The American League Cy Young Award winner will be announced on November 12, with Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians, Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners and Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox in the running for the coveted honor.
Here are five reasons Kluber should claim the AL Cy Young and become the fourth Indians pitcher to win the award:
1. MLB WAR leader
What is WAR good for? Making a case for Corey Kluber, of course. Kluber led all of baseball in pitching fWAR (7.3), the highest mark since Roy Halladay posted an 8.1 fWAR and won the NL Cy Young in 2011. Felix Hernandez (6.2) and Chris Sale (5.4) — the two other finalists — each finished with fewer wins above replacement. While the argument can be made that Sale could have finished with a higher WAR if he had pitched more innings (174 in 2014), the fact is: He didn’t. While it might not be fair, being over 50 innings behind your competition is a gamechanger. While WAR is not a perfect statistic, it is one of the most accepted advanced metrics.
2. Comparable ERA
If WAR isn’t your cup of tea, or you still prefer a stat of an older variety, let’s look at ERA. Of the three, Felix finished with a 2.14 ERA — best in the American League (Of course, a slight tip of the cap to this scoring change for the assist). Sale did not finish far behind, posting a 2.17 ERA this season (in far fewer innings). Kluber’s 2.44 ranks third of the AL Cy Young finalists. While a 2.14 ERA is unbelievably good — and probably Hernandez’s best case for the Cy Young — the margin between King Felix and his competition is not wide enough that ERA should be a determining factor on its own.
3. Outside factors
Of course, ERA is not always the most honest of statistics. An earned run average does not imply what ballpark the hurler is pitching in or what sort of defense is being played behind him. Or in Kluber’s case, if any defense is being played behind him. The Indians were the worst defensive team in the big leagues last season, committing the most errors in baseball (116) and finishing last in defensive runs saved (-75). A war zone does not begin to describe what took place behind Kluber during his outings. Meanwhile, the Mariners finished with the second fewest errors in baseball (82) and ended up with -11 defensive runs saved. In addition, Safeco Field ranked as the best park to pitch in this season according to ESPN’s park factor. Progressive Field was 12th best for pitchers this season. Is it fair to penalize Hernandez for better defense and a more spacious park? Probably not. But it is all part of pitcher evaluation.
4. The FIP discussion
With several factors outside of a pitcher’s control, the fielding independent pitching stat (FIP) helps remove some of the noise and give a clearer indication of a hurler’s true performance. The FIP leaderboard tips the scales much more in Kluber’s favor in 2014, as the Tribe righty leads the way in fielding independent pitching (2.35). Hernandez (2.56) and Sale (2.57) finished second and third behind Kluber in AL FIP. Is it an infallible statistic? Absolutely not. But part of a larger discussion, it helps shed some light on the true performance of three talented pitchers this season.
5. You thought I was going to say wins, didn’t you?
Yes, yes, pitching wins. Even the most cranky of cranky get off my lawn individuals have realized how flawed evaluation based on wins can be. In one game, a pitcher could surrender one run in seven innings and earn the loss. In another, a different hurler may give up five runs in five innings and get the win. Are we led to believe the winning pitcher just wanted it more? That said, as unbelievable as it is, there are potentially some voters that still use a pitcher’s record as a performance evaluator. In that case, Kluber finished tied for first with 18 wins this season, more than Hernandez (15) or Sale (12). Luckily, it appears to be less and less of a factor every season, but pitching wins are still important to some (crazy) people — and thus, Kluber has an edge in that dinosaur age statistic.
That’s our list… what did we miss?
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