September 21, 2002

Arms race

Last night Derek Lowe beat the Orioles 4-2, improving his record to 21-7.

Lowe has 21 wins with a 2.45 ERA in 212 inning pitched.

Numbers like that would normally almost guarantee someone a Cy Young, especially in the (higher scoring) American League.

Last year, for example, the AL Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens, finished with 20 wins and a 3.51 ERA in 220 innings.

So Lowe has more wins and an ERA over one run per game better.

But this year, not only is Lowe far from a lock for the Cy Young, he might not even be the best pitcher on his own team!

Pedro Martinez (the Cy Young winner in 2000 and 1999) has been injured a little bit this year, but he still has managed 19 wins and a 2.23 ERA in 193 innings pitched.

Okay, so Lowe might not be guaranteed the Cy Young, but certainly a Red Sox pitcher will win it, right?

Not so fast, Pedro and Lowe have had great seasons that are normally Cy Young worthy, but there is a 3rd pitcher who is in the running.

Barry Zito has 22 wins and a 2.74 ERA in 217 innings pitched.

All 3 pitchers would have been the best in the AL last season, but this year one of them is going to finish 3rd in the Cy Young voting.

So who really deserves the Cy Young award?

Well, they each will likely make 1 or 2 more starts before the season ends, which could change a lot of things.

But, as it stands now, here are the important numbers:

***** Inn .ERA Ws L K's BB HR Hit .AVG .OBP .SLG Ks/9 W/9 H/9 SNWAR

DLowe 213 2.45 21 7 122 46 10 160 .210 .264 .296 _5.2 1.9 6.8 6.8

Pedro 193 2.23 19 4 233 39 13 137 .195 .251 .307 10.9 1.8 6.4 6.2

BZito 217 2.74 22 5 176 74 23 172 .218 .287 .343 _7.3 3.1 7.1 6.0

Okay, so what exactly do we have?

Pedro leads in most of the "rate" stats.

He has the lowest ERA, lowest opponent batting average, lowest opponent on-base %, highest strikeout rate, lowest walk rate and lowest hit rate.

Zito leads in a few of the "counting" stats.

He has the most wins and the most innings pitched.

However, he also has the worst opponent batting average, on-base % and slugging % of the three.

Lowe is 2nd in a lot of the categories.

He is 2nd best in wins, ERA, innings pitched, opponent batting average, opponent on-base %, walk rate and hit rate.

However, he is #1 in home runs allowed and (partly as a result of that) he also has the lowest opponent slugging %.

The last stat on the chart is SNWAR.

This is a stat that measures a pitchers value to a team, in wins, above a "replacement level pitcher."

Which is saying, if they didn't have the pitcher and they had to replace him with a readily available pitcher, such as one in AAA, how many wins would they lose over the course of a season.

So, according to SNWAR, Lowe is worth 6.8 wins above replacement, Pedro is worth 6.2 and Zito is worth 6.0.

Just like they are in all of the "regular" stats, they are pretty damn close in SNWAR too.

Certainly close enough that their few remaining starts could have a pretty big impact on who the winner should be.

But, if I had to vote right now, here is what my ballot would look like:

1) Derek Lowe

2) Pedro Martinez

3) Barry Zito

When the season comes to an end, I plan on doing an extended entry on my choices for the various awards (MVP, Cy Young, Rookie, Manager, etc) and I wouldn't be shocked to see the order of my ballot change.

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