The season ends with Clayton Kershaw winning 9 of his last 10 decisions (in his last 11 starts), giving him 21 victories on the year. His final outing actually raised his ERA by one one-hundredth of a point, to 2.28, which was still tops in the majors. And his 6 strikeouts in his final start give the 23 year old 248 on the year, best in the NL. He had won the pitching triple crown.
However, he wasn't the best pitcher in the National League. Not quite.
R.A. Dickey becomes the first knuckleballer to win 20 games since Joe Niekro. He pitched back-to-back 1 hitters, striking out 25. Didn't allow an earned run in almost a month.
Again, he wasn't the best pitcher in the National League.
Both Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander won the pitching triple crown (ERA, Wins and Strikeouts) in 2011. It was the first time in nearly 100 years that both leagues had a triple crown winner (1924, Walter Johnson and Dazzy Vance). Both won the Cy Young.
Dickey became the first knuckleballer in history to win the Cy Young. The first ever. That's the entire headline. How cool is that? How many times do you get to say "the first ever"?
These are great storylines, but not great arguments.
When you look at Kershaw's 2011 campaign, it was impressive. Leading the league in multiple categories, including ERA and strikeouts, is a feat. But upon closer inspection, his production was topped by at least one other pitcher.
Roy Halladay finished the season with two fewer wins and an ERA that was .07 points higher than Kershaw's. He struck out less batters too. However, Doc allowed fewer walks and homers, as well as pitching in a severe hitter's park half the time.
Yet, in 2012, Clayton was on the other end of the stick. While Dickey had better control, which is remarkable for a knuckleballer, Kershaw had a better strikeout rate and allowed 8 fewer home runs in slightly less innings.
Only recently have votes been made public, though voters have no obligation to justify their votes. Some have, which is admirable, especially when their votes are controversial.
But no one has to explain their votes for Kershaw in 2011 or Dickey in 2012 because the storylines overpowered sheer analysis. It was a foregone conclusion that the 21 game winner would win in 2011 and the 20 game winner would win in 2012, even though pitching wins have been debunked as a meaningful statistic for pitchers. The triple crown winner and the knuckleballer didn't require justification for votes.
Regardless of how you feel about statistics, the real issue is accountability. Just because these are judgement calls doesn't mean any judgement should be accepted as valid. In fact, voters should be obligated to display some form of rationale.
I'm not saying there's a right or wrong way to vote. I'm saying that if these writers want to be taken seriously, they must take the process seriously.
The Cy Young: Kershaw, Dickey and Sentiment
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