11/13/2013 8:01 P.M. ET
Easy does it: 2013 Cy Young picks pretty clear-cut
Kershaw dominates NL with 1.83 ERA; Scherzer's stats back 21-win campaign
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
This really wasn't complicated.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America's voting process for the Cy Young Awards in both leagues was essentially a waste of stamps. The only real drama to the MLB Network presentation was which writer would draw the dreaded "present the National League argument for anybody other than Clayton Kershaw" card. While I'm sure the voters for this particular award took the process seriously and did their due diligence in studying the statistics, it's not like they were asked to fix the HealthCare.gov website or find an open Blockbuster Video store.
This was simple stuff: Mark down Kershaw in the NL, Max Scherzer in the AL, then sleep well at night knowing you have done your part to preserve the integrity of the award and that Cy is smiling upon you. Or something like that.
Hey, that's not to say there wasn't some wiggle room for debate, because there's always at least a little. One benefit (at least, I think it's a benefit) of the incredible stash of statistics this sport supplies is that there is a number to elevate just about any argument, if you put your mind and your math to it.
It's just that none of those numbers were enough to move the needle away from the two most deserving candidates.
Any argument against Kershaw's candidacy was particularly pointless. He should have claimed every one of the 30 first-place votes. He has firmly established himself as one of the best young pitchers of this generation, having spent the past three seasons accruing two Cy Youngs and one second-place showing.
2013 NL Cy Young voting
|Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers||29||1||207|
|Adam Wainwright, Cardinals||1||15||4||1||5||86|
|Jose Fernandez, Marlins||9||3||5||7||62|
|Craig Kimbrel, Braves||4||1||8||4||39|
|Matt Harvey, Mets||1||8||4||3||39|
|Cliff Lee, Phillies||6||6||2||32|
|Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals||6||3||21|
|Zack Greinke, Dodgers||2||4||4||18|
|Madison Bumgarner, Giants||1||1||3|
|Francisco Liriano, Pirates||1||1||3|
Here in 2013, the 25-year-old lefty became just the third starting pitcher since the turn of the century to submit a sub-2.00 ERA. In fact, he's just the fifth pitcher in history to lead his league in ERA three seasons in a row. (The others were Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. Not sure if you've heard of them.)
Kershaw struck out a league-best 232 batters in 236 innings. He logged an insane 0.915 WHIP. He held opposing batters to a .195 average. And his curveball was virtually unhittable. According to Baseball Prospectus, hitters notched just a .089 true average against that particular pitch.
Frankly, I don't know what's sillier: Kershaw's numbers or the fact that one voter -- Mark Schmetzer of Reds Report in Cincinnati, who sided with Adam Wainwright -- didn't think enough of them to grant him a first-place vote.
Even in an NL season defined by the emergence of a new arms assemblage and in an MLB season in which the offensive numbers were once again suffocated and suppressed, Kershaw stood out. Waino re-established himself as the ace of the Cards after his 2012 bounceback from Tommy John surgery, and the Cuban-born Jose Fernandez leaped over two Minor League levels to become one of the most exciting young players in the game.
But neither, of course, could match Kershaw's clout.
As for Scherzer, well, you knew his Cy status was cemented, albeit not quite in unanimous fashion (he fell just two votes shy of that standing, with one of those going to teammate Anibal Sanchez and the other, strangely, to the White Sox's Chris Sale ).
2013 AL Cy Young voting
|Max Scherzer, Tigers||28||1||1||203|
|Yu Darvish, Rangers||19||3||1||6||93|
|Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners||6||12||6||1||73|
|Anibal Sanchez, Tigers||1||1||3||9||8||46|
|Chris Sale, White Sox||1||5||8||6||44|
|Bartolo Colon, A's||2||3||1||6||25|
|Koji Uehara, Red Sox||1||2||10|
|Felix Hernandez, Mariners||1||1||1||6|
|Matt Moore, Rays||2||4|
|Greg Holland, Royals||1||2||4|
|James Shields, Royals||1||2|
Scherzer's stats satisfied both the so-called purists (21-3 record) and the calculator-carriers (FanGraph's Wins Above Replacement number, which incorporates Fielding Independent Pitching, had him second only to Kershaw with a 6.4 mark). Certainly, his .875 winning percentage, which was the best in baseball in five years, benefitted from those 5.29 runs of support the Tigers averaged for him. But Scherzer's league-best 0.970 WHIP and .583 opponent OPS probably didn't hurt the cause.
Among AL pitchers, you could find one guy (Sanchez) who bettered Scherzer's adjusted ERA (163 to 145, but Sanchez did so in 32 1/3 fewer innings). You could find one guy (the Rangers' Yu Darvish) who had a higher strikeout rate (11.89 to 10.1). You could find one guy (the Royals' James Shields) who logged more quality starts (27 to 25). You could find one guy (the Mariners' Hisashi Iwakuma) who had both a lower ERA (2.66 to 2.90) and a higher innings total (219 2/3 to 214 1/3).
Nobody, however, pulled the total package together quite like the mighty Max.
In recent years, we've seen the BBWAA, at large, get on board with the notion that win-loss records can be a horrendous way to evaluate pitchers. Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy despite a 13-12 record in 2010, and Tim Lincecum won it in the NL with a 15-7 mark a year earlier.
But this year, voters could put a checkmark next to Scherzer's name without worrying that they'll look like a worshiper of the win. He was a defensible choice, and Kershaw was a lock among locks.
This ballot, therefore, was as uncomplicated as they come.