Run Support and the Cy Young Award

With a week to go in the regular season, it would appear that there are three contenders for the two Cy Young Awards. In the American League, Max Scherer had it wrapped up by mid-season, and in the National League a late season rush has pushed Jordan Zimmerman into a close race with Clayton Kershaw. But should that really BE a close race, and should Scherzer have such an overwhelming advantage over the American League field?

First, the National League.

Here are the basic stats comparing Kershaw and Zimmerman:

Clayton Kershaw
Jordan Zimmerman
1.88 ERA
3.18 ERA
230 IP 224 K
206 IP 159 K
0.92 WHIP
1.10 WHIP
.195 BAA
.239 BAA

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When looking at these numbers, it would seem that Zimmerman would be giving Kershaw a run for his money. But, as I have written time and time again, as have other Dodgers’ watchers, the team just does not support Kershaw when he pitches. Year after year, with the exception of 2011, this has been the case, and the other numbers bear it out. While Zimmerman has seen his Nationals score an average of 4.48 runs per game when he starts, the Dodgers have supported Kershaw with more than one less run per game, at 3.44 runs per game.

Look at Kershaw’s 1.88 ERA and 0.92 WHIP versus Zimmerman’s 3.18 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and it’s hard to figure Zimmerman’s 19 wins as against Kershaw’s 15, until you see the run support. Even among other Dodgers’ pitchers, there is a significant difference. Zack Greinke, with his sparkling 15-3 record, has been provided, by those same Dodgers’ batters, the same run support ZImmerman receives, 4.48 runs per game, and Hyun-Jin Ryu does even better, getting 4.93 runs per game.

Kershaw should be the run away Cy Young winner in the National League.

Now, the American League

While everyone and his aunt Gertie have already given the award to Scherzer, look at these numbers:

Max Scherzer
Yu Darvish
Hisashi Iwakuma
3.00 ERA
2.81 ERA
2.76 ERA
207 IP 230 K
199 IP 260 K
212 IP 176 K
0.96 WHIP
1.06 WHIP
1.02 WHIP
.201 BAA
.193 BAA
.222 BAA

As great a year as Scherzer has had, I’d have to argue that he is no better than the third best pitcher in the American League, after Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma. Runs per game is a different animal in the American League, and you cannot compare those figures with NL numbers, but you

can compare them between AL pitchers, and the difference here is very revealing. Iwakuma, with only 13 wins despite other sparkling stats, is provided 4.28 runs per game by his Mariners’ teammates, and the guy I’d argue has been the American Leagues’ best this season, Yu Darvish, who also has won only 13 times, gets only 4.27 runs per game. Then there is Scherzer. Yes, he has bee absolutely dominant in game after game this season (but so has Darvish just about as often, and on most occasions as has been Iwakuma) but it sure helps to have a team behind him average 5.74 runs per nine innings. Skip Schumaker could win a dozen games with that support (But not Joe Blanton).

So, Scherzer will win the AL Cy Young Award this year, but the top starter has been Yu Darvish.

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