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Liriano v. Felix v. CC

Fox’s Jon Morosi wrote a terrible article where he says either CC Sabathia or David Price should win the AL Cy Young. Rather than give this idiot any kind of attention by talking about him, I instead am going to use the people’s champ, CC Sabathia, and compare him to Felix Hernandez, who most of the statistical community is tapping for the award, and Francisco Liriano, who I think is the best candidate, but mostly just because he’s a Twin.

To do this, I am going to compare every start they have, from their best start to their worst start. Someone at Twinkie Town tried to do this, but did it incorrectly as they took their starts in chronological order.

In order to do this, I am going to use gamescore, developed by Bill James. It’s not perfect (for example, earned and unearned runs are treated differently) but it’s easily available and I’m lazy.

To the graph:

From the graph, Felix is our clear winner, while Liriano is a distant 3rd. But is this correct?

Yes and no. Remember my note above about counting earned runs and unearned runs differently? By pitching in front of a defense without range, Liriano gets punished twice. More runs score, and more of them are earned, even when it is the defense’s fault and not his. Liriano has also gotten terribly unlucky this year. His .341 BABIP is highest in the majors, and Liriano is a flyball/strikeout pitcher, who would generally have a lower BABIP (although he does have a fairly high groundball rate this year). Liriano’s LD% is also right in line with his career number.

To take it deeper, let’s compare the three from another standpoint:

Strikeouts/9:

Liriano – 9.5

Felix – 8.53

CC – 7.42

Walks/9:

Felix – 2.51

Liriano – 2.72

CC – 2.82

Homers/9

Liriano – .21

Felix – .6

Sabathia – .75

By the way, Liriano has given up four (!) homers this year. There were four homers hit in the team’s first game of the season.

FIP

Liriano – 2.36

Felix – 3.00

CC – 3.56

To put into context how good Liriano has been this year, in 2000 when Pedro Martinez had basically the gold standard for the steroid era, his FIP was 2.17.

xFIP

Liriano – 3.03

Felix – 3.25

CC – 3.81

When you break down the numbers, Liriano has the best claim. He even is pitching for one of the best teams in baseball, which is usually important to the BBWAA (though they seem to apply that inconsistently). Last year the BBWAA took a step forward by electing Zach Greinke its Cy Young winner. If they pick CC (or David Price) this year, they will be taking a huge leap back.

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