR

With a rotation of Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Carlos Rodon, and Dylan Cease, the Chicago White Sox had 3 of the Top-6 pitchers by bWAR and 2 of the Top-6 pitchers by fWAR. Of them, Giolito was the only one who was seen as good by both metrics. Giolito was one of 6 AL pitchers to record 200+ strikeouts, was 9th in innings pitched, had the 6th best ERA (5th best ERA+), the 5th best K/9, and the 4th best WHIP. He’s become the outside of the box choice for who truly was the White Sox’s best pitcher thanks to more advanced metrics, but he put up a season that would get a lot of the classical vote. I like that.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Three:

Name: Nathan Eovaldi

Team: Boston Red Sox

Pitching Line: 32 G, 11-9 Record (.550 WP%), 3.75 ERA (126 ERA+, 2.79 FIP), 182.1 IP, 1.190 WHIP, 195 K’s (9.6 K/9), 35 BB (1.7 BB/9), +4.6 bWAR/+5.6 fWAR

While he did have the highest fWAR, Eovaldi had only the 5th highest bWAR. This difference in how he was favored by WAR is due to Fangraphs evaluating more on “what-if” metrics derived from FIP. However, this also leads to Eovaldi being underrated when looking at his more standard statistics. He was 8th in ERA (though 4th in ERA+), 7th in WHIP, 7th in Strikeouts, and 8th in K/9. However, he did also pitch the 4th most innings, was tied for starting the most games, and had (quite obviously) the best FIP. He had a good season, but two others clearly separated themselves from the pack.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Two:

Name: Robbie Ray

Team: Toronto Blue Jays

Pitching Line: 32 G, 13-7 Record (.650 WP%), 2.84 ERA (154 ERA+, 3.69 FIP), 193.1 IP, 1.045 WHIP, 248 K’s (11.5 K/9), 52 BB (2.4 BB/9), +6.7 bWAR/+3.9 fWAR

While he did have the highest bWAR, Robbie Ray had only the 7th highest fWAR. This difference in how he was favored by WAR is due to BaseballReference evaluating more on “what happened” metrics derived from ERA. Ray also had a great season as he led the AL in ERA (and ERA+), WHIP, Innings Pitched, Games Started, and Strikeouts. So, how is he 2nd on my list? Well, Ray was 8th in FIP, He led nearly every statistic that I’ve highlighted for each pitcher. Well…part of it is my pro-Yankee bias, and the other (greater) part is because my #1 pitcher was better this season.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number One:

Name: Gerrit Cole

Team: New York Yankees

Pitching Line: 30 G, 16-8 Record (.667 WP%), 3.23 ERA (133 ERA+, 2.92 FIP), 181.1 IP, 1.059 WHIP, 243 K’s (12.1 K/9), 41 BB (2.0 BB/9), +5.6 bWAR/+5.3 fWAR

The most wins in the AL, the 2nd highest bWAR, 2nd highest fWAR, 2nd best WHIP, 2nd most strikeouts and K/9, 2nd best FIP, 3rd highest ERA and ERA+, the highest score by the Cy Young Predictor from Neyer/James with a score of 137 (Ray scored a 131.1) and the highest combined bfWAR at 10.9 (Ray had a 10.6). Is it splitting hairs between these two? Yes. However, I know that Gerrit Cole is going to get the anti-Yankee treatment and I think it’s fair to say that he was the better pitcher when we consider that he was nearly Top-3 across every statistic that I consider most for my ballot while Ray was a little more volatile and they were incredibly close on two statistics that Ray “wins” at (WHIP different of 0.014, strikeout difference of 5). Was that a run-on sentence to make sense of my choices of #1 and #2? Yes. And does Cole deserve the AL Cy Young over Robbie Ray? Yes.Embed from Getty Images

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