Saturday, September 28, 2013


"But wait...there's more!!" Miraculously, Ron Popeil still has all his
fingers after all those years of slicing and dicing...and so does QMAX.
With 2013 all over and done with (except for the pesky Wild Card race...), it's time to get the drop on everyone and strut our Cy Young Award stuff.

Of course, that means another dose of QMAX (short for Quality Matrix), BBB's feckless but faithful diagnostic tool (limited copies of the version that also makes sno-cones for the kiddies are still available if you know where to look).

In the NL, the world has pretty much conceded the award to the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw, and QMAX will not disagree. We'll see some strong performances from pitchers who are even younger than the Dodger ace, however.

In the AL, we still have some remnants of the lamentable "Kill the Win" cadre looking to get the Cy presented to hard-luck pitcher Chris Sale, who went 11-14 for the crash-and-burn White Sox (who just managed to win #63 earlier today to avoid being the third team in 2013 to lose 100+ games). Chris had a fine year, but he's not going to win. We figure he'll finish third or fourth.

What's interesting this year is to see the return of Tommy John to the QMAX leaderboards. No, we don't mean the affable 286-game winner--that would have been unprecedented, since Tommy is 71 years old and not even Satchel Paige was effective past the age of 59.

No, we mean the type of pitcher that Tommy represents...the one that builds a kind of walk-the-tightrope success story out of a series of games where they allow more hits than IP and manage to strand the runners. It's the region on the QMAX chart in the lower left corner, and--of course--it's named after Tommy (though I suspect he'd prefer a bridge, or a parkway, or possibly a baseball just have to take what you can get, Tommy).

Three TJ-style years were pulled off with great aplomb in 2013. It's been awhile since we've had pitchers with more than 40% of their games in that region of the QMAX chart, but two of 'em did it this year--the A's Bartolo Colon (43%) in the AL and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright (41%) in the NL.

As many of you remember (though probably you've made some effort to forget...), QMAX produces a probabilistically-based winning percentage that we call QWP (pronounced "quip"--and why not?--short for QMAX Winning Percentage). With all the reams of data and numbers that QMAX produces, it's QWP that drives our assessment--whoever has the best QWP is our pick for the Cy Young Award.

In the NL, that's Kershaw (again). This is the third year in a row that he's been the King of the NL (though R.A. Dickey actually won the NL CYA in '12). Dickey faded away in '13 after the Mets shipped him to Toronto, but the Mets had a surprisingly viable CYA candidate on their squad this year in Matt Harvey (though we'll have to hope that he will find a way to return to form after suffering an elbow injury late in August).

Having a seriously impressive rookie campaign was Jose Fernandez. He couldn't keep the Fish from losing 100+ games, but he achieved what we used to call "Godhead" while on the mound in Marlins Park this year, posting a 1.19 ERA. (Jonah the K might like to know that this is the eighth best home ERA for a pitcher with 15+ GS in a season, as the chart at right notes. Let's all take a moment to remember Dean Chance, shall we?)

The "other lefty" up the coast, the Giants' Madison Bumgarner, quite probably sneaked up on everyone: a truly fine season.

Cliff Lee and Adam Wainwright are the "Tommy John" guys in the NL, though folks will doubtless think that these two guys strike out way too many guys to be termed "finesse" pitchers. We figure that Wainwright will get a lot of votes and might finish as high as second in the BBWAA (workhorse season, plus tied for the league lead in cough-cough-WINS-cough). Don't use the letter opener on the messenger, please.)

Nobody scored any runs for Stephen Strasburg in DC this year...he'd be a great KTW candidate, since he had only eight. He's still a little erratic, but one of these years he's gonna really turn it loose.

In the AL, we grit our teeth to keep from smilin' as we point to the data that confirms that Max Scherzer, the target of those who would tattoo counterintuitivity onto the inner right thigh of Ayn Rand, is the top starter in the Junior Circuit for 2013. But how can he have a better QWP than Clay Buchholz (who wound up 12-1 and is going to get a smattering of votes), who has such a much better ERA?

Because Clay had a good bit of fortune in stranding baserunners while he was on the mound in '13 (about a half-season's worth, as the GS indicates). His QMAX ERA was 2.78 (Max's was 2.67).

Japanese pitchers are making a go of it in the AL, in contrast with the less-than-stellar results in prior years. Hisashi Iwakuma ranks third in QWP, and Yu Darvish is fifth (Darvish has one more start coming tomorrow, in a very significant game for the Rangers' playoff chances...we'll fix his QMAX info once that game is concluded).
In between them is Sale, who had some great peak games in '13 (a higher percentage of anyone in the AL in terms of reaching the "elite square," the upper left corner where the best games are located and the WPCT is usually upwards of .800).

Sixth on the list is Anibal Sanchez, who will get some support from those who place their faith in ERA+. He had a fine year, but he's not the best pitcher in the AL...his QMAX ERA is 3.29.

Finally, we expect to see a few sentimental votes for Bartolo Colon, who has become the Caribbean's answer to Tommy John. The concentration of games in that "TJ" region is bordering on surreal...even though he's not a credible CYA candidate, his resurrection has been a fantastic story and just another example of the fairy dust that has swirled back into the residue of design in Oakland.

So how would we vote? We take it straight down the QWP line (almost):

NL: 1. Kershaw 2. Harvey 3. Fernandez 4. Bumgarner 5. Lee
AL: 1. Scherzer 2. Iwakuma 3. Sale 4. Buchholz 5. Darvish

How do we think they'll finish in the voting?

NL: 1. Kershaw 2. Wainwright 3. Lee 4. Zimmerman 5. Fernandez
AL: 1. Scherzer 2. Iwakuma 3. Sale 4. Colon 5. Darvish

We'll check back once the CYAs are announced....stay tuned.