Felix and the Cy Young Award

Dave · September 22, 2009 at 9:24 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I briefly mentioned this in a game thread the other night, but for those curious, he’s a slightly more expanded reasoning on why Felix shouldn’t really have any shot at winning the Cy Young award.

As Mike Salk noted on his blog, one of the M’s suggested that Zack Greinke has “come back down to earth” after a hot start. This is somewhat true, and will probably be used as tool to promote Felix’s candidacy.

After all, Greinke was ridiculous in April, running a 0.50 ERA in five starts, but not surprisingly, he wasn’t able to sustain that kind of performance. No one could. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s throw out April, where Greinke was amazing. After all, the M’s went 5-0 in Felix’s starts in April as well, so the end result of their first month dominance was the same for both clubs.

May 1st to present.

Greinke: 174 1/3 IP, 156 H, 36 BB, 180 K, 11 HR, 2.48 ERA.
Felix: 182 1/3 IP, 156 H, 54 BB, 160 K, 13 HR, 2.47 ERA

The “coming back to earth” version of Greinke? Still better than Felix. Even if we wanted to arbitrarily remove Greinke’s best stretch of performance of the season while not penalizing Felix in the same way, we can’t do any better than saying Felix has only been a little bit worse than Greinke.

Felix is a terrific pitcher having a great season, but Greinke is having a season of historic proportions. And he’s doing it with a pretty miserable cast of characters around him. He not only deserves the award – he deserves to win it unanimously. He’s been that good.

I love Felix, but he’s been the second best pitcher in the AL this year.

Comments

72 Responses to “Felix and the Cy Young Award”

  1. MarinerDan on September 22nd, 2009 9:39 am

    I agree with the analysis. Greinke should win this year no question. The Royals defense has been bad and he has still put up amazing numbers.

    Dave, what is your view as to which pitcher, Felix or Greinke, will have the better career over all? Felix is a bit younger than Greinke, obviously. Are we looking at two likely HOFers? Who do you give the edge to long-term?

  2. Soonerman22 on September 22nd, 2009 9:59 am

    [low quality]

  3. Dennisss on September 22nd, 2009 10:00 am

    This will be an interesting test of the extent to which voters are embracing available statistics. Felix is a big name, has pitched well, and has a flashy W-L record — I have a feeling he will win despite the evidence.

  4. b__rider on September 22nd, 2009 10:04 am

    Dave, what is your view as to which pitcher, Felix or Greinke, will have the better career over all? Felix is a bit younger than Greinke, obviously. Are we looking at two likely HOFers? Who do you give the edge to long-term?

    Let me predict Dave’s answer: It’s impossible to tell, because pitcher performance and health in general is impossible to predict from year to year, let alone over the course of a career.

  5. b__rider on September 22nd, 2009 10:05 am

    “Are” impossible to predict. Dammit.

  6. stoyboy on September 22nd, 2009 10:07 am

    Can Greinke be considered to win it with that many losses? I know it is the team but who has won the Cy Young with 8+ losses?

  7. Graham on September 22nd, 2009 10:12 am

    It’s also worth pointing out that Grienke’s home park represses strikeouts while Safeco Field increases them. By a significant amount, too (I think it’s -9% in KC and +9% in Seattle, give or take).

  8. MarinerDan on September 22nd, 2009 10:22 am

    Equally interesting will be the Cy Young race in the NL. Lincecum? Wainwright?

  9. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 10:26 am

    If only the baseball writers of America put as much thought into the Cy Young award.

  10. rmnixon on September 22nd, 2009 10:32 am

    stop making sense.

  11. JMK on September 22nd, 2009 10:33 am

    Grienke’s home park represses strikeouts while Safeco Field increases them.

    How does the park affect strikeouts?

  12. BP on September 22nd, 2009 10:34 am

    Totally agree that the award should go to Greinke, hands down. Though it looks like Felix is in the driver’s seat based on the Cy Young Predictor. While there’s clearly a more deserving candidate out there, I also realize that these awards are all screwed up anyway and part of me would undoubtedly be happy if Felix won.

  13. jvalentine on September 22nd, 2009 11:04 am

    Can Greinke be considered to win it with that many losses? I know it is the team but who has won the Cy Young with 8+ losses?

    Maddox, Glavine, Clemens, McDowell, Smoltz, Randy…

    Quite a few actually. Here is my refernce. http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/mvp_cya.shtml

  14. JI on September 22nd, 2009 11:08 am

    Equally interesting will be the Cy Young race in the NL. Lincecum? Wainwright?

    Carpenter

  15. Graham on September 22nd, 2009 11:09 am

    How does the park affect strikeouts?

    Batter’s eye and air resistance are the two most commonly cited reasons why strikeouts and walks appear to have park effects, but we really don’t know.

    The effects are still there, even if they’re not readily explained.

  16. rmac1973 on September 22nd, 2009 11:12 am

    I’m still confused as to how any given baseball park affects the number of strikeouts/walks.

  17. rmac1973 on September 22nd, 2009 11:15 am

    Thanks Graham!

    I just wonder how definitive the measurements for that are and who determined the criteria for such.

  18. Graham on September 22nd, 2009 11:23 am

    The park effects we use for statcorner are per the Hardball Times. The specific article with the methodology for deriving said effects may be found here.

    From the above article: “Given the presence of the Marlins and Mariners at the top of the list, and the Rockies and Diamondbacks near the bottom, it seems that humidity is one of the biggest determinants of strikeout park effects.”

  19. bookbook on September 22nd, 2009 11:24 am

    I’d bet on Greinke to have the better career because I think he’s the better player above the neck. He strikes me as more of a Maddux than Felix.

    Maybe that’s just my bias towards depressive personality types (or maybe an overreaction to Felix’s slow-feeling development the last few years)

  20. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 11:32 am

    How does the park affect strikeouts?

    Remember when Safeco first opened and the batters complained about the glare in centerfield? They tried planting bushes, but they were replaced with the black honeycomb structure the stadium has today. That may not be the reason for the strikeouts, but it’s a way of thinking how each stadium could impact strikeouts.

  21. Matthew Carruth on September 22nd, 2009 11:39 am

    Also, outfield wall dimensions, infield grass length, etc etc. Everything impacts everything. This is hard to separate completely, but think of it this way:

    A pitcher’s park (like Safeco) suppresses offensive production from hitters*. So as a hitter, you are more likely to try and work counts because you know the odds of hitting a HR has been reduced, so things like walks become more valuable. Work the count more = more strikeouts.

    See the reverse for hitter’s parks. In general, the better a park is to hit in, the more eager hitters are to actually hit in it (that is, put the ball in play).

    *Part of the reason it’s a pitcher’s park is because it increases strikeouts. Egg, meet chicken.

  22. DMZ on September 22nd, 2009 11:40 am

    Or, for instance, the amount of foul ground will affect the number of walks/strikeouts.

  23. eponymous coward on September 22nd, 2009 11:40 am

    I’d bet on Greinke to have the better career because I think he’s the better player above the neck. He strikes me as more of a Maddux than Felix.

    Maybe that’s just my bias towards depressive personality types (or maybe an overreaction to Felix’s slow-feeling development the last few years)

    I’m going with option 2.

  24. dw on September 22nd, 2009 11:44 am

    Can Greinke be considered to win it with that many losses?

    Earned runs allowed in his 8 losses: 1,5,4,3,2,1,6,4
    Runs scored by the Royals in those 8 losses: 0,3,5,0,1,0,4,2

    Seriously, he’s lost two games this year where he allowed only one earned run but the Royals were shut out. In six of his losses the Royals scored three runs or less.

    So eight losses mean nothing when you see that most of them are hard luck losses.

  25. dw on September 22nd, 2009 11:46 am

    I’d bet on Greinke to have the better career because I think he’s the better player above the neck.

    You do realize the irony of that statement, right?

  26. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 11:58 am

    I can’t help but wonder how much better Felix’ overall numbers would be minus all the wild pitches and passed balls.

    Which are most directly the fault of Rob “I’m a catcher who cannot catch” Johnson.

  27. Dave on September 22nd, 2009 12:07 pm

    His numbers would be worse without Gutierrez, Beltre, Ichiro, Chavez, Langerhans, etc… His teammates have been a net benefit.

  28. dw on September 22nd, 2009 12:14 pm

    The amazing thing to me about Greinke is his BABIP is a hefty .314, and yet he still leads the majors in ERA and FIP (2.14 and 2.30).

    In other words, if he had an average defense behind him and average luck, he might be having a season rivaling Pedro’s 2000, and no one would be mentioning Sabathia as the frontrunner for the Cy Young.

  29. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 12:24 pm

    [deleted]

  30. MarinerDan on September 22nd, 2009 12:34 pm

    But Rob Johnson is involved in far mor plays defensively than anyone else on the field. His failure to catch the ball leads to additional runs and causes Felix to have to get more outs. Like ruining the chance for a double play.

    Do you have anyway to quantify this? I’m not saying that you are wrong, necessarily, but it is hard to believe that Johnson’s catching (especially his “failure to catch the ball”) has had a material impact on the number of runs Felix has allowed.

  31. Ralph_Malph on September 22nd, 2009 12:36 pm

    Sure but Johnson’s catching allows Felix more strikeout opportunities — he can get 4 or 5 per inning!

  32. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 12:41 pm

    [deleted]

  33. Ralph_Malph on September 22nd, 2009 12:45 pm

    Felix has 15 WP this year; I assume most of these are with Johnson catching. He had 8 last year and 7 the year before. One could reasonably blame Johnson for half of those 15 WP.

    Johnson has 9 PB all year; not sure how to find out how many of those were with Felix pitching. Say 3 of them (guessing).

    That’s 10 or so PB/WP Felix has gotten as a result of Johnson’s “failure to catch the ball”. I’m not sure how to translate that into runs, but I’d guess something like 2 or 3 runs. Not huge but not insignificant.

  34. Dave on September 22nd, 2009 12:51 pm

    Thanks for stating the obvious Dave.

    Be wrong less often, and we won’t have to point out when you’re making incorrect assumptions about obvious things.

  35. Mike Snow on September 22nd, 2009 12:55 pm

    Not to mention the intangible effect on Felix’ psyche that Johnson’s inability to catch the ball must produce.

    Which is, of course, why Felix prefers to have Johjima catching.

  36. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 1:07 pm

    [deleted]

  37. eponymous coward on September 22nd, 2009 1:08 pm

    I can’t help but wonder how much better Felix’ overall numbers would be minus all the wild pitches and passed balls.

    Saying “Felix’s numbers would be better with a better defensive catcher” is both trite in the “if my grandmother had wheels she’d be an Oldsmobile” sense, as well as irrelevant for comparing his individual performance against Greinke, which is the point of Dave’s post.

    Also, believe it or not, KC is a grand total of ONE behind Seattle for passed ball totals, and Miguel Olivo’s allowed 10 in 97 defensive games at C, compared to Rob Johnson’s 9 in 77. So I don’t think there’s a dramatic difference in C defense here- not enough to make up for Seattle’s much better defense overall.

  38. Dave on September 22nd, 2009 1:10 pm

    Like you were wrong on the backloaded contracts, Dave.

    Except that I wasn’t. I can’t help that you lacked the capacity to understand what was actually going on.

    You are walking a thin line here. Your posts are regularly misinformed and lack basic logic. You need to post smarter or post less. That is up to you.

  39. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 1:11 pm

    [deleted]

  40. mw3 on September 22nd, 2009 1:15 pm

    [deleted]

  41. Dave on September 22nd, 2009 1:30 pm

    Enjoy the mod queue.

  42. kenshabby on September 22nd, 2009 1:32 pm

    I’d say this is a sensible top 5 AL Cy Young list:

    1. Greinke
    2. Felix
    3. Verlander
    4. Halladay
    5. Lester

  43. Graham on September 22nd, 2009 1:45 pm

    This thread was so nice 90 minutes ago…

  44. Joe C on September 22nd, 2009 1:45 pm

    Why wouldn’t you have CC Sabathia in the top 5? And I hope that voters are poorly informed and just vote for Felix anyway, as long as we lock him up to a long-term deal first.

  45. scott19 on September 22nd, 2009 1:50 pm

    Quite a few actually.

    True…especially back in the days when your “ace” pitchers were making more starts and going longer into games than they do now. (Some of Gaylord Perry’s numbers from his CYA season of 1972, for example, would be freakish by today’s standards: 24-16, 342 IP, and a decision in every one of his 40 starts!)

    That said, I have a funny feeling that none of this year’s “big five” in the AL — Greinke, Felix, CC, Halladay, or Verlander — may wind up with the Cy after all. Instead, it might end up going to a dominant closer such as Rivera — as is the case sometimes when you have a number of starters who are all such arguably strong candidates that they wind up splitting the vote.

  46. JMK on September 22nd, 2009 1:55 pm

    Ah, thanks for the explanations for how park can affect strikeouts.

  47. Rusty on September 22nd, 2009 1:55 pm

    Thank you for this analysis. It more or less confirmed what I was thinking. I was wondering if Felix’s higher groundball rate, which might correlate with his slightly superior OPS rate, could push him closer to 1st place. But the basic stats definitely lean to Greinke.

  48. Teej on September 22nd, 2009 1:59 pm

    Why wouldn’t you have CC Sabathia in the top 5?

    Going by FIP and tRA, Sabathia’s a top-10 guy, but probably not in the top five. Of course, that park isn’t doing him any favors, and I’m not sure how to account for that.

  49. georgmi on September 22nd, 2009 2:02 pm

    that park isn’t doing him any favors, and I’m not sure how to account for that.

    Seems like the boost in consideration he gets just for playing in that park probably more than offsets any effect the conditions have on his actual numbers.

  50. Mike Snow on September 22nd, 2009 2:07 pm

    Also, believe it or not, KC is a grand total of ONE behind Seattle for passed ball totals, and Miguel Olivo’s allowed 10 in 97 defensive games at C, compared to Rob Johnson’s 9 in 77. So I don’t think there’s a dramatic difference in C defense here- not enough to make up for Seattle’s much better defense overall.

    It looks like only one of Olivo’s passed balls has come with Greinke on the mound. Meanwhile, 6 out of Rob Johnson’s 9 passed balls have been Felix pitches. Greinke does have 5 wild pitches, but Felix has 15 (three of those were with Johjima catching, two with Burke).

    Considering the events are infrequent and depend on scoring subjectivity, it’s not necessarily clear what to make of them. I do remember Olivo’s pitch-blocking being a glaring issue when he was a Mariner, though, and Roger Hansen couldn’t fix him either.

  51. Utis on September 22nd, 2009 2:24 pm

    Does Felix winning the Cy Young award make it more or less likely that the M’s can sign him to an extension? I think (no evidence just a gut feel) that it makes it somewhat less likely. OTOH it does increase his value if the M’s decide to trade him so I am selfishly rooting for him to win.

  52. Dave on September 22nd, 2009 2:26 pm

    It has no impact. Teams don’t value players based on the votes of baseball writers.

  53. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 2:30 pm

    Dave made a good argument as to why the Cy Young award should go to Greinke, but not all the voters are going to follow his train of thought. The question is, if Felix’s next turn is on September 30th do you let him pitch again on October 4th or is he done for the season?

  54. Mike Snow on September 22nd, 2009 2:38 pm

    If you want to pitch Felix in the finale to squeeze in the extra start, it would make more sense to move him up to the 29th so he can be on a normal four days of rest both times.

  55. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 2:45 pm

    Should they do that? He’s already at a career high of 216 IP, but it is a chance at winning the Cy Young award, for whatever that is worth.

  56. Ralph_Malph on September 22nd, 2009 2:47 pm

    Does he have any incentives in his contract for the Cy Young? If he does they surely have to give him the best shot at it, even if it costs the team money.

  57. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 2:49 pm

    One thing I noticed while searching google for Felix fangraphs to get his page.

    Did you mean: Feliz fangraphs

  58. Utis on September 22nd, 2009 2:51 pm

    Don’t you think it makes a difference marketing wise? Wouldn’t you expect a GM to ask for more in return? Can’t a pitcher who wins the Cy Young expect to command more salary? Why would it be different for trade value?

  59. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 2:51 pm

    Does he have any incentives in his contract for the Cy Young?

    Nope. He did get an extra 50k for his all-star selection though. (or 25K, I’m not sure)

    # 1 year/$3.8M (2009)
    * re-signed 1/19/09 (avoided arbitration)
    * award bonus: $50,000 for All Star ($25,000 for selection)

  60. Liam on September 22nd, 2009 2:52 pm

    Can’t a pitcher who wins the Cy Young expect to command more salary?

    I’m sure that Scott Boras would make that argument.

  61. Teej on September 22nd, 2009 3:15 pm

    Drayer just tweeted that Felix will indeed start the final game of the season.

  62. ThundaPC on September 22nd, 2009 4:13 pm

    I find this fanpost at Royals Review to be a good read in support of Zack Greinke. Needless to say, Greinke has pitched phenomenally and has been getting massively hosed by his team.

    Win and Losses are probably the only reasons why there is a Cy Young race in the AL.

    But hey. Felix, whoooo!

  63. Breadbaker on September 22nd, 2009 7:45 pm

    I honestly don’t care. At 23, Felix has had a season that, in other years, would have been a perfectly fine Cy Young season. Compare Randy in 1997, who had a great season, just statistically behind Clemens. Greinke had a better season, fine. Felix can get him next year. Or not. If he’s in the range of this season as long as he’s an M, I’m one happy fan.

  64. Mike Snow on September 22nd, 2009 7:54 pm

    I remember being disappointed that Gregg Olson beat out Griffey for Rookie of the Year. In retrospect, let’s just say that I can live with that disappointment.

  65. MKT on September 22nd, 2009 10:02 pm

    One thing I noticed while searching google for Felix fangraphs to get his page.

    Did you mean: Feliz fangraphs

    Hmm, so maybe we should say “Feliz Felixidad”.

  66. Zeem on September 22nd, 2009 11:13 pm

    The aggregate OPS of batters faced:

    Sabathia .748
    Greinke .752
    Hernandez .760
    Verlander .763
    Halladay .777

    Not sure what to make of that.

  67. stoyboy on September 23rd, 2009 4:11 am

    Thanks DW and jvalentine for the information and that great website. You both are absoulutely right about Greineke and after last nights gem he definitely deserves the CY Young. Thanks.

  68. G-Man on September 23rd, 2009 11:27 am

    The aggregate OPS of batters faced:

    Sabathia .748
    Greinke .752
    Hernandez .760
    Verlander .763
    Halladay .777

    Not sure what to make of that.

    I’m afraid of what some of the voters will make of that if CC is also the only one with 20 wins, OPS is about as sabermetric as some of those writers get, not to mention the dreaded East Coast Bias.

  69. eric on September 23rd, 2009 12:10 pm

    G Man,

    I think your reading that backwards, which is of course how the voters probably will too:-)

    If I read it correctly that isn’t their OPS vs each pitcher, it is their OPS overall.

    So CC has had the easiest opposition and Halladay the toughest with Felix in the middle. But in reality how much difference is there between .748 and .777 as the range?

  70. joser on September 23rd, 2009 1:18 pm

    I agree Greinke is the obvious choice for the AL CY… but then he was the obvious to start the Allstar game for the AL and he got hosed out of that. So who knows.

    Whether it happens this year or not, Felix is going to win a Cy Young or two and pitch a no-hitter (at least); the real question is whether any of that happens while he’s still in an M’s uniform.

  71. Tyler Cox on September 23rd, 2009 1:26 pm

    Yeah, I totally believe Greinke deserves the Cy Young. Still, my fan bias really wants Felix to win it anyway. It’s nice to see the M’s receive some recognition occasionally.

  72. jordan on September 23rd, 2009 3:54 pm

    Hopefully Greinke gets lit up here soon… maybe Felix can leapfrog him if he puts up 7ER in a game…

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