Cameron: AL Cy Young race and the quality-of-opposition factor

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on September 23, 2013:

The AL Cy Young race has gotten pretty interesting. A month ago, Max Scherzer looked like a near lock, with his glistening 19-1 record and strong peripherals that supported the idea that he’d pitched like an ace this year. However, he’s gone 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA in his last five starts, perhaps opening the door for voters to take a closer look at all the candidates. And when they’re investigating, they just may find that the difference in quality of competition is a pretty significant factor this year.

 For example, let’s look at the competition effect for Scherzer and Chris Sale. On first glance, you might think that there wouldn’t be a huge difference here, since both pitch in the AL Central and face a lot of common opponents. However, breaking down their starts by opposition reveals some striking differences. The following table lists their opponents in common first, then the teams that they faced that the other did not.


Among the teams in common, there aren’t many major differences. Scherzer got one extra start against the Royals, and Sale drew the Rangers one more time, but by and large, they basically matched up pretty similarly in teams that both pitched against. However, when it comes to the teams that one faced and the other did not, the story gets a lot different.

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Originally published: September 23, 2013. Last Updated: September 23, 2013.