As went the American League Cy Young Award, so shall go the National League Cy Young. Last year’s winner was clearly the best pitcher in the league, but won’t win the award due to an unsatisfactory win total:
There are two reasons that Roger Clemens not winning this award will be less troubling than Johan Santana not winning in the AL. The first is that, while both pitchers took home the award in 2004, only Santana deserved it. Randy Johnson was easily the best pitcher in the National League in 2004, but, as we learned when discussing Santana’s case this year, his 16 wins simply weren’t enough. Instead the award went to the 18-4 Clemens, marking the second time this decade that Clemens had won a Cy Young award that should have gone to someone else (the other being the 2001 AL award, which Clemens won with a 20-3 record despite being clearly inferior to the 17-11 Mike Mussina). As a result, I won’t cry any tears over the fact that the Rocket won’t win his eighth Cy Young when he should only be winning his sixth.
What also makes Clemens not winning this award easier to take than Santana not winning in the AL is that the NL race is much tighter. Eliminating Clemens from the discussion, a solid case could be made for any of the remaining four pitchers on the chart above. Pettitte is second in ERA, ERA+ and VORP and leads in BB/9. Pedro Martinez leads in WHIP and K/9. Carpenter leads in strikeouts and is second to Pedro and Pettitte respectively in K/9 and BB/9. Willis leads in wins and HR/9 and is a surprisingly close second in RSAA, he also lead the majors with five shutouts and seven complete games.
Of course, wins are a team-dependent stat, and Willis’s HR/9 is a result of pitching in an extreme pitchers park. His RSAA is attractive, but he’s worst on this list in loses, Ks, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. Martinez, meanwhile, is worst in ERA+ (again due to pitching in a pitchers park), HR/9, VORP and RSAA.
Eliminating those two boils it down to Carpenter and Pettitte. Of the two, Pettitte has the better VORP, Carpenter the better RSAA. Their WHIPs, H/9, HR/9, and K/BB (4.17 and 4.18) are all nearly identical. Pettitte has a clear lead in ERA and ERA+, but Carpenter has the more attractive record and the even more eye-pleasing triple crown stats that all start with 2s (20 wins, 200 Ks, sub-3.00 ERA). Carpenter also tied Willis with 7 shutouts and finished one behind Dontrelle with four shutouts. The temptation is to favor Pettitte because he pitches his home games in an extreme hitters park, but shockingly the Juice Box played as a slight pitchers park this year (park factor of 98 to a 101 for Busch in its final season). With that in mind, it’s really a coin flip as to who the second best pitcher in the National League was this year. I’m fairly certain the writers will choose Carpenter. If so, I won’t complain.