Uh oh. In a week that has seen writers all over the country converging on this post over at It's About the Money Stupid, it is with fear and trembling that this writer (with far less sabermetric chops than that person) writes this post. But this post is basically in response to a post by David Brown over at Big League Stew that states emphatically that Ian Kennedy has no business being on anyone's list of candidates for the Cy Young Award. Is Brown right?
He makes a good case. Kennedy is not in the top five of pitchers in the National League in fWAR, FIP or xFIP. Brown makes all those cases. Kennedy is not in the top five in ERA. It's only his 19-4 record that sparkles and we all know that wins don't mean anything (only a small tongue in that cheek). And certainly, recent Cy Young Awards have been given to pitchers who scored the highest in WAR in a trend for the last few years. Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke won in the American League despite the huge numbers of wins found in that award in the past. This writer has supported those award picks for the reasons stated. But there is an uneasiness.
Oh please, this isn't an attach on WAR nor a desire to cash in on the publicity that surrounds that statistic in recent days. Though in retrospect and in frankness, the heading of this post could be a clarion call for readers. Who knows. But in all honesty, this is more about this writer's man-crush on Ian Kennedy. Are there any flaws in David Brown's argument? Is there any case for Ian Kennedy at all? Maybe.
One of the old school arguments in last year's Cy Young Award discussion was that not only did C.C. Sabathia have more wins last year than Felix Hernadez, he pitched in a tougher division with tougher offenses than King Felix did. Wins probability added or WPA lends a little credence to that old school thinking. Sabathia finished last season with a WPA of 3.88 to Felix Hernandez's 3.80 and Sabathia had a clutch index of 1.41 compared to Hernandez's -0.27 (all numbers from Fangraphs.com). Of course there are some flaws to this argument because the Yankees were the much better team. But in the long run, a case can be made by these numbers that Sabathia's total body of work was more meaningful to the Yankees than Hernandez's were to the Mariners.
So to bring this around to Ian Kennedy, we can also look at WPA and clutch numbers and see where he stacks up. While Kennedy's WAR of 4.2 lags far behind those of Halladay, Kershaw and Lee and also trails Cain, Bumgarner, Hamels, Garza and his own teammate, Daniel Hudson, Kennedy does lead all pitchers in baseball in WPA. His stands at 4.81 compared to Cole Hamels at 4.65, Cliff Lee at 3.90 and Roy Halladay at 3.70. And Kennedy's clutch number stands at 1.11 compared to Hamels' at 0.59, Lee at 0.51 and Halladay at -0.30.
To be fair, Kennedy has made 30 starts compared to Hamels, Lee and Halladay with 28 a piece. But is that a detraction to Kennedy that he has succeeded in more starts? Debatable.
This writer isn't smart enough to know if this means anything. It could be simply a futile attempt to at least get Ian Kennedy into the Cy Young Award discussion. Kennedy will not win the Cy Young Award. This writer is smart enough to know that. And perhaps WAR, FIP and xFIP are the proper tools to measure a pitcher's season. But what the heck, right? Can't hurt to throw something out there with a smile.