When Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award last year, it was a shattering of a tradition. Since its inception, the award usually goes to the guy with the most wins and who pitches on a winning team. Other pitchers like Sabathia had more wins than Greinke. But the award rightly went to the best pitcher in the American League last year. If the Fan were to tell you that Cliff Lee is in the top two in the American League in pitching value, you would not your head and say, "Heck yeah." But if the Fan were to tell you that Francisco Liriano is ahead of Lee in pitching value (as calculated by FanGraphs.com), you would look at this old Fan funny. But it's true.
Cliff Lee has the most amazing statistic on the board right now. His 16.49 K/BB ratio is unprecedented...unheard of (he did walk two batters Sunday so that will go down just a bit). His 0.5 walks per nine innings has never been seen before. But Liriano has his own freak statistic that has been less ballyhooed. Liriano has a 0.1 homers per nine this year. He's given up just two homers in 136 innings of work. Lee has given up nine in 147 innings.
Liriano also has Lee on K/9. Lee has struck out 118 batters in 147 innings of work. Liriano has struck out 150 batters in 136 innings of work or a 9.8 K/9 ratio. Lee has had the benefit of a lucky BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) with a figure of .266. Liriano has been unlucky that way and his BABIP this year is .346. The expected or average BABIP is .300. That means if Liriano had a bit more luck, his WHIP would be a darn sight better than the excellent 1.19 it is now. Though it isn't in the freak nature of Lee's walks per nine innings, Liriano is also limiting the walks to the tune of 2.5 per nine, which is the best since his break out year all those years ago. His K/BB ratio is a top notch 3.86.
Neither pitcher is racking up wins. Lee has nine wins and Liriano now has 10. But if Liriano's BABIP comes back to the mean, it should be a great horse race to the finish line for the Cy Young Award. Right now, the Fan's money is on Liriano.