How Reliable are Won-Lost Records, Part 5

September 16, 2022
                                            How Reliable are Won-Lost Records

Part V

True Winning Percentages and the Cy Young Award

 

I turned True Winning Percentage into a Value Statement by (a) subtracting .30 from the True Winning Percentage, and (b) multiplying that by the Pitcher’s Starts. 

Almost exactly one-half the time (historically), the Cy Young Award has been given to the pitcher seen by this formula as most deserving of the award.  There have been 121 Cy Young Awards, of which 61 or 62 have been given to what we might call the most-deserving candidate (among the starting pitchers.) The 1969 American League award voting ended in a tie, but the pitcher seen by this method as the most deserving Cy Young candidate was one of the two in the tie, so you can count that as a win or a loss, up to you.

The "match percentage" has gone way up over time.  From the first Cy Young Award in 1956 through 1990, only 38% of pitchers seen as most deserving the award won the vote.   Since 1991, 62% have won.   This has happened, of course, because of the growing influence of analytical methods on the thinking of voters. 

 

 

These are the Cy Young Awards that would result from this calculation.

1956, Herb Score (Don Newcombe, the actual winner, would have been third.)

1957, Jim Bunning (Warren Spahn, the actual winner, would have been seventh.)

1958, Sam Jones (Bob Turley second)

1959, Don Drysdale (Early Wynn third)

1960, Don Drysdale (Vern Law fourth)

1961, Whitey Ford (actually won the award)

1962, Don Drysdale (actually won the award)

1963, Sandy Koufax (actually won the award)

1964, Don Drysdale (Dean Chance third)

1965, Sandy Koufax (actually won the award. Sandy Koufax, 1965, would be the number one season in the data by this method.)

1966, Sandy Koufax (actually won the award.)

1967 AL, Dean Chance (Jim Lonborg second)

1967 NL, Jim Bunning (Mike McCormick eighth)

1968 AL, Denny McLain (actually won the award)

1968 NL, Bob Gibson (actually won the award)

1969 AL, Mike Cuellar (tied for the award with Denny McLain.  McLain would have been third by this method.)

1969 NL, Bob Gibson (Tom Seaver fourth)

1970 AL, Sam McDowell (Jim Perry fourth)

1970 NL, Ferguson Jenkins (Bob Gibson fourth)

1971 AL, Vida Blue (actually won the award)

1971 NL, Tom Seaver (Ferguson Jenkins second)

1972 AL, Gaylord Perry (actually won the award)

1972 NL, Steve Carlton (actually won the award)

1973 AL, Nolan Ryan (Jim Palmer third)

1973 NL, Tom Seaver (actually won the award)

1974 AL, Gaylord Perry (Catfish Hunter fourth)

1974 NL, Phil Niekro (relief pitcher won the award)

1975 AL, Catfish Hunter (Jim Palmer third)

1975 NL, Tom Seaver (actually won the award)

1976 AL, Jim Palmer (actually won the award)

1976 NL, Tom Seaver (Randy Jones third)

1977 AL, Nolan Ryan (relief pitcher won the award)

1977 NL, Steve Carlton (actually won the award)

1978 AL, Ron Guidry (actually won the award)

1978 NL, Phil Niekro (Gaylord Perry not in the top 20)

1979 AL, Dennis Eckersley (Mike Flanagan second)

1979 NL, J. R. Richard (reliever won the award)

1980 AL, Mike Norris (Steve Stone fifth)

1980 NL, Steve Carlton (actually won the award)

1981 AL, Jack Morris (reliever won the award)

1981 NL, Steve Carlton (Fernando Valenzuela second)

1982 AL, Dave Stieb (Pete Vuckovich not in the top 20)

1982 NL, Mario Soto (Steve Carlton third)

1983 AL, Dave Stieb (LaMarr Hoyt third)

1983 NL,  Mario Soto (John Denny third)

1984 AL, Dave Stieb (reliever won the award)

1984 NL, Dwight Gooden (Rick Sutcliffe fifth)

1985 AL, Dave Stieb (Bret Saberhagen sixth)

1985 NL, Dwight Gooden (actually won the award)

1986 AL, Roger Clemens (actually won the award)

1986 NL, Mike Scott (actually won the award)

1987 AL, Roger Clemens (actually won the award)

1987 NL, Nolan Ryan (reliever won the award)

1988 AL, Roger Clemens (Frank Viola second)

1988 NL, Orel Hershiser (actually won the award)

1989 AL, Bret Saberhagen (actually won the award)

1989 NL, Mike Scott (reliever won the award)

1990 AL, Roger Clemens (Bob Welch 13th)

1990 NL, Ramon Martinez (Doug Drabek fourth)

1991 AL, Roger Clemens (actually won the award)

1991 NL, Tom Glavine (actually won the award)

1992 AL, Roger Clemens (reliever won the award)

1992 NL, Greg Maddux (actually won the award)

1993 AL, Kevin Appier (Jack McDowell tenth)

            1993 NL, Greg Maddux (actually won the award)

            1994 AL, Roger Clemens (David Cone second)

            1994 NL, Greg Maddux (actually won the award)

            1995 AL, Randy Johnson (actually won the award)

            1995 NL, Greg Maddux (actually won the award)

            1996 AL, Roger Clemens (Pat Hentgen second.  Clemens was 10-13 with a 3.43 ERA, but was in fact probably the best pitcher in the league.)

            1996 NL, John Smoltz (actually won the award)

            1997 AL, Roger Clemens (actually won the award)

            1997 NL, Pedro Martinez (actually won the award)

            1998 AL, Roger Clemens (actually won the award)

            1998 NL, Greg Maddux (Tom Glavine fourth)

            1999 AL, Pedro Martinez (actually won the award)

            1999 NL, Randy Johnson (actually won the award)

            2000 AL, Pedro Martinez (actually won the award)

            2000 NL, Randy Johnson (actually won the award)

            2001 AL, Mike Mussina (Roger Clemens third)

            2001 NL, Randy Johnson (actually won the award)

            2002 AL, Pedro Martinez (Barry Zito second)

            2002 NL, Randy Johnson (actually won the award)

            2003 AL, Pedro Martinez (Roy Halladay second)

2003 NL, Jason Schmidt (reliever won the award)

2004 AL, Johan Santana (actually won the award)

            2004 NL, Randy Johnson (Roger Clemens fourth)

            2005 AL, Johan Santana (actually won the award)

            2005 NL, Roger Clemens (Chris Carpenter second)

            2006 AL, Johan Santana (actually won the award)

            2006 NL, Brandon Webb (actually won the award)

            2007 AL, CC Sabathia (actually won the award)

            2007 NL, Brandon Webb (Jake Peavy second)

            2008 AL, Johan Santana (Cliff Lee second)

            2008 NL, Tim Lincecum (actually won the award.)

(CC Sabathia was the most valuable major league starting pitcher in 2008 by this method, but split his time between the leagues, thus was not the most valuable pitcher in either league.)

            2009 AL, Zack Greinke (actualy won the award)

            2009 NL, Tim Lincecum (actually won the award)

            2010 AL, Felix Hernandez (actually won the award)

            2010 NL, Roy Halladay (actually won the award)

            2011 AL, Justin Verlander (actually won the award)

            2011 NL, Clayton Kershaw (actually won the award)

            2012 AL, Justin Verlander (David Price third)

            2012 NL, Clayton Kershaw (R.A. Dickey second)

            2013 AL, Max Scherzer (actually won the award)

            2013 NL, Clayton Kershaw (actually won the award)

            2014 AL, Felix Hernandez (Corey Kluber second)

            2014 NL, Johnny Cueto (Clayton Kershaw second)

            2015 AL, Dallas Keuchel (actually won the award)

            2015 NL, Clayton Kershaw (Jake Arrieta third)

            2016 AL, Corey Kluber (Rick Porcello second)

            2016 NL, Max Scherzer (actually won the award)

            2017 AL, Chris Sale (Corey Kluber second)

            2017 NL, Max Scherzer (actually won the award)

            2018 AL, Justin Verlander (Blake Snell second)

            2018 NL, Max Scherzer (Jacob deGrom second)

            2019 AL, Justin Verlander (actually won the award)

            2019 NL, Jacob deGrom (actually won the award)

            2020 AL, Shane Bieber (actually won the award)

            2020 NL, Trevor Bauer (actually won the award)

            2021 AL, Robbie Ray (actually won the award)

            2021 NL, Zack Wheeler (Corbin Burnes second)

 

            When the pitcher seen as most deserving did not win the award outright, which has happened 60 times, the award went to the second most-qualified candidate (by our math), 22 times, and to the third most-qualified candidate 12 times.  So if the most-qualified candidate was not selected, the award has usually gone to the second- or third- most qualified candidate.  Of the 25 cases in which the award did NOT go to the best-qualified, second best-qualified or third best-qualified candidate, 9 were times when the award was given to a relief pitcher.

 

A Closing Note About a Few Great Seasons

            In my data there are 21,708 pitcher/seasons, noting again that these are not all complete, although most are. 

            Of those 21,708 seasons, there are only 301 seasons which a pitcher has had a True Winning Percentage of .700 or higher.  That’s a little less than 1.5%. 

            Of those 301, 219 are seasons of less than 10 starts.  There are only 82 seasons with a .700 true winning percentage in 10 or more starts. 

            There are 16 times in history when a pitcher has had a true winning percentage of .700 or higher in back-to-back seasons. 

            Two of those are flukes.  Joe Beggs (no relation to Joe Blogs).. . Joe Beggs had a true winning percentage of .700 in 1943 and 1944, but he made only four starts in 1943 and only one in 1944.  Johnny Humphries had a true winning percentage of .700 in 1940 and 1941, but he made only one start in 1940 and only 6 in 1941. 

            That leaves 14 times in my data when a real starting pitcher has had a true winning percentage of .700 in at least two straight seasons:

            Lefty Grove in 1931-1932

            Hal Newhouser in 1945-1946

            Sandy Koufax in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1966

            Steve Carlton in 1980-1981

            Randy Johnson in 1994-1995

            Greg Maddux in 1994-1995

            Randy Johnson again in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002

            Pedro Martinez in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003—the only time a pitcher has done that five straight years.

            Curt Schilling in 2001 and 2002

            Jason Schmidt in 2003 and 2004

            Clayton Kershaw in 2013, 2014 and 2015

            Chris Sale in 2017 and 2018

            Max Scherzer in 2017 and 2018, and

            Jacob deGrom in 2018 and 2019

 

            There are four times in history when a pitcher has had a true winning percentage of .700 or higher in 40 or more starts, with 41 being the record. Those four seasons are Steve Carlton, 1972, and Sandy Koufax in 1963, 1965 and 1966. 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

           

 

 

 

 

 
 

COMMENTS (13 Comments, most recent shown first)

danrl
As a Twins fan, I wish Johan Santana had won the 2005 Cy Young Award. Three consecutive awards would have raised his HOF profile nicely. Bill, do you have how CYA winner Bartolo Colon ranked that season?

That said, Santana might not have won the award even if the voters recognized that Colon's 21-8 record overstated his season. Santana actually finished third that year, with Mariano in second.
10:12 PM Sep 19th
 
bjjp2
@CharlesSaeger--I assumed, perhaps wrongly, from the context that Bill was saying Perry was not in top 20 of *NL* pitchers in 1978. His 4.3 WAR was 4th among NL pitchers.
2:55 PM Sep 19th
 
CharlesSaeger
1994 and 1996 should pour more dung on the canard that Clemens was done as a pitcher in 1996.
5:51 PM Sep 18th
 
CharlesSaeger
@bjjp2: Not necessarily. Perry had 4.3 WAR, which was 12th. He’s closer to Steve Carlton or Dick Ruthven at 2.9 for 10th place than he is to Vida Blue’s 5.8 in 3rd. I would list him in the top 20 myself, but at that level, I can see some tweak in the system dropping him below 20. Remember, this era had a lot of good starting pitchers, with 3 Hall of Famers ahead of him in WAR (Niekro, Seaver, Blyleven) and another pitching full-time and still in top shape (Carlton), to say nothing of the guys who could have gotten in with a little better luck (Koosman, Reuschel, John).
5:49 PM Sep 18th
 
bjjp2
Perry not in the top 20 for that season has to be a mistake or some major flaw in the system.
11:02 AM Sep 18th
 
FrankD
Interesting study. I've never liked that a reliever can get Cy Young - don't they have the Rolaids Relief award anymore? (ended in 2012). Maybe there should be a hold award: maybe sponsored by Preparation H or Depends .... I digress. This method does show the dominance of some pitchers despite these same pitchers not always getting the Cy Young. Maybe there is some pressure/idea that with the Cy Young, like the MVP, shouldn't be awarded it to the same player over and over again ......
8:44 PM Sep 17th
 
3for3
Mario Soto with back to back 'Cy' seasons. As Bill has said, a great pitcher who wasted his best years in the cavern between the BRM and the Eric Davis years...
2:07 PM Sep 17th
 
Paulbonfanti
Gaylord Perry's 1978 season not even being in the top 20 really surprises me.

21-6. 2.73 ERA in 260 IP. 154 K vs 66 BB, not terrible. I know San Diego was a pitcher's park, but how are there 20 seasons better than that one?
11:23 PM Sep 16th
 
raincheck
Nolan Ryan there so many pitches. The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And lost out twice to some Nancy boy reliever.??
4:48 PM Sep 16th
 
Jaytaft
Very interesting articles. I always felt that Dave Stieb should be in the Hall of Fame; in his time, he was the very last pitcher I wanted my team to face.
4:29 PM Sep 16th
 
DaveNJnews
One of these surprises me and one doesn’t:

1978 NL, Phil Niekro (Gaylord Perry not in the top 20)

1982 AL, Dave Stieb (Pete Vuckovich not in the top 20)

I wouldn’t have thought that Perry’s season was so low-rated.
3:49 PM Sep 16th
 
bjjp2
Pretty amazing to see that Clemens should have won 10 Cy Youngs!! (And Steib 4).
3:22 PM Sep 16th
 
evanecurb
In 1969, Seaver won the award, but Gibson was first by this method.
In 1970, Gibson won, but Jenkins was first by this method.
In 1971, Jenkins won, but Seaver was first by this method.

The Circle of Life.
1:51 PM Sep 16th
 
 
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