It seems like the Cy Young award voting this year will be pretty straight forward. None of that stuff like we had last year when half of the baseball commentariat yelled at the other half that the win totals shouldn’t matter when deciding who the best pitcher is. All of the possible Cy Young winners this year have healthy win totals. And the guy who will likely have the most wins — Justin Verlander — has an outrageously good case for the award even if you ignore them.
But Joe Posnanski’s essay about the value of wins — not just their valuelessness — is good reading all the same. Because, as he usually does, he provides that nice conciliatory middle ground that the people on either side of the pitcher wins debate — or most other debates — usually fail to provide.
How so? By reminding the win crowd that wins aren’t the best statistic, but doing so in a manner that isn’t all pissy and impatient like some of, um, us who don’t like pitchers wins tend to do. Here he does it by good example. The best: his handling of Steve Carlton’s 1972 season, often cited as an argument for pitcher wins as being a useful metric, but shown to be less-than-useful upon close examination. NOTE: also check out The Platoon Advantage’s take on this from last year.
And on the other side: he reminds us that just because pitcher wins don’t tell us anything particularly useful about the quality of the pitcher for analysis purposes, they are interesting to discuss. They may not have value as a metric, but they have value as a topic. In this Posnanski is quite close to the “remember the beer” argument of which I have become such a fan. The argument which holds that we are not prevented from enjoying discussion and even honoring of something simply because it doesn’t comport with sabermetric principles. At least as long as we don’t pretend that the cool event/accomplishment we are honoring means more than it truly does.
I’m guessing Posnanski has read it too, and he is remembering the beer. And speaking of beer, I have a cookout to get too. Happy Labor Day everyone.