Brief Thoughts on the NL Cy Young Award

Clayton Kershaw ran away with the National League Cy Young award yesterday, earning 27 of 32 first-place votes. Roy Halladay received only four while teammates Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels finished in third and fifth place, respectively. It is not surprising that Kershaw won, but it is somewhat shocking that he won so convincingly. Leading up to the announcement, the common thought seemed to be that the trio of Kershaw, Halladay, and Lee were very close in nearly every statistical category that any of them could win it. Ultimately, the voters — who traditionally have cited the importance of playing for a contending team — felt that Kershaw’s edge in the traditional stats gave him the edge.

Ian Kennedy was another surprise, finishing fourth in voting ahead of Hamels. Kennedy’s 21-4 record looks quite nice compared to Hamels’ 14-9, but he received 0.7 runs of support per game. Over 33 starts, that amounts to 23 additional runs. That’s not to say that Kennedy didn’t deserve to be in fourth place, but he did inexplicably receive a first place vote while Hamels didn’t receive any first-through-third place votes.

Other oddities included relievers John Axford and Craig Kimbrel getting votes as well as Ryan Vogelsong, riding the momentum of four very surprising months between April and July — his first four months in the Majors since 2006. Yovani Gallardo received two percent of the voting share despite a 3.52 ERA.

Overall, the results seem fine even if the distribution of the votes is a little peculiar. The down-ballot nominees are largely irrelevant, so I don’t think fans can make many complaints about how the Cy Young balloting played out.

Pitcher, Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Points
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers 27 3 2 207
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies 4 21 7 133
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies 5 17 9 1 90
Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks 1 3 6 18 3 76
Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies 2 13 17
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants 1 5 7
Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee Brewers 1 3 5
Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants 1 1 3
John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers 2 2
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves 2 2
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants 1 1
Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco Giants 1 1