Judge: The Cy Young Award and the unfair advantage of defense

From Jonathan Judge at Baseball Prospectus on November 14, 2016:

We’ve reached awards season, with the Cy Young—designated for the best pitcher in each league—due to be awarded this coming week.

In the National League, the named finalists are two Cubs (Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester) and one National (Max Scherzer).


With pitcher wins largely discredited, pitcher ERA has become the most common measurement cited by baseball writers in casting Cy Young votes. True to form, Hendricks had the best ERA among qualified NL pitchers this year, with Lester coming in second-best. The problem is that ERA is a flawed statistic, and this year’s Cy Young finalists make those flaws clearer than ever.

Many of ERA’s problems are not news. For one thing, ERA is biased toward groundball pitchers, who put more pitches on the ground, thus inevitably causing more errors—which conveniently exempt those pitchers from responsibility for runs that cross the plate that inning. Perhaps for this reason, ERA is no better and maybe even less accurate than plain old unearned RA/9 when it comes to measuring pitcher ability. Most concerning for our purposes, ERA is biased toward pitchers who have better defenses, which results in those pitchers getting all the credit for outs primarily generated by defense, not pitching.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=30700

Originally published: November 17, 2016. Last Updated: November 17, 2016.