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In a typically engaging essay (Cy's the Limit?") posted to Da Box earlier, Coach Kent posed the following query:

" ... how do you think Doc compares to other AL starters? Not long-term, just for the upcoming season. Or, to ask the question another way, who do you think are the leading contenders for this year's Cy Young award?"

The reaction and discussion (still ongoing at this writing) ignores one teensy point: those two questions (who are the AL's top starters? who are the leading contenders for the 2003 Cy Young Award?) are only barely related.

In the more than quarter century (1977-2002) of the post-Sutter era of closers dominating baseball's decision-making on pitching, the 26 AL Cy Young winners have fit pretty easily into four distinct categories, with some overlap -- and Halladay is Alfonso-Soriano-leads-the-AL-in-walks unlikely to fit any of the four. The one exception to the quarter-century rule (there's always one), as we will see, is a name that should be familiar to Blue Jays fans.

Here's the breakdown; there are more than 25 names listed because some pitchers fit more than one category, and so are listed twice. They are presented in order of season in which they claimed the award, with multiple-time winners noted parenthetically.

Pitched for a playoff team:
Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry, Mike Flanagan, Pete Vuckovich, LaMarr Hoyt, Willie Hernandez, Bret Saberhagen (1985), Roger Clemens (1986, 1999), Frank Viola, Bob Welch, Dennis Eckersly, Jack McDowell, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez (1999), Barry Zito
Doc's chances: Barring a very surprising Wild Card run, the presence of New York and Boston in the same division means Toronto could finish with the third best record in all of baseball (they won't) and not make the playoffs. No help here for a Doc-for-Cy candidacy.

Won a ridiculous (23+) number of games:
Ron Guidry, Steve Stone, LaMarr Hoyt, Roger Clemens (1986), Frank Viola, Bret Saberhagen (1989), Bob Welch, Pedro Martinez (1999), Barry Zito
Doc's chances: Probably the best bet for a Doc-for-Cy run lies in his ability to string together 23-25 wins. Voters like "wins" even when other pitchers are clearly better. Is this possible? Sure ... if spares like Hoyt, Stone and Welch can put up Sandy Koufax numbers once in a career, Halladay sure could. But even that's no sure thing, especially if one or more candidates fits one or more of the other categories. Ever hear of Ron Bryant?

Was a dominant closer:
Sparky Lyle, Rollie Fingers, Willie Hernandez, Dennis Eckersly
Doc's chances: Well, unless Carlos Tosca has something really bizarre in mind ...

Was a repeat winner:
Roger Clemens (1987, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001), Bret Saberhagen (1989), Pedro Martinez (2000)
Doc's chances: Mathematically impossible, of course.

Notes on Strike Year Winners:
David Cone (1994) and Randy Johnson (1995)
Both had established name value, though neither had yet won a Cy; both had eye-popping W/L totals (Cone 16-5; Johnson 18-2) in shortened seasons; Johnson also qualifies under "playoff team" category while Cone's Royals were surprisingly battling for a Wild Card berth in the Postseason That Never Was.

The Exception
Pat Hentgen finished on top of the weakest Cy Young field ever in 1996. He nosed out Andy Pettitte -- a personal favorite of mine, but certainly no Hall of Famer -- in a year when Charles Nagy, Alex Fernandez and Ken Hill were all in the Top 10. Amazingly, a setup man (guy by the name of Mariano Rivera) finished third, albeit a distant third.
Doc's chances: Almost none. There are too many former winners still around (notably Martinez and Zito) and a handful of AL pitchers who get far, far better press -- Hudson, Mulder, Mussina, just to name three -- for this type of "exception" to occur again.

So, is Halladay one of the top starting pitchers in the American League? Sure thing. Will he win the AL Cy Young Award any time soon.

Barring a Blue Jay pennant, a conversion to closer and 55 saves, a once-in-a-career two dozen wins or complete collapse by the rest of the A.L.'s elite pitchers ... no. No chance.

Flame away ...

Why Roy Halladay Won't Win the 2003 Cy Young Award | 12 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Coach - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 11:28 AM EST (#33570) #
a once-in-a-career two dozen wins

Close on the number, Mick, but Doc could have a few years that good if he stays healthy. With just average luck and support this season, I figure he'll be 22-7 or thereabouts. And he's getting better.

You are right about the Cy Young, of course. Voters won't see enough of the Blue Jays until they're in a pennant race, and even I'm not predicting that before next year. For 2003, I expect it to be between Pedro vs. the Oakland starter with the gaudiest stats; a great season by anyone else will probably be overlooked.
_Jordan - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 11:59 AM EST (#33571) #
Mick, excellent analysis, and right on the money. This really underlines the faint hope that Halladay has for a Cy Young on his mantlepiece this Christmas. He might well produce a top three finish, but he's going to have to wait a while yet for the hardware. Just as well, really: I think a Cy Young in his second full season would just end up being an albatross, just like that no-hitter would've been back in '99 if Higginson hadn't taken him deep in the ninth.

Just to pursue your categories a little further: I think being on a playoff team is really the controlling factor in most of these votes. Of the nine pitchers who won 23+ games, only one (Steve Stone) was on a non-playoff team. Of the four closers, only one (Rollie Fingers) was on a non-playoff team. There's a certain chicken-and-egg thing at play here, of course: did Bob Welch win 27 games because the A's were a juggernaut, or were the A's a juggernaut in large part because of his 27 victories? I tend towards the former, as well as crediting a large dose of luck, but Cy Youngs have unfortunately been going to the Best Pitcher on a Playoff Team for a long time and will likely keep going that way in future. Dave Stieb and Pete Vukovich could tell us all about it.

I can see hardly any situation where I would give a reliever the Cy Young. If he threw 120 innings and had a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP, then okay, but otherwise the saves and the gaudy stats mean very little in limited innings and (too often) non-pressure situations (three-run lead in the ninth, one hit, one walk, and one strikeout, easy save). Willie Hernandez's Cy Young Award has about as much authenticity in my books as Kevin Kline's Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
_Spicol - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 12:45 PM EST (#33572) #
Probably the best bet for a Doc-for-Cy run lies in his ability to string together 23-25 wins. Voters like "wins" even when other pitchers are clearly better. Is this possible? Sure ... if spares like Hoyt, Stone and Welch can put up Sandy Koufax numbers once in a career, Halladay sure could.

The difference is that Hoyt (115 ERA+), Stone (123 ERA+) and Welch (126 ERA+) were merely good pitchers on great teams during their respective years of inflated win totals. None of them struck out too many guys and Stone and Welch walked too many. Their success was more a product of team success and luck than skill.

Halladay, on the other hand, is skilled (152 ERA+ last season, with good ratios that indicate he's likely to do it again). He's a great pitcher on a team where run support won't be a problem. I don't see 20-24 wins as being too much of a stretch at all.

The problem will be that there's likely to be multiple 20 game winners in the AL this season and even if Roy wins 22, someone from Oakland, NY or Boston might win 23 or 24. That, to me, is the chief reason why Roy won't win the Cy Young, even if he has an excellent season. It will have to be significantly more excellent than anyone else in order to get notice from the BBWAA.
_Sean - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 01:18 PM EST (#33573) #
Pedro vs. one of Oakland's Big Three again this year? Check. Pedro will probably deserve to win it again, but lose the vote; I've never understood why he didn't bring home the MVP in 2000.

Discount Kevin Kline's Oscar? Ch-sacrilege! One of my favourite actors who never fails to crack me up, and has been in some very good dramas as well.

I can hear it now. "It's...J-J-Jo-Joo-Jordan! C-c-c-oming to k-k-kill me! Oh no!"

Ahem. Sorry. :) The strange things I do to keep myself sane after 4 days of a ridiculously bad cold with only 8 hours' sleep the entire time.
_snellville jone - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 01:58 PM EST (#33574) #
A couple of other exceptions to the playoff rule are Viola in '88 and Pedro in '97. Viola had 24 wins on a team that had gone to the World Series the year before, while Pedro, winning only 18 games, boasted a 1.90 ERA and 305 Ks for Montreal. Speaking of the National League, Gaylord Perry won the award in '78 with only 21 wins for a non-playoff team (the field was weak; Burt Hooton, Vida Blue, J.R. Richard were the other contenders). That's still only four guys out of 52...
Gitz - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 02:07 PM EST (#33575) #
I have to agree with Craig's assessment (on a different thread) over Coach's. It's either going to be Pedro or an Athletic. One of these years, Tim Hudson is going to avoid having a bad April or May, and he'll reel off 25 wins with a sub 2.50 E.R.A. I don't see Halladay getting much better than he already is (does he need to?), and, most importantly, the Jays won't win anything this year. Barry Zito was tremendous last year, but the number next to "W" got him the Cy Young. Pedro or Lowe deserved it more.

For the future, it doesn't look great for Roy, either. Every year he'll have to deal with Mulder (Roy's age) and Zito (a year YOUNGER than Halladay), Garcia (a year older), Pineiro (Zito's age), et al -- assuming all stay in the AL, of course. Even Lowe is only 30, as is Pedro. Quite a crop of live arms in the American League, eh?

Bottom line: The Jays need to win. The chances of Halladay out-pitching everyone on that list in a given year are as good as anybody's, but it means nothing if the Jays don't win, or unless he can somehow put up this line:

18 6 217.0 128 42 17 32 284 1.74 285

By any statistical evaluation, Pedro's numbers (from the 2000 season) are simply unbelievable. I believe someone mentioned this year as possibly being the best ever by a pitcher, but I don't remember anyone actually running the numbers.
Pistol - Tuesday, March 11 2003 @ 10:13 PM EST (#33576) #
Halladay's support-neutral win/loss record last year was 16.7 wins and 8.9 losses. So considering he was 19-7 last year he was already a bit on the lucky side.

Of course, the 16.7 wins ranked 3rd in the AL (behind Zito and Lowe).
_steve - Wednesday, March 12 2003 @ 02:18 PM EST (#33577) #
... they play in front of minuscule crowds in a blah baseball city. That said ...

After delivering the cheap shot in his latest mailbag, Jeff Pearlman, CNNSI, raves about the Doc and the direction of the Jays ball club.
_WHS - Thursday, May 08 2003 @ 02:09 AM EDT (#33578) #
Halladay absolutly has to get the wins, unless of course, he puts up P. Martinez numbers of 2000. You saw it last year if you looked into was the first time in the HISTORY of the Cy Young award that a pitcher led his league in ERA, WHIP, BAA, Ks, and winning PCT AND still didn't win the award. So that shows that getting the Ws is a HUGE factor in winning the award (20 for Martinez and 23 for Zito last year). Halladay has the stuff to win the award but its a matter of getting a few more Ws and hoping at the same time Martinez or an Oakland pitcher doesn't match him because he won't get the benifit over them.
_bob - Saturday, September 27 2003 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#33579) #
Jamie Moyer will win the Cy Young...duh.
_AZ - Friday, January 16 2004 @ 01:16 PM EST (#33580) #
Bet you feel kinda foolish now!
_Mick - Friday, January 16 2004 @ 05:28 PM EST (#33581) #
Not at all.

Any written product still producing responses more than nine months later is an unmitigated success in my book. Er, blog.
Why Roy Halladay Won't Win the 2003 Cy Young Award | 12 comments | Create New Account
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