If you know me, you know that I don’t put a ton of stock into postseason awards, simply because I know how flawed the process is in selecting them and how infuriating it gets. It’s one thing to listen to people say that they’ll vote for Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout for the AL MVP… and quite another to hear them say that the choice, in their minds, isn’t even close.
Still, it’s fun to have a player from your team win, because it brings prestige and positive news during the offseason, and it’s hard to pretend that winning these things doesn’t matter down the line if said player is fortunate enough to be considered for induction in the Hall of Fame. So, yeah I hope Clayton Kershaw beats out fellow finalists R.A. Dickey & Gio Gonzalez to win his second consecutive Cy Young Award… but I know it’s not going to happen. It’s going to be okay.
Let’s be honest here, this is a race between Dickey & Kershaw. That’s not to belittle Gonzalez, who had a fantastic season in his first year as a National after coming over from Oakland, and he actually beat both of the other two in wins and K/9. That’s great, but it’s just not enough. Of the three, he had the highest ERA, the highest BB/9, the worst K/BB, and pitched at least 25 fewer innings than either of the other two. Throw in the perception that he’s not even the best pitcher on his own team, given the presence of Stephen Strasburg, and it’s difficult to see him winning.
So let’s focus on Dickey & Kershaw, and to be honest, there’s no wrong answer here:
NL ERA? Kershaw #1, Dickey #2.
SIERA? Dickey #2, Kershaw #4.
Innings pitched? Dickey #1, Kershaw #2.
K%? Kershaw #1, Dickey #5.
Strikeouts? Dickey #1, Kershaw #2, by a single whiff. (Adam Greenberg, anyone?)
WHIP? Kershaw #1, Dickey #3.
Batting average against? Kershaw #2, Dickey #4. (Same for OPS.)
QS%? Dickey #1, Kershaw #2.
Shutouts? Dickey #1, Kershaw #2.
Stats not enough? Don’t worry: there’s more!
Pitching through injury? Kershaw put up his numbers despite suffering through plantar fasciitis in June and a painful hip ailment in September; Dickey pitched most of the season with an abdominal tear which required surgery in October.
Humanitarian awards? In October, Kershaw won the Roberto Clemente Award, “the top humanitarian honor bestowed by Major League Baseball“; last week, Dickey won the Branch Rickey Award, a similar honor.
So as you can see, these two are the definition of neck-and-neck; there’s really no wrong answer here, with the only differentiation being that Dickey won 21 games while Kershaw won only 14. While I shouldn’t have to tell you that’s stupid & pointless, I will. Besides, I’ve seen some try to use the backdoor argument that even though they know wins don’t matter, it still means something that Dickey won 21 games for a 74-win Mets team while Kershaw won only 14 for an 86-win Dodgers club.
It doesn’t. You know why? Because I don’t care what happened when Dillon Gee or Aaron Harang or Jonathon Niese or Chad Billingsley was pitching when it comes to this conversation, and the Mets backed up Dickey with much more offense (4.61 runs/game, 15th in the NL) than the Dodgers did for Kershaw (3.94, tied for 32nd). As MLB.com’s Matthew Leach pointed out, “eight times in 2012, Kershaw pitched at least seven innings, allowed no more than two runs and received either a loss or no decision,” more than any other pitcher in the league and five more times than Dickey ended up in that situation. So no, wins don’t matter.
For my part, I voted Kershaw in the recent IBWAA awards. Sure, I’m a little biased, and I’ll own that. Basically, it comes down to this for me: in a razor-thin judgement, a pitcher’s job is simply to keep hitters off base and runners off the board. Kershaw, ever so slightly, did a better job of those things. He allowed fewer runners, he allowed fewer runs. It’s nothing I can take a strong, principled stand upon, because again, these guys are so fantastically close, but it’s the way I went.
Still, I have little doubt that Dickey’s going to win this. His story, as a knuckleballer left for dead only to dominate at 37, is too amazing, especially when you consider some of his personal demons that will be laid out in his book. Some voters won’t be able to help themselves and will foolishly vote on wins. And since Kershaw won last year, there’s likely to be some small amount of “he’s had his” for some voters, if only subconsciously.
And really, that’s fine. Kershaw deserves this, but so does Dickey. This isn’t going to be Trout losing to Cabrera, where there’s going to be a lot of well-placed anger at a poor decision. Either way, you’ll have a fantastic performance getting rewarded, and while it’s unfortunate that it probably won’t be Kershaw, it doesn’t take anything away from him.
Besides, he’s not even 25 until March. Believe me, he’ll get his.
Unrelated: last night, I was welcomed as a guest on the Productive Outs PRODCAST with the wonderful Ian Miller & Riley Breckenridge. Find the audio here; I’m about 41 minutes in, and we touch on the Marlins/Blue Jays mess before getting into some Dodger fun.