MILWAUKEE — No game for the Brewers today, so let’s ponder Pete Vuckovich‘s chances at the AL Cy Young Award. Our own Rollie Fingers took home both the MVP and Cy Young awards last year, and we’ve already determined that Yount will be the certain MVP winner this year. So will the Brewers once again sweep the awards? Let’s take a look…
The Cy Young race isn’t as convoluted as the MVP race. Writers submit MVP ballots that include dudes whose valuable smell provided their respective teams with more wins. More than 30 players are likely to get MVP votes when all is said and done, but we’ll have a much more concise list of Cy Young candidates.
What is difficult about this award in the American League this year, however, is that there hasn’t been that stand-out, dominating season from the mound. There have been a handful of good and very good seasons, but it is not easy handing out the award this year.
To be frank, Vuke wouldn’t have a shot if he were in the National League. If any of the group of Steve Carlton, Steve Rodgers or Fernando Valenzuela were in the American League, they’d win the AL Cy Young without a contest.
But let’s make a list of which pitchers are most likely to be given AL Cy Young consideration. Here they are, in alphabetical order to avoid any perceived bias:
Bill Caudill, SEA
Jim Palmer, BAL
Dan Petry, DET
Dan Quisenberry, KC
Dave Stieb, TOR
Rick Sutcliffe, CLE
Pete Vuckovich, MIL
Geoff Zahn, CAL
It’s a short list, and others may receive votes. But these are the guys I feel have the best shot. Note that Caudill and Quisenberry are relievers and the rest are starters. As such, I’ll compare them separately first.
Let’s stack them up and make a list. I have placed the numbers in bold if they lead this group (they don’t necessarily lead the league).
You’ll notice that I didn’t highlight the pitchers who were “best” in hits or walks allowed. Too complicated when you involve innings pitched. There needs to be a formula like ERA that takes those two stats into account.
So of the starters, Vuckovich has the best win-loss record (though he is tied in wins with Zahn). Sutcliffe takes ERA and strikeouts while Stieb gets the trio of complete games, shutouts and innings pitched (naturally, after the first two).
Taking a quick glance over Stieb’s stats, I’d take him over Sutcliffe. And his only clear weakness is losses (which are all obviously his fault).
Let’s use Stieb as the measuring stick…
Palmer has a better ERA and winning percentage, though Stieb has more wins. Stieb has way more complete games than Palmer and three more shutouts. I consider innings pitched a pretty important stat, especially for successful pitchers. The more a great pitcher is on the mound, the better chance he gives his team. Stieb threw 61 innings more than Palmer.
But there is another factor to consider. Stieb did not pitch in a pennant race (though not necessarily his fault) while Palmer did. However, Palmer also blew the last game of the season, so I don’t think you can necessarily give Palmer credit there. Therefore, I’d say that Stieb edges out Palmer.
The only advantage Petry has over Stieb is ERA, and it’s by .03. The teams they pitched for are near equals, so no other considerations. Stieb is the man here.
Sutcliffe won three fewer games, but had a 2.96 ERA to Stieb’s 3.25. Sutcliffe also struck out one more in 72 fewer innings. But again, Stieb dominates in shutouts and complete games. And the Indians were not a contender, so no advantage there. I lean to Stieb.
Now our friend Vuke. Vuckovich takes wins by one, but a far greater winning percentage. After that, I’ve got nothing for Vuke. Of course, you do have to consider that Vuckovich pitched in a pennant race. But if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, Vuke didn’t nail down his final game. He did win a couple of crucial starts down the stretch, however, which gives him some points. But I still lean towards Stieb.
Geoff Zahn’s stats are similar to Vuke’s, and he is also on a division winner in the Angels. However, his ERA is far higher than everyone else’s at 3.73, so I just don’t see him getting serious consideration.
Now let’s compare the closers. It’s pretty much a dead heat between Quisenberry and Caudill in my eyes. Caudill has the lower ERA, Quisenberry pitched 40 more innings and saved nine more games. But Caudill was more dominant, striking out 111 batters in 95 2/3 innings while Quisenberry struck out only 46 in 136 2/3. Quisenberry also allowed nearly a hit per inning while Caudill allowed 65 in 95 2/3. Pretty amazing.
I doubt this will be the popular opinion, but I think Caudill had the better season. Quisenberry had more saves and pitched more innings, but you can counter that by saying Caudill won more games, was more dominant, and pitched in nearly as many games.
Both closers had nice seasons, but it needs to be special like Fingers’ season last year to be given the Cy Young Award. I don’t see it here.
Brewers fans won’t be happy with me, but I’m going with Dave Stieb. There simply is not a runaway candidate, the way Yount is for the MVP. If Vuke had won his final start in Baltimore, it would have helped distinguish his season and make this a much more difficult decision. But all Vuke has on Stieb is an extra win, fewer losses, and pitching in a pennant race. Stieb was far better otherwise, and it’s tough penalizing a guy for having more losses when he pitched for a team like the Blue Jays.
Maybe I’ll be wrong. I hope that I’m wrong. But I am giving the AL Cy Young Award to Toronto’s Dave Stieb.