It wasn’t a slam dunk but Max Scherzer was the odds-on favorite to be named to the AL Cy Young award after his great season. Yes, he picked up the required pitcher wins that tend to swing these votes but Scherzer is no Bob Welch.
The race in the American League was such that there was no sure shot to take home the honor. Hisashi Iwakuma did a great job of preventing runs, though he did so in a bigger ballpark and posted pedestrian strikeout rates. Yu Darvish had the innings and strikeouts but struggled at times with the long ball.
In the end, it was Scherzer who managed to sway the vote thanks to his combination of strikeouts, innings and yes wins to take home the AL Cy Young award.
Too often, detractors of advanced stats lament the lack of a smoking gun. There is no one perfect stat and it seems as though this means all are equally useless. Wins Above Replacement is a terrific measure of overall value, and Fangraphs and Baseball Reference each calculate it differently, highlighting its many uses.
Fangraphs flavor is built around only that which the pitcher can control – strikeouts, walks and home runs. BR uses runs allowed and corrects for defense after the fact. Both attempt drilling down to the pitcher’s performance alone, isolated from his teammates and circumstances.
By Fangraphs WAR, Max Scherzer lead the AL. By RA9 WAR, it was Iwakuma who hd the edge. But average the two together gives the overall edge back to Scherzer, the man 28 of 30 voters selected as the AL’s best.
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In the National League, there was no choice other than Clayton Kershaw. For all the great pitching performances in the NL this season, Clayton Kershaw stands alone. He could be the best pitcher of his generation and he is just 25 years-old.
Kersahw lead the league in fWAR, rWAR, ERA, finished second in innings pitched en route to winning his second Cy Young award – with a second place finish in between for good measure. Good enough for 29 of a possible 30 first place votes. (That he didn’t receive all 30 votes is a head-scratcher.)
Two great seasons rewarded with end-of-year hardware. While there is room for debate in the American League, both fans and voters can feel good about the selections. No matter how Clayton Kershaw’s career progresses from here, the numbers he posted during this stretch of his career will stand the test of time. Without winning a World Series, Clayton Kershaw can now be considered an important figure in the history of the game – as his upcoming contract extension is sure to indicate.