Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hamels a strong contender in NL Cy Young race

PBR - Cole Hamels is no stranger to the Cy Young Award debate.

Fresh off tossing a second straight shutout and riding a 22 inning scoreless streak, Hamels sits among the top tier contenders for the award in the National League. He finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting in 2011 and sixth in 2007.

“Right now, Cole is throwing real good," said manager Charlie Manuel. "His stuff is real good. He’s commanding the low part of the strike zone and he can go high when he wants to. He has his changeup, his cutter, his fastball. He’s locked in.”

Hamels' 2.91 earned run average ranks eighth in the NL and his 13 victories ranks fifth. He also is tied for second in the NL in innings pitched (163.2) and is tied for third in strikeouts with 158.

“I play to win every game I can and with that you get awards for it," Hamels said. "I play to win. I’m not going to give up when the season supposedly can be given up on. I want to start streaks right now that can transfer into next season.”

Hamels appears to have at least nine starts remaining to solidify his case as the league's best pitcher but he has some stiff competition.

The chart below shows Hamels and 10 other starting pitchers that have a viable chance to win the NL Cy Young Award and looks at four unique metrics that demonstrate dominance on the mound.

Before we get to the chart though, let's take a look at the meaning behind the four metrics.

  • Cy Young Rating (CYR): A metric crafted by Bill James and Rob Neyer, CYR is calculated using a formula that closely resembles past results of Cy Young Award balloting. ESPN's version uses a bonus for placement in the standings but I've eliminated that portion of the formula for easier computation.
  • WAR: Wins Above Replacement is a statistic that is used to show how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a "replacement level", or minor league/bench player at that position.
  • ERA+: Recognized as Adjusted Era, ERA+ adjusts a pitcher's earned run average according to the pitcher's ballpark (in case the ballpark favors batters or pitchers) and the ERA of the pitcher's league. Average ERA+ is set to be 100; a score above 100 indicates that the pitcher performed better than average, below 100 indicates worse than average.
  • xFIP: Recognized as Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, xFIP predicts a pitcher’s future performance using a calculation that includes home run to flyball percentages.
Now that the metrics are out of the way let's jump into the numbers.


If the season were to end today the numbers point toward either Johnny Cueto or R.A. Dickey winning the vote with Hamels likely right behind.

Since we included xFIP we can see that Cueto's current ERA of 2.45 is likely to jump a bit as his xFIP is a full run higher. We can expect a smaller jump in Dickey's ERA as it currently sits at 2.72 with a 3.08 xFIP. This means Hamels may have a chance to jump ahead of Cueto but likely not over Dickey. 

The other interesting player in the running is Stephen Strasburg. With rumors swirling about a potential innings limit his chances at making a serious run at the Cy Young Award may be limited, but if he makes another nine starts things could get really interesting.

To compare the pitchers more easily I went ahead and ranked each pitcher in each of the four categories. The top pitcher in each category received 11 points, second pitcher in each category 10, and so on. I then added each pitcher's rankings and developed the chart below. Notice the color scheme on each bar indicates how many points each pitcher received via a specific category.


What is your opinion on the Cy Young Award race? Comment below and let us know.

- Patrick Gordon  is the editor of the Philadelphia Baseball Review. Contact him at pgordon@philadelphiabaseballreview.com or @Philabaseball on Twitter.

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