Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cy Rivera?

There's been a lot of talk lately about Mariano Rivera getting the AL Cy Young this year; for example here, here, and on BBTN. It seems ridiculous on its face. For one thing, anything Harold Reynolds supports is bound to be stupid. Moreover, Mo's on pace to pitch just 72 innings, which is really really low. Plus this is not a bad year for AL starters; while there are no massive standouts, Roy Halladay and Mark Buerhle are pretty dominant (though Halladay's been hurt), and Barry Zito has been unstoppable as of late (8 wins and an ERA of 2.33 in his last 8 starts). Finally there's the obvious problem that he's a relief pitcher. Eric Gagne got the Cy Young in 2003, but there were two special circumstances that year: (1) it was a bad year for NL pitching, with only Mark Prior and Jason Schmidt even having a chance; and (2) Gagne had 55 saves (10 more than his closest competitor, John Smoltz) and zero blown saves. It was that streak more than anything that got him the Cy. Mo's on pace for 44 saves, but Wickman, Hermanson, Nathan, and Guardado should also get about that many. Plus of course he's blown two saves.

But on the other hand, those two saves were in his first two appearances of the season, against Boston. (I still get pissy when I think about him getting booed.) Since then he's converted 30 straight. His ERA's incredible (0.92), but becomes much more impressive (0.58) if you take out just those first two games. His WHIP is 0.73 on the season. So despite those two early-April blown saves (one of which he got the win in), it's fair to say he's having one of the best seasons a closer has ever had.

But then again, let's say he wasn't superhuman this season, merely quite good, with an ERA of 3. So he gives up three times as many runs. How many games does that cost the Yankees? Given that in 15 of his saves (half of his total) the Yanks won by three or more runs, the answer is: not many. Two or three, maybe 4. Now, make Buerhle or Halladay and Zito merely good, and how many games does that cost their teams? Somewhere between 5 and 10, probably.

But, then again, this is Mariano Rivera we're talking about. He's a HOF'er, and this is the best season of his career. You know how they sometimes give the Oscar to an actor or actress or director not for a particular movie, but instead as a sort of "lifetime achievement award"? It seems reasonable to do that in baseball as well (though I'm not sure if it's ever happened before).

So I'm conflicted. Plenty of good arguments for, and against, Mo getting the Cy Young this year. Thoughts?


  1. Interesting. I had not really thought about it. In looking through the game log, as you noted, there are a lot of 2 and 3 run saves. And he only has had 3 one run saves in the last month. A month in which he racked up a donzen or so saves.

    I wonder if there are other metrics on which to measure if this is truly his best season.

    Like many such "races," this very may well come down to september. A well placed HR by Ortiz or Manny in september could spoil any chance. But 3 Septmeber/October saves against the Sox in tight race could make the difference.

  2. Good point. September is everything. Just one HR by Manny or Ortiz would pretty much take it off the table. a game-winning grand slam by Alex Cora would work as well.

  3. It may also be if Beuhrle can get to 20 wins and keep the ERA under 3, it would be his to win.

    I'm pretty interested in the NL Cy race. Clemens has an almost unthinkable ERA but only 10 wins. He could finish 15-5 with 1.5 ERA while Carpenter can should easily win 20-22 games and be under 2.5. Clemens strike out numbers are down. Last year the unit was better but was 16-4 to Clemens' 18-4. It will be interesting to see if the voters apply the same logic this year - wins over ERA. Or will they be just too tantalized by that ERA.

    History shows win totals win out over ERA (Bob Welch beat Clemens in 1990 with 27 wins and an ERA of 2.95 while Clemens had an ERA of 1.93 and was only 21-6 and a horrible bullpen that cost clemens some wins - a pen so bad in fact that they made a trade to address it, a bad trade) but I have a feeling writers will just think Clemens low, low ERA and his career aura are too tempting to pass up. By voting for him they will themselves feel as if they are part of something special.