Interestingly, the 2007
National League Cy Young Award should be a no-brainer. Anytime a pitcher wins the
pitching Triple Crown, that pitcher is clearly the best pitcher in the league.
And this season, Jake Peavy of the San Diego Padres won the pitching Triple
Crown with 19 wins, 240 strikeouts, and a 2.54 ERA.
But sometimes, it is good to go ahead and analyze all the facts and statistics
just to be sure that the obvious pick is the right one.
Unfortunately, it is 2007, not 1907, 1967, or even 1997. This means that
“pitching dominance” doesn’t mean what it used to. And this season, the National
League saw a clash between old school and new school phenomena, a clash which
muddies the waters just a bit.
On the one hand, we have Jake Peavy. While Peavy was the best pitcher in three
categories, whether you have admitted it to yourself or not, a Triple Crown that
involves 19 wins just doesn’t feel right. We always judge a pitcher based on his
era, and baseball has had one 20 game winner in the last two seasons combined,
so obviously 19 wins is impressive, but leading the league with 19 wins is kind
of like leading the league with an ERA over 3.00 – it just doesn’t feel right.
On the other hand, we have Brandon Webb. Webb accomplished an incredibly rare
feat this season – he pitched three shutouts. The even more incredibly rare feat
that he accomplished was pitching them consecutively. This is Bob Gibson, Don
Drysdale, Cy Young, Orel Hershiser stuff; pitching three complete game shutouts
in a row is unheard of in this era. Indeed, only one National League team had
more complete game shutouts than Brandon Webb in 2007.
Peavy’s unimpressive league leading win total and Brandon Webb’s unique
individual accomplishment, plus the fact that Webb himself finished only one
game behind Peavy in the wins column makes me think we should a little more
closely at Webb’s season.
As mentioned above, Peavy finished first in the NL with a 2.54 ERA, but Webb
finished second with a 3.01 ERA, which is a Paris Hilton cop car ride back to jail
away from being in the 2's. What’s more, Peavy pitched his home games in Petco
Park, whose initials could stand for “Pitchers’ Paradise," while Webb played his
home games in Chase Field, which has never favored pitchers. The result? Webb’s
ERA was 29 points lower on the road than at home. However, as I have pointed out
all season, Peavy was also excellent on the road this season, with a 2.57 ERA,
and for much of the season his ERA was actually higher at home somehow. So no
real edge is gained by Webb here.
Webb also gave up a remarkably paltry 12 homeruns in 236.1 innings this season,
which is other-worldly. The problem, of course, is that Peavy gave up only 13 in
223.1 innings this season. Naturally, Peavy gave up more homers on the road – 8
to 5 – while Webb gave up and even six both at home and on the road, but the
numbers are not significantly dissimilar here.
Last season, Webb established himself as a one of the great control artists in
baseball when he allowed only 50 walks in 235 innings, while Peavy walked 62 in
just over 200 innings. However, that form did not hold this year, as Webb gave
up 72 walks to Peavy’s 68. No advantage there.
Likewise, Webb was far more hittable than Peavy in 2007. Webb allowed 209 hits
in his 236.1 innings while Peavy gave up a shocking 169 hits in 223.1 innings.
Naturally, Peavy beat out Brandon Webb in WHIP as well.
And then, there is the strikeouts advantage. Peavy had 240 to just 194 for Webb.
This is one area in which Peavy’s Triple Crown could not be considered
unimpressive, as he led the league by 22 strikeouts and was one of only two
players with over 200 (Aaron Harang was the other, with 218).
The only factor which really favors Webb is the fact that the Arizona Diamondbacks won the NL West while the San Diego Padres failed to hold off the
Colorado Rockies for the National League wild card. This is really a non-factor; if you switched Brandon Webb and Jake Peavy, the outcome would likely not only
not have changed, but would likely not have even been as close.
In the end, Jake Peavy with his Triple Crown is undoubted the best candidate for
the 2007 National League Cy Young, and should beat out Webb, last year’s winner,
by a considerable margin.
And now, we can rest easy knowing we are sure.