I suppose I could keep trotting out examples of people who grossly misunderstand the value of certain statistics when it comes to picking out a Cy Young award winner... so I will. This time it's Jeff Fletcher over at Fanhouse who penned this tome about why Chris Carpenter, not Tim Lincecum deserved the NL Cy Young.
Flecther actually brings up some nice advanced statistics (namely FIP) and more than adequately incorporates them into his argument. However, like our friend Jack McDowell from yesterday, Fletcher takes umbrage at the fact that Tim Lincecum was a strikeout pitcher. Heavens to betsy! Why are pitchers who make outs on their own suddenly so undesirable?
Lincecum is a power pitcher. He struck guys out. Carpenter is not. He let guys put the ball in play and his defense got the outs.
If I'm trying to project the future of both pitchers, or if I'm trying to decide which guy I'd like on my team for 2010 or beyond (ignoring their age, in this case), I'll take the guy with the strikeouts. Strikeouts are nice and clean and don't require any help from the defense.
But if I'm filling out a 2009 Cy Young ballot, I don't care about 2010 or projections. I care about what actually happened. What actually happened was that Carpenter got outs at a better rate than Lincecum. Just that more of them were boring grounders to the shortstop instead of big exciting punchouts. You can say that strikeouts are better than groundouts because you can't move a runner or score a run on a strikeout, but Carpenter still did a better job preventing runs, so it didn't matter.
Is it really fair to penalize a pitcher who did his job (got outs, prevented runs) because he didn't do it a certain way (with strikeouts)?
Our resident Fanhouse writer finds two categories, ERA and WHIP, that Carpenter bests Lincecum in and then uses this to suppose that Carpenter is a better run preventer. Am I the only one who sees the inherent flaw in the argument? I shouldn't be, because he pretty much states all the reasons he is wrong himself. That's some bold writing tactics.
Fletcher says that Carpenter makes a great deal more outs on balls in play and then says that because of the ERA and WHIP (two things that are partly based on the conversion into outs of these very same balls in play) Carp is better at run prevention than the actual winner of the award. Umm, no, that simply means, as Fletcher points out, that Carpenter relied more on his defense than Lincecum to make the outs that give his numbers a fantastic shine. If I'm looking to award the best pitcher, then how can I pick the guy who admittedly needed a lot more help to put up strong numbers?
If we really wanted a nice pair of statistics to talk about run prevention, then maybe we should be talking a bit more about RAR and WAR. Oh, would you look at that, Lincecum's RAR (71.8) and WAR (8.2) in 2009 were substantially higher than Carpenter's postings (50.2 and 5.6, respectively) in those same categories...
Hoo boy, it isn't too obvious I have a mancrush on Lincecum is it?