Two weeks from now, this year’s Cy Young Award winners will be announced. Introduced in 1956 and named after the only pitcher in MLB history to win over 500 games, the Cy Young Award was originally given annually to the best pitcher in baseball; it wasn’t until 1967 that the award was doled out to the best pitcher in each league. While ERA, strikeouts and winning percentage usually came into play for the voters, it usually all came down to the Wins column, with the 20-win plateau being the primary prerequisite for Cy-worthiness.
That criteria has changed somewhat in recent years. Though it’s been hard to break the stranglehold of Triple Crown stats (batting average, home runs and RBI) on the MVP discussion, evolving statistical methods of determining a pitcher’s worth have gradually come to be accepted in the Cy Young arena, as evidenced by Felix Hernandez winning the award in 2010 despite posting a 13-12 record (which would have been shorthand for “mediocre season” just a decade ago). Which is not to say everyone embraces the notion that pitching wins don’t mean as much as they used to – former New York Times sportswriter Murray Chass apparently still goes into a foaming, apoplectic rage every time the subject of King Felix’s Cy Young is raised. But this year’s Cy Young debate certainly isn’t splitting people into armed encampments, a la the Miggy-Trout AL MVP argument.
Yet there are no clear-cut winners this year, either. New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA, a miniscule 1.05 WHIP (i.e., walks plus hits per innings pitched ratio) and 230 strikeouts in 233.2 starts, may be the sentimental favorite in the National League due to his sudden late-career success – and the fact that he comes across as just a really swell guy. But he’s got stiff competition from Washington Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, 207 Ks in 199.1 IP) and Cincinnati Reds righty Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 170 Ks in 217 IP), and maybe even reliever Craig Kimbrel, who posted a 1.01 ERA in 62.2 innings while saving 42 games for the Atlanta Braves.
Over in the American League, Justin Verlander still has a chance of repeating as Cy Young winner, thanks to a 17-8 campaign for the Detroit Tigers in which he posted a 2.64 ERA, a 1.057 WHIP, and led the league in strikeouts (239), innings pitched (238.1) and complete games (6). But Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price (who went 20-5 with a league-leading 2.56 ERA and posted a 1.10 WHIP while fanning 205 batters in 211 innings) and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lefty Jered Weaver (who went 20-5 with a 2.81 ERA, a league-leading 1.018 WHIP, 142 Ks in 188.2 innings, and tossed a no-hitter to boot) are arguably more deserving. Ditto for Price’s swivel-brimmed teammate Fernando Rodney, who enjoyed the most phenomenal season of his life at age 35, posting a 0.60 ERA, a 0.777 WHIP and 76 Ks in 74.2 innings while nailing down 48 saves for the Rays.
Me? I’d vote for Dickey and Price. But our esteemed panel of rock & roll seamheads may have some different idea.
Name: Pete Yorn
Position: Vocals, Guitar
Give the NL to Dickey. It’s like a Hollywood film. If he was on the Yankees, he might have pulled a Guidry. AL – I would give it to Weaver. I watched him pitch a bunch this year. Ironically, it was a few losses that I watched him pitch; he pitched brilliantly, but just didn’t get the run support.
Name: George Thorogood
Band: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Position: Vocals, Guitar
Well, I’ve got R.A. Dickey for the Mets. It’s just unheard-of to have a knuckleball pitcher with that kind of record. In all the years I’ve been following baseball, as good as Charlie Hough, Wilbur Wood or Phil Niekro were, I’ve never heard of a knuckleballer with that kind of record. It’s usually 21-18 or 20-19, but Dickey’s performance is phenomenal, and – as much as I like the Mets – not with a very good team. And for the American League, I’ve gotta like Weaver with the Angels. His team was in the hunt until the last few days of the season, and he had his best year and threw a no-hitter.
Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar
There’s no question that R.A. Dickey will (and should) win the Cy Young Award in the NL, but I’d like to see him win it unanimously. I’m still waiting for someone to reveal that he was a complete hoax, a la Sidd Finch – his story is just too good to be true. Over in the AL, it’s a tougher call. But I think that David Price will eke out a win over Jered, King Felix and Verlander.
Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows
Position: Guitar, Vocals
R.A. Dickey’s 20 wins for a lousy team should deservedly rule over Clayton Kershaw’s only marginally better peripherals. An amazing year and an amazing story. In the AL, I give the nod to David Price, with Justin Verlander a close second. Again, 20 wins stands out in this day and age, and though Jered Weaver matched that total, overall Price had a better year.
Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocals
Gio Gonzalez is the hands-down Cy winner in the NL: 21-8 with a 2.89 ERA on a team picked for 4th in its division. In the AL, Jim Johnson’s 51 saves for the underdog Orioles earns him the Cy.
Name: Scott Ian
AL Cy Young: David Price. 20-game winner and lowest ERA. NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey. He won 20 games for the Mets. For that alone, he deserves it.
Name: Vinnie Paul
Band: Hellyeah, Pantera
I’m goin’ with Yu Darvish in the AL, because I’m a homer and he had a hell of a year in Texas. In the NL, I’m goin’ with R.A. Dickey. He’s just nasty and a true badass!
Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
NL: The Met guy Dickey . . . unbelievable consistency, great baseball story, and I feel sorry for my Met friends. AL: Probably Price, maybe Weaver, both sooo close, so let’s go for Tampa’s 48-save guy, Rodney. ERA 0.60 . . . oy vey!
Dan Epstein’s book, Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s, is now available in paperback.