Friday, September 9, 2016

Masahiro Tanaka, Sabermetrics and the AL Cy Young Award

When you think of the Top 5 candidates for the American League Cy Young Award in 2016 who immediately comes to mind? Anyone’s Top 5 is probably pretty arguable, some will have this pitcher and others will have that pitcher, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there isn’t too many people out there who would have the Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka in their Top 5. Now I can only use my Top 5 as an indicator of whether Tanaka should be in the AL Cy Young Award discussion but I am going to do just that if possible by comparing some key sabermetric stats of the Top 5 and Tanaka himself. Is it a perfect analysis? Of course not but the committee who votes on this award has proven in the past that they take sabermetrics into account and it’s not just about wins and losses anymore, ask Felix Hernandez, and we all should too. So here we go.

My Top 5 in the running for the AL Cy Young Award in no particular order is Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles, Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox and Cole Hamels of the Texas Rangers, Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians with an honorable mention for Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, JA Happ for the Toronto Blue Jays and David Price of the Boston Red Sox. Yes I know, I didn’t make it easy on myself including a relief pitcher but without a clear-cut winner or favorite here Britton may actually run away with the award. If Tanaka doesn’t win it first.

Britton – 3.3 (in just over 50 innings)
Quintana – 4.5
Hamels – 5.0
Tanaka – 4.7
Porcello – 4.2
Kluber – 5.8

Britton – $15.3 MILLION
Quintana – $36.9 MILLION
Hamels – $20.4 MILLION
Tanaka – $37.9 MILLION
Porcello – $31.8 MILLION
Kluber - $37.8 MILLION

Britton – 1.15
Quintana – 3.23
Hamels – 3.61
Tanaka – 3.46
Porcello – 3.57
Kluber – 3.45

Britton – 0.800
Quintana – 1.125
Hamels – 1.305
Tanaka – 1.082
Porcello – 1.023
Kluber – 1.044

Britton – 2.01
Quintana – 3.42
Hamels – 4.02
Tanaka – 3.26
Porcello – 3.52
Kluber – 3.19

Britton – 687 (not a typo)
Quintana – 129
Hamels – 141
Tanaka – 141
Porcello - 143
Kluber - 150

Based on these stats Tanaka is an extreme long shot at winning the AL Cy Young Award but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he should be. He’s done more with less in terms of offense, especially in the first half of the season, he faces some of the best competition in the American League (it looks likely that the AL East could send three teams to the postseason in 2016) and he pitches in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in all of Major League Baseball. The problem with the AL Cy Young Award voting and sabermetrics is we have yet to see any sort of consistency in the voting and in the criteria for voting which complicates things a ton. Will Tanaka win it? It depends who is looking at what stat at what time, what they had for breakfast and which way the wind is blowing I guess because I have no idea. I do know one thing though, Tanaka should at least be in the discussions for the award when it’s decided on and handed out this winter.

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference except “VALUE” which is courtesy of Fangraphs.

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