With Brandon Webb earning his 22nd victory of the 2008 season yesterday, his candidacy for the NL Cy Young award grows ever stronger. What a lot of people don’t know is that Webb might barely be top-five material when it comes to that award, and Philadelphia’s own Cole Hamels is a better selection.
As we can see, Hamels averages nearly a third of an inning more (doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not nothing), has a lower ERA and WHIP, and strikes out more and walks less. The only mark against Hamels is the home run rate, but he’s a fly ball pitcher and Webb is a ground ball pitcher, so that’s to be expected.
Back at the end of July, I noted that both Cole Hamels and Johan Santana (another unmentioned Cy Young candidate) had been unlucky. At that point (July 23), Hamels had four no-decisions and three losses in quality starts. Since then, Hamels has had 11 starts, eight of which were quality starts. In those eight quality starts, he hasn’t lost, but has had two more no-decisions.
Webb has 23 total quality starts this season. He’s lost in only one of them and got two no-decisions in the others. In his non-quality starts, Webb has also received one win.
With all of this talk about quality starts, it’s important to realize that it’s just a very quick way to separate a pitcher’s good performances from the bad. It’s very general. To utilize the quality start in a more efficient way, I suggest reading Brian Joseph’s article at MVN called Revisiting and Reinventing the Quality Start.
Of course, this Webb-Hamels debate leaves out other, more deserving candidates, like Tim Linceum, Johan Santana, and Ryan Dempster. Hamels is probably fourth on the list behind that trio, and Webb might be fifth.
A case can also be made for closer Brad Lidge. In my previous entry, I noted that many are making a case for K-Rod for MVP and/or Cy Young in the American League (which is completely ridiculous), but Lidge should get some limited support for the NL Cy Young. He leads all relievers, by far, in WPA. It is arguably one of the best seasons by a closer since Eric Gagne in 2003.
The Phillies are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers, their likely NLDS opponent, for the best bullpen ERA in the National League at 3.25. Lidge, with a 1.87 ERA (238 ERA+) in nearly 70 innings, is a big part of that (15% to be exact). The Phils also have the fewest blown saves in the league with 15, and none of those are Lidge’s — he’s a perfect 40-for-40 in save opportunities.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of awarding relief pitchers since they pitch three times fewer innings than starters, but practically speaking, Lidge has been the difference between October baseball and October golf for the Phillies. Let’s take a look at the Phillies’ record if Lidge blows a specific percentage of his saves and the Phillies lose as a result.
If Lidge saves “only” 95% of the games, the Phillies are tied with the Mets. If he saves “only” 90% (four blown saves, which appears to be the average), they’re two games back.
It’s not fair to just take away games from the Phillies as if this hypothetical world is a vacuum, but it still gives you a good idea of how Lidge’s success has pushed the Phillies this far.
All told, Hamels should be at the back end of the top-five in the NL Cy Young race and Lidge should be at the back end of the top-ten.