It's not often that I'm utterly right about something that seems less than obvious (to me, anyway), so I hope you'll pardon me for revisiting something I wrote just this morning.
- Mark (Missouri)
Zack Greinke has the AL Cy Young hands down
Rob Neyer (12:24 PM)
I think it'll be close to unanimous, Mark, if only because three other guys won 19 but not 20. More later in the blog, probably...
Well, it's later and I'm happy to have gotten something right. I do want to expand a bit on how a 16-game winner was able to take an award that's typically won by 20-game winners.
Yes, it's true that nobody won 20 games in the American League, and I do think that helped Greinke quite a bit. But his superiority over the 19-game winners can't be explained by that alone. Nor can it be explained (alone) by Greinke's obvious statistical superiority (detailed here and here, among many other places.
I think there was just a buzz around Greinke that just wasn't around anyone else. It was Greinke, and not Felix Hernandez, who hit the cover of the Rolling Stone (well, actually Sports Illustrated, but you know what I mean). It was Greinke's name you kept hearing on TV and radio all summer. Early on, the only possible knock against Greinke was that he hadn't faced particularly tough competition. That was true, and he never did face the Yankees (nope, not even once). But in his only start against the Red Sox, Greinke pitched six scoreless innings. He gave up two runs in 16 innings against the high-scoring Angels. By season's end, he had faced hitters roughly as tough as the next guy (among the league's top starters, only Roy Halladay had a clear edge in this area ... and Halladay finished well down in the balloting; and while I don't expect many of the voters to have noticed this, whatever advantage Greinke might have gained in facing subpar opponents, he lost thanks to the lousy infield defense behind him).
Granted, none of the buzz would have sprung up without the statistics. But other pitchers have had great statistics but failed to win Cy Young Awards, and usually it's been because they didn't win 20 games while someone else did (or came close). Maybe I'm wrong, though. Maybe these days it's all about performance rather than media buzz and support from your teammates.
If so, Tim Lincecum's in for some good news tomorrow.