COMMENTARY | Voting for postseason awards is an extremely subjective affair sometimes. The Baseball Writers' Association of America doesn't get it right all the time.
They may have gotten it wrong when they recently announced the American League Cy Young winner. That award went to Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers, with Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish coming in a distant second in the voting. Scherzer garnered 28 of 30 first-place votes (203 total points). Darvish (93 total points) did not even get one first-place vote; Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers and Chris Sale of the White Sox split the remaining two (obviously, a Chicago writer showed some hometown voting bias with the Sale vote).
When comparing stats, this award could have just as easily gone to Darvish. And in the opinion of at least one writer, it should have.
The problem with this is simple: The voters gave the award to Scherzer for one reason and one reason only: He won because he led the major leagues in wins with 21 and had only three losses. Darvish's record was 13-9.
They both made 32 starts and had almost the same number of innings pitched (Scherzer had five more). Darvish had the lower ERA (2.83 compared to 2.90 for Scherzer). When comparing other stats, Darvish had 24 more walks than Scherzer, which gave Darvish a walks per nine innings ratio of more than one full walk more (3.43 compared to 2.35). But Darvish also had 37 more strikeouts to give him a K per nine ratio of almost two more than Scherzer (11.89 to 10.08). Scherzer had the slight edge in OPS against and in WHIP. Darvish gave up more home runs but fewer runs overall than Scherzer did.
Was it really the 24 more walks Darvish had that swung the voters? Doubtful. Just as the writers tend to place too much emphasis on RBIs when voting for the MVP, they tend to put too much stock in wins for a pitcher. Scherzer had 21 of them compared to only 13 for Darvish (and three losses compared to Darvish's nine).
I never have understood the heavy emphasis on wins, because they are probably the worst way to measure a pitcher's effectiveness. Why? Because a pitcher's win total is largely dependent on how many runs his team scores, which is something he has no control over.
The Rangers scored two or fewer runs in nine of Darvish's 32 starts, and the team lost every one of those games. Darvish lost 4 games by the score of 1-0. By comparison, Detroit scored two runs or fewer in five of Scherzer's starts, and the Tigers won two of those. Incidentally, the Rangers also handed Scherzer his first loss of the season on July 13 after he started 13-0. They tagged him for four earned runs in six innings.
Here are a couple of scenarios to illustrate why wins are not an accurate judge of a pitcher's effectiveness:
* A closer enters the top of the ninth with a three-run lead. He allows three runs, and then his team scores the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. He is credited with a "win" even though he blew the save opportunity.
* A starter goes five innings and allows seven earned runs. He leaves the game with an 8-7 lead after five innings, and his team holds on. He is credited with a "win" even though he gave up seven earned runs in five innings.
In both of those scenarios, the pitcher was completely ineffective but gained a win.
Plain and simple, the voters picked Scherzer because of his win total. If Darvish's teammates had scored just two runs in each of those games where he lost 1-0, he's looking at a 17-5 record instead of 13-9. Even though in that case Darvish would have been exactly the same pitcher, his chances of winning the Cy Young would have mysteriously increased to the voters who still ignorantly judge a pitcher's effectiveness by the number of wins he has.
Scherzer is not an indefensible choice for AL Cy Young. But he and Darvish were so similar in most meaningful stats that Scherzer should not have run away with it like he did. The voters clearly discounted Darvish because he had only 13 wins, and that isn't right.
Brian Honea is a Dallas, Texas-based freelance writer who is a lifelong Texas Rangers follower.
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