Making case for Verlander
DETROIT — Justin Verlander deserves to win his second consecutive American League Cy Young Award.
He’s unlikely to get it, though, when the results of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America are announced Wednesday night. Tampa Bay’s David Price is the favorite, and Jered Weaver of the Angels also could finish ahead of Verlander among those three finalists.
Price already got the stamp of approval from his AL peers. They honored him last week with the 2012 Players Choice award for pitchers.
Among baseball pundits, one doesn’t think Verlander even deserves to be a Cy Young finalist. Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network said he would have picked Tampa Bay closer and ex-Tiger Fernando Rodney over Verlander.
So the Tigers ace has his detractors, and Price would be a fine choice for the Cy Young. But let’s look at the case for Verlander:
He was 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and a league-leading 239 strikeouts. Verlander, at 7.5, also had the runaway best Wins Above Replacement rating of any pitcher in the league. Rounding out the top five are Price (6.4); Matt Harrison, Rangers (6.2); Chris Sale, White Sox (5.7); and Felix Hernandez, Mariners (4.6). Ratings of 8.0 or above are MVP quality and 5.0-plus is All-Star worthy.
This statistic is all the rage with sabermetricians, who have concocted it by pouring oodles of numbers into a formula that takes every player quality under the sun into consideration and spits out a rating that few understand. Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s MVP candidacy is being touted largely because of his major league-leading 10.7 WAR rating.
Hey, if it’s being used by some to deny Tigers Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera the MVP, why not use it to win the Cy Young for Verlander? Turnabout, after all, is fair play.
I have my own formula, just devised, to make an even better case for Verlander: Pitching Quotient. It gives equal weight to wins, earned-run average, strikeouts, WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and WAR. I’m proposing this rating system because most can’t agree on which pitching statistic is most important.
Based on recent Cy Young voting, wins aren’t supposed to matter. Hernandez won it with a 13-12 record in 2010, when CC Sabathia of the Yankees was 21-7. In 2009, Zack Greinke, then with the Royals, won it with a 16-8 mark, while Hernandez, Sabathia and Verlander each won 19 games.
So why should Verlander be penalized for a lack of wins this year — especially after having eight quality starts for a defensively-porous team end up as losses or no decisions?
Earned-run average has become the favorite measuring stick in recent years. Five of the last six major league ERA winners won a Cy in their league. But that happend after four consecutive major league ERA leaders didn’t win the Cy.
There doesn’t seem to be any long-term consensus on just how important any one stat matters — although Hernandez (2.27) and Greinke (2.16) won almost strictly based on ERA.
This year, Price (20-5, 2.56, 209 strikeouts) is the AL leader in ERA, with Verlander a close second. Verlander took the other pitching Triple Crown stat, strikeouts. Weaver (20-5, 2.81, 142 strikeouts) tied Price for most victories and led the league with a 1.018 WHIP.
Based on the statistical split decision, the Cy Young race should be a tossup. That’s where the Pitching Quotient comes into play as an evaluation tool.
Here’s how it works: Award 5 points to the league leader in each of these categories — wins, earned-run average, strikeouts, WHIP and WAR — and scale down from there: 4 points for second, 3 points for third, 2 points for fourth and 1 point for fifth. Then total the points for each pitcher and divide it by five, for the number of categories, to get their average point total. A pitcher finishing first in each statistic would rate a 5.0.
Verlander, with 3.9 points on the Pitcher Quotient, is the easy winner. Price is second at 3.1 and Weaver third at 2.5.
By choosing to focus only on the accepted Triple Crown pitching stats — wins, earned run average and strikeouts — Verlander drops to 3.5 on that limited Pitcher Quotient formula, with Price (3.2) and Weaver (2.5) close behind.
Even with all that number crunching, we’re not giving Verlander any formula credit for leading the league with 238 1/3 innings pitched and six complete games.
In fairness to Price, he had seven quality starts in which he either lost or didn’t figure in the decision. That’s just one fewer quality start without a win than Verlander had — athough Price had a far superior defense playing behind him.
If you’re not into statistics, simply trust your eyes. FOX Sports analyst Tim McCarver did during the postseason and several times called Verlander “the best pitcher on the planet.”
We’ll find out Wednesday if the Baseball Writers’ Association of America agree.