RAW Pitcher Ratings and the Cy Young Award

There was a very interesting article posted over at Fan Graphs today about the role advanced stats plays in Cy Young voting. Basically, Buster Olney tweeted that Trevor Cahill has put himself in top contention for the AL Cy Young award. Keith Law then tweeted his dissagreement sighting WAR and FIP. Dave Cameron, in the article, gives his set of criteria and reiterates that FIP is a “predictor” stat, not a “backward-looking” stat, while suggesting his own Cy Young criteria.
 
This got me thinking about my RAW Pitcher Ratings and how they relate exactly to what a pitcher HAS done. The predictor part of RAW Pitcher Ratings comes in the evaluation of the numbers themselves.
 
Download the latest RAW Pitcher Ratings Spreadsheet here.
 

For instance, using the example of Trevor Cahill, we can see the huge disparity between his raw skills and those of the names at the top of the RAW rankings. Cahill has not been a dominant pitcher this season. His 59.32 RAW is just below teammate Dallas Braden (59.58 RAW). While both are having fine seasons, both have been helped by low BABIP’s against and both have well below league average strikeout rates. What Cahill does best is induce a ton of ground balls – around 55 percent this season. However, that also means that he relies quite heavily on the defense behind him to have the range, arm strength and ability to turn would-be base hits into outs. That is not a reliable source of future success and gives more weight to what Cahill’s teammates have done to help him, rather than what he has done to help them.

 
The highest ranking pitcher on the RAW Pitcher Ratings is Francisco Liriano (102.85 RAW). He has been hands down the most dominant pitcher in baseball this season. His strikeout rate, whiff rate, walk rate and ground ball rate all grade out as top-of-the-charts. Still, his ERA is at 3.45, which is just over one run per nine innings higher than Cahill’s. The difference? Just look at Liriano’s BABIP against (.350) compared to Cahill’s (.217).

 

What’s interesting here is that the Twins infield defense has been very good all season long. However, other than Denard Span in center, the combination of Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel at the corners has been well below average. This reflects in the numbers as well…
 

Split

BIP

H

2B

H/BIP%

2B/BIP%

Left

76

29

10

38.2%

13.2%

Center

241

42

10

17.4%

4.1%

Right

74

39

11

52.7%

14.9%

 
Despite a league average 20 percent line drive rate against and an extremely low 25.8 percent fly ball rate against, Liriano has been victimised by his corner outfield defense as evident by his .350 BABIP against. It’s crazy to think that over half of his balls in play to right field have turned into hits.
 
As a result, Liriano only has a 11-and-7 record on the season, yet his team is in first place in the AL Central. Due to the win-loss record and less-than-stellar ERA, you have to wonder how many votes he will get for the AL Cy Young despite the fact that he has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball.
 
Liriano has three no decisions this year in which he went at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer earned runs and one no decision in which he allowed three earned runs over six innings of work. For the most part, his losses reflect outings in which he allowed more than three earned runs. Quite easily, Liriano could be 15-and-7. With a little more help from his defense, that record could — and should — be even better.
 
There has always been intense debate over the meaning of the MVP award. Is it most valuable to his team or in general? And how do we define value? WAR (Wins Above Replacement)? That seems fairly logical, but the mainstream voters are very unlikely or unwilling to jump on that bandwagon. However, there should be no question as to the definition of the Cy Young Award.
 
 
The Cy Young Award was Commissioner Ford Frick’s idea to honor the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.
 
This is where I believe RAW Pitcher Ratings do a fine job of showing which pitchers have been the best based on raw skill. RAW takes defense and the results of balls in play completely out of the equation. While this is not a perfect stat and may need additional tweaking going forward, I think it very much succeeds in trying to answer the question: Who is the best pitcher in baseball?

Based on what he can control: striekouts, walks and to a certain extent, home runs, Francisco Liriano has been hands down the best pitcher in baseball and should be the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young.