Nationals Baseball: Max for Cy? Gio for Cy? Stras for Cy?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Max for Cy? Gio for Cy? Stras for Cy?

The Nats have three of the best pitchers in baseball on their staff. Max spent the early part of the season in an argument with Kershaw for the number one spot. Gio spent a solid portion of early August going through the "Hey, look at this guy!" rounds.  Strasburg is the hottest arm in the game right now. Which one of these guys is the best? Is it even close? Is it still Kershaw first?* Let's look at the numbers and see

By the way I'm a firm believer in giving our awards by the "How did his season go?" criteria not "How did he pitch this season?"  This means I do care about things like wins and ERA, which are admittedly blah indicators of how a pitcher pitched in a season. Why? Because if you are going to just pick the pitcher who pitched best than it's nothing more than figuring out the best equation to use. There is no point in having a vote, which is subjective by nature. I'd rather have a vote, and for that trying to figure out who had the best season fits best.

Gio  14-6
Max 14-5
Stras 13-4
Kersh 16-3

Good numbers all around but the edge goes to Kershaw. Max and Stras slightly better than Gio here.

Gio  2.50
Max 2.32
Stras 2.64
Kersh 2.15

Again you can't fault anyone's numbers here but Kershaw is a step better. Max is better than Stras and Gio so he takes the Nats lead.

Gio 163
Max 239
Stras 182
Kersh 182

A win for Max and not a little one. Clearly ahead of this bunch.

Innings Pitched
Gio  179
Max 178
Stras 156
Kersh 151

Well there's your problem Stras and Kershaw. You don't pitch enough. They'd still be behind Max if they did pitch more  - he has the best rate. But the comparison would look better (Stras as 208, Kershaw at 214) but you know what? They didn't do that.

Gio   1.141
Max 0.875
Stras 1.028
Kersh 0.901

It's getting pretty clear that Max is the choice for the Nats. He's more dominant and has pitched more innings. His record isn't crazy deflated by luck either. Kershaw is right with him here.

Gio   4.28  4.45
Max  3.20  2.90
Stras  3.25  3.36
Kersh  2.74  2.93

The fancy stats don't love Gio. It's a lot of things. Unusual BABIP. Very high LOB%. Relative to these guys - high walk rate. And as we talked before - Gio was getting pretty lucky early in the year and in the fancy stats, you can't shake that.  Kershaw is slightly favored over Max, with Stras a step behind.

WAR(s) f then b
Gio  3.0  6.9
Max  5.2  6.9
Stras  4.8  5.6 
Kersh  4.4  4.4

The basic truth coming out of this nonsense here is that the more you pitch the more value you can have. Max has pitched more and thus, gets higher values accros the board.  Gio comes out strong in the bWAR. A quick and dirty difference definition - fWAR starts with FIP which is like your ERA if once the ball is put in play it's just your D and luck that matter. bWAR starts with RA and assumes on some level the pitcher is doing things to help himself out. bWAR is more "what happened", fWAR more "what should have happened"

What is the end result? Kershaw is still the best pitcher in the majors. Sorry Max fans. But he's fragile enough that Max has more value during the season. Gio and Stras have put themselves into the conversation, but both Max and Kershaw would have to crash out their last 3 starts to give them any real shot at the award. My feeling is that it's Max's award to lose. There's a two game gap in wins and that isn't enough in itself, so if he holds that gap he'll bring home the prize. However, if Kershaw can widen that gap, especially without taking any more losses, then he'll have a good shot to win given that his overall superiority will shine through. In other words if the season ends like this

Max 16-5
Kershaw 18-3

I think Max takes it.  If it ends like this 

Max 15-6
Kershaw 19-3

I think Kershaw will win.

What to watch tonight - lots of games with impact but few ones where both teams are in it. NYY vs TB is interesting as the Yankees can pretty much eliminate the Rays from contention with a win or two more while the Rays can keep the Yankees from making the AL East interesting in the last two weeks. Probably the best single game though is the Rangers / Mariners as both are fighting for their WC lives. It's all dependent on how the leaders do (MIN in the 2nd spot and LAA a game behind) but this is a potential back breaker series for Seattle if they get swept and they already lost G1. A sweep would put them 3.5 behind the Rangers and likely 4.5 out or more from the 2nd WC with a mere 16 games to go.

*Are there other pitchers in the mix? I don't know. Frankly, I don't want to know.


Anonymous said...

Harper, I like your analysis here except for one thing: in general, ERA is a good tool to use, but I think it should be discounted quite a bit if a pitcher's home park is an extreme one. This is the case for Dodger stadium - it's not the best pitchers' park in MLB but it's pretty close. So Kershaw's ERA is almost always going to be deflated by making half his starts there (Nats' park is a slight pitchers' park, much closer to neutral). Kershaw is still awesome (I think he's the best starter in MLB by a fairly large margin - when he pitches) as your review of the other stats shows. I just wouldn't give him very much credit for having an ERA advantage as Dodger Stadium is almost certainly responsible for part of that.

I agree with your conclusions and think Max is in the driver's seat, but Kershaw could still overtake him even if Max pitches well. Strasburg has a small chance (< 5%), but could get some momentum if his scoreless streak keeps going and Max and Kershaw have worse-than-normal results. Gio, I don't think, has a realistic shot.

PotomacFan said...

Greinke won't win, but he will definitely finish top 5, and possibly 3 (behind Max and Kershaw). 16 - 6, 2.99 ERA, 200 K, 1.047 WHIP, 6.0 bWAR.

Harper said...

PF- I said I didn't want to know!

Chas R said...

Pitcher Wins seem down a bit this season. We could end up with no 20 game winner in either league.

Nattydread said...

If Strasburg throws a no hitter, does he go center stage the Cy Young conversation?

BxJaycobb said...

Worth noting: you know how we all think Stras is as delicate as an orchid (with good reason)? Kershaw hasn't made any more starts since Stras returned from TJ. Nobody really talks about him as fragile though. I assume because he's just so outrageously good when he does pitch (and because he had healthy seasons earlier in his career consistently). But is he any more durably than Strasburg going forward next few years? Different parts of body (Kershaw has been back always, Stras has been multiple things) but I don't see why it would be rational to expect kershaw to be healthier. He hasn't had a full season in like 3 years.

Sammy Kent said...

Gio certainly didn't help himself last night, but I doubt Cy Young himself would have had much piss and vinegar on the first game night after clinching. Everybody looked flat, and it wasn't totally unexpected. Maybe Dusty should have put all the younguns in the lineup again to provide a little energy.

I agree that it's likely coming down to Max vs Kershaw, but Stras is closing fast in the stretch run. If he continues to go all Cleveland Indians on the opposition.....

Harper said...

Bx - I think it's not only the injuries - but the several times Stras seemed bothered by the weather early in his career. I'm sure other guys felt the same way, but they knew well enough fans don't want to hear "Well it was really hot so I was sweating a lot and it was hard to grip the ball" they want to hear "It was my bad. I didn't pitch well" There are no reasons for fans, only excuses.

SK - Kershaw got the win last night. Max is going to have to keep pace tonight.

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