With each game, Josh Donaldson looks more and more like a MVP favourite. But he may not be the only member of the Blue Jays taking home hardware this off-season. Has David Price‘s recent performance vaulted him into the frontrunner’s position for the AL Cy Young?
The three major contenders for the AL Cy Young are Dallas Keuchel, Chris Sale and David Price (with Chris Archer and Corey Kluber as dark horses) If the season were to end today, how would those three stand up?
Old School metrics
It is said (though nobody really knows) that many of the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who vote on the Cy Young still place more emphasis on traditional stats than on newer, more advanced metrics. So let’s start with those.
Sabermetricians whimper audibly when pitchers are evaluated on their wins, as they (correctly) point out that wins depend largely on run support, bullpens and luck. Still … to this point in the season, Sale has a 12-9 record (or a win percentage of 57%). Keuchel is 17-8 (68%) and Price is 16-5 (76%). The one extra win by Keuchel is likely not enough to offset an 8% win differential. Advantage Price, Keuchel second.
Price has an ERA of 2.42. Keuchel is at 2.56 and Sale is at 3.55. Advantage Price, Keuchel second.
The voters often reward quality innings pitched. Year to date, Keuchel has 211.1 IP, Price has 208.1 and Sale has 187.2. ~Tie – Keuchel and Price
Year to date, Sale leads the AL with 250 strikeouts. Price has 219 and Keuchel 197. Advantage Sale, Price second.
More from Toronto Blue Jays News
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
We baseball sabermetricians (also lovingly known as “stats geeks”) have developed additional metrics by which players – including pitchers – can be evaluated. Looking at our three frontrunners using some of those metrics gives the following insight:
The fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) is designed to show a player’s performance in a single stat. While it is not perfect, it is a very good starting point. According to fangraphs, Sale and Price are tied with an fWAR of 6.0 and Keuchel has 5.5. Advantage Sale and Price.
Rather than look at strikeouts and walks in isolation, sabermetricians often focus on the difference between the strikeout percentage and the walk percentage. On this basis, Sale really shines with a phenomenal 27.9%. Price is second with a 19.9%, and Keuchel is third with 18.2%. Advantage Sale, Price second.
Win Probability Added (WPA) is a relatively new statistic designed to measure a player’s contribution to the team’s wins by assigning a value (positive or negative) to each play or pitch made. Year to date, Price has a cumulative WPA of 3.45, Keuchel has 2.99 and Sale has 2.65. Advantage Price, Keuchel second.
There is considerable debate about whether other factors should – or do – enter into the Cy Young conversation. Should an excellent pitcher playing for a poor team be penalized because his team’s games are played under less pressure? Should the Cy Young be treated as a MVP – Most Valuable Pitcher – rather than a simple statistical horse race? Should September games be given greater weight than April? To the extent that intangibles are a valid criterion, I would give it to Price for his second-half ERA (2.48, vs. Keuchel’s 3.16 and Sale’s 5.00), his positive impact on the Jays’ clubhouse (bathrobes!) and the performance of his team. Advantage Price.
The bottom line? David Price leads in ERA and win percentage, is essentially tied in innings pitched, and is tied for the lead in fWAR. While a valid case can be made for Sale or Keuchel, it is hard not to see this award as being Price’s to lose.