Monday, September 28, 2009

Greinke and the tyranny of the win column

The old-school argument against Zach Greinke's Cy Young candidacy can be summed up in one sentence:

Sixteen wins from a starting pitcher isn't enough to win.

Not when there's a CC Sabathia hurtling to 20 wins.

Sabathia is a fine pitcher having a fine season. He's doing essentially what he always does, and he does it well. His durability is without peer in the current generation of starting pitchers. If anybody deserves the salary he's getting, he does.

He's not having as good a season as Greinke.

Sabathia's current W-L record (19-7) works out to a .730 winning percentage. That's 89 points above team — which is impressive enough.

Greinke's 16-8 record (.667) comes for a .410 team. That's 257 points above team. Or about three times Sabathia's margin.

And then there's this: The Royals —a bad team to begin with — are, in a sense, even worse with Greinke pitching.

Of the 36 AL pitchers with at least 140 innings, none —zero — have as few runs scored for them as Greinke does. Teammate Brian Bannister, for example, gets 5.9 runs of support per game; Greinke gets 4.8, more than one run less.

Grienke has had eight no-decisions this season. In four of them, he allowed either zero or one run. Twice he gave up two runs, twice three. He has had five starts all year in which he allowed four or more runs; he 0-5 in those starts, He has, in short, zero cheap wins.

Sabathia? He's had a couple of cheap wins, giving up four runs in six-plus innings for a W once, five runs in seven for another.

Really these two are the Cy Young argument. Felix Hernandez is, like Greinke, racking up better stats than Sabathia, but whatever argument one makes for King Felix, Greinke trumps.

It's the old-school guys who value wins over all else versus the new wave. The old-school argument prevailed in 2005, when Bartolo Colon (2-8, 3.48) won the award over Johan Santana (16-7, 2.87); there seems to be a general consensus since then that the electorate blew it.

Sabathia's season is better than Colon's but Greinke's is better than Santana's.

This year, I think, the writers will get it right. Greinke will win.

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