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


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  1. bill

    November 18, 2011 10:24 AM

    Who the hell voted for Ian Kennedy in first place?

    I can understand why people would think Kershaw was better, but what idiot still thinks Kennedy was better than Halladay and Kershaw?

  2. hk

    November 18, 2011 11:05 AM

    Apparently, some in the BBWAA still worship at the alter of pitching wins.

  3. Ken

    November 18, 2011 11:39 AM

    I don’t see a vote for Kennedy as that absurd, based on the latitude the writers seem to have in determining their order. A voter might define the CY as the pitcher’s MVP award. The V word is the selling point.
    Doc’s value unquestioned, he still had beaucoup support in his fellow starters, and even with the quality of said group, this probably wasn’t a real close race. Kennedy, until Hudson got rolling, was thee man, and in a tight race that his club won. So from that angle, it’s not ridiculous to think of him as highly valuble, and reward him the vote as the Most Valuble Pitcher, or CY winner.

    Again, the latitude of vote determination is the basis of that. Now if the voters thinking is that he was the best pitcher, that’s their problem, not my explanation.

  4. bill

    November 18, 2011 01:56 PM

    Cy Young is not a “most valuable” award. It’s a “best” award. To think that Kennedy was better than Kershaw or Halladay is just foolish.

  5. Css228

    November 18, 2011 02:39 PM

    Yeah the 1 first place vote that went to Kennedy is a joke and Halladay and Kershaw should have been closer, but other than that (and Kennedy finishing ahead of Hamels) no real complaints.

  6. Ken

    November 18, 2011 04:53 PM

    Cy Young is not a “most valuable” award. It’s a “best” award. >>

    Where in the voting criteria is there an instruction that leads voters specifically down that path? Voting criteria, I believe, are so wide open that between the line of sabermetrics, you have voters as a whole deciding off completely different ranges. Plus, in the Verlander MVP debate, if I didn’t hear the opinion that the CY is like a pitcher’s MVP about 30 times, I didn’t hear it at all. It’s an opinion. Where is it said that is a mistaken definition?

    I’m just offering how 1 guy might have chose Kennedy. And he seems within guidelines. If there’s something that specifically limits the award, and not value, what and where is it?

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