A "Winning" Argument

Some of you readers may know that I am a political animal as well as a baseball fan, and I spend some time in the 'blogosphere' (I really hate that term). Recently there have been some attacks by the MSM (mainstream media) on political bloggers, implying they do not have the accountability that reporters have. The response of the political bloggers was that until the MSM stops screwing up reporting and ignoring actual facts in place of (often wrongheaded) conventional wisdom, they're going to hold their feet to the fire, and that they aren't going away even if the MSM starts getting stories right.

This problem is not limited to news or political reporting. It happens just as much, if not more, in the world of baseball. Profiling the tightening AL Cy Young race was a great idea, but does anyone else see anything wrong with the analysis presented here (emphasis mine)?
1. Beckett, Red Sox (15-5, 3.15): Still tied for the league lead in wins despite a stay on the DL. His team is on its way to the playoffs, giving him the slightest of nods over Bedard, Santana and Haren, at least on my ballot.

2. Bedard, Orioles (12-4, 2.98): The league's best pitcher the past two months hasn't lost in 12 starts (he's 8-0 in that time). He's the only pitcher in the majors with 200-plus strikeouts.

3. Santana, Twins (13-9, 2.88): He's the only contender among the starters who doesn't have an overwhelming won-loss record, although he's allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his past seven defeats. Still second in Ks, fourth in ERA., first in Q rating.

4. Haren, A's (13-4, 2.54): League-leading ERA and excellent record for losing team probably makes him the slight favorite in the eyes of many, but he's allowed 11 unearned runs to make the ERA a tad deceiving, toils in a pitchers' park and is working without the pressure of Beckett.

I'm not sure I agree with this ranking 100%, but that's not the reason I've bolded selections from this list. If we're going to debate who the best pitcher in the AL is, can't we use a more meaningful metric than wins? I thought even laggards like ESPN had finally started to realize that wins are a hugely flawed method for measuring a pitcher, but it looks like it took Sports Illustrated to prove me wrong. No one who is being paid to write about baseball should be allowed to give such a pathetic analysis of this race. Basic journalistic standards should push the writer to be aware of and include such basic pitcher metrics as K/9, K/BB, and FIP, among others.

In two minutes I was able to uncover the following:
  1. C.C. Sabathia has the highest K/BB of any starter in the AL, 6.22, higher than the only reliever on the SI list, J.J. Putz (5.25, who actually ranks just behind Joe Nathan in this stat) and higher than the number one pick, Josh Becket (4.93).

  2. Bedard, no surprise, has the best K/9 (11.02) of the group, followed by Santana (9.82) and Putz (9.78) None of the others are even in the top 40, and Bedard and Santana are the top 2 starters on the list.

  3. Putz has an amazing BAA of .146, followed by Bedard at .210 and Santana at .214. None of the others make the top 40.

Now, don't those numbers muddy the waters a bit? Not quite so easy to hand the trophy to "Mr. 15 & 5?" Surprisingly, these numbers have me leaning towards Bedard, which is not what I would have expected before my little sabermetric excursion. We need to look at these numbers, lest we repeat the travesty of the 2005 Cy Young. Just a reminder for all you out there:

B. Colon - 3.48 ERA, 157 K
J. Santana - 2.87 ERA, 238 K

Colon won the Cy Young, and Santana inexplicably finished 3rd in balloting. Why? Santana was 'only' 16-7, Colon was 21-8, pitching for a playoff team. More wins that probably came from the better hitting, playoff-bound Angels. So please, mainstream sportswriters, learn a little something about what you're writing about. You might even enjoy it.

I know I will, if it ever happens.

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