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Off the record, Cy Young belongs to Scherzer

Worthiness of Tigers ace goes beyond impressive 21-3 win-loss mark mark

At some point during this year's debate about which pitcher truly deserved to win the 2013 American League Cy Young Award, you were afraid that Max Scherzer was going to have to apologize for going 21-3.

There were so many people denouncing the importance of that record that you thought Max might have to publicly disown it in order to win the award recognizing his league's best pitcher. What is the won/lost equivalent of "I was misquoted?"

We get it. The victory/defeat cumulative mark is not a perfect measure of a pitcher's performance. There many other factors involved. There are many other people involved.

Pitching is very lifelike in that regard. You may think you are solely in charge, but there is a lot of extraneous stuff happening that you can't always control.

But with Max Scherzer, 2013, there were other measurements that made him not only a genuine Cy Young candidate, but a completely deserving Cy Young Award winner.

Scherzer officially became that Wednesday night, with the announcement of his landslide victory in the Baseball Writers' Association of America balloting. He received 28 of 30 first-place votes. The Soviet Union used to have closer elections.

One first-place vote went to Scherzer's Detroit Tigers teammate, Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez did lead the AL in ERA at 2.57. The other first-place vote went to White Sox lefty Chris Sale, who many times performed nobly in a losing cause. This was not previously thought to be the leading criterion for the Cy Young Award, but there is nothing in the rules explicitly prohibiting what amounts to a sympathy vote.

Neither the second-place finisher, Yu Darvish of the Rangers, nor the third-place finisher, Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners, received a first-place vote. These were the other two finalists in the televised report of the Cy Young drama, but in real life 28-0-0 doesn't offer much as a cliff-hanger, a nail-biter, etc.

What was the argument? Oh, yes. The Tigers scored a lot of runs for Max. He had the third best run support in the league. Therefore, he couldn't take complete credit for the 21-3 himself.

2013 AL Cy Young voting
Player, Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Points
Max Scherzer, Tigers 28 1 1     203
Yu Darvish, Rangers   19 3 1 6 93
Hisashi Iwakuma, Mariners   6 12 6 1 73
Anibal Sanchez, Tigers 1 1 3 9 8 46
Chris Sale, White Sox 1   5 8 6 44
Bartolo Colon, A's   2 3 1 6 25
Koji Uehara, Red Sox   1 2     10
Felix Hernandez, Mariners     1 1 1 6
Matt Moore, Rays       2   4
Greg Holland, Royals       1 2 4
James Shields, Royals       1   2

In fact, Max said the same thing himself while he was winning his first 13 decisions in a row, and not losing a game until July 13. There is not much that can be done about this. Having a really good offense on your side is neither a violation of state statute nor municipal ordinance.

There were empirical values other than 21-3 on Scherzer's side of the argument.

He was fifth in the AL in ERA. He was second in the AL in strikeouts. He was second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings. He was second in the AL in batting average against. He was first in the AL in WHIP with a sparkling 0.97.

So Scherzer had some really spiffy "peripherals." The peripherals were so good that they could graduate and become central portions of the argument on behalf of Scherzer's Cy Young candidacy.

The Cy Young Award voters have already established that they grasp the numerical nuances of pitching performances. They did this in 2010 with the selection of Seattle's Felix Hernandez as the Cy Young winner. King Felix had a 13-12 record that year, but the writers focused instead on what was a terrific season, more accurately reflected by a 2.27 ERA.

Hernandez was 18th in the league in victories that season. So the idea that the Cy Young voters are enamored of victories, while ignoring other measurements of pitching value, has been inaccurate for at least three years.

Max Scherzer does not have to apologize for being 21-3. He also does not have to rationalize or even explain. That 21-3 mark was far from the only reason that Scherzer won the 2013 AL Cy Young Award in runaway fashion. But it was one of the reasons. And that was not so objectionable. In fact, in was fine.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for
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