Lester's Case for the Cy Young

The Cy Young Award campaigns are getting real heated this time of year. The baseball media has zeroed in on four prime candidates: Zack Greinke, C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Felix Hernadez.

Each of these pitchers has a great resume, but Jon Lester has had quite the season. Where does he stack up against the competition?

ERA

1) Zack Greinke - 2.14 - 1st in AL
2) Felix Hernandez - 2.45 - 2nd in AL
3) C.C. Sabathia - 3.31 - 6th in AL
4) Jon Lester - 3.33 - 7th in AL
5) Justin Verlander - 3.44 - 9th in AL

The Cy Young Award campaigns are beginning to get heated this time of year. The baseball media has zeroed in on four prime candidates: Zack Greinke, C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, and Felix Hernadez.

Each of these pitchers has a great resume, but Jon Lester has had quite the season. Where does he stack up against the competition?

ERA

1) Zack Greinke – 2.14 – 1st in AL

2) Felix Hernandez – 2.45 – 2nd in AL

3) C.C. Sabathia – 3.31 – 6th in AL

4) Jon Lester – 3.33 – 7th in AL

5) Justin Verlander – 3.44 – 9th in AL

While Lester is not in Greinke or King Felix’s territory, his is virtually tied with Sabathia and sits just in front of Verlander. Lester could very well move to third by the end of the season.

Strikeouts

1) Justin Verlander – 245 (10.14 K/9) – 1st in AL

2) Zack Greinke – 224 (9.58 K/9) – 2nd in AL

3) Jon Lester – 215 (9.94 K/9) – 3rd in AL

4) Felix Hernandez – 196 (8.15 K/9) – 4th in AL

5) C.C. Sabathia – 186 (7.59 K/9) – 7th in AL

Lester’s emergence this year has been largely due to his strikeouts, yet his breakout becomes even more amazing when comparing it to the rest of the league: third in the league in Ks, 2nd in K/9. This is quite the accomplishment and he really distances himself from Sabathia in this category. He stays neck and neck with Greinke and Verlander, especially due to the K/9.

Not bad for a guy who struck out 6.50 per nine last year, no?

Wins

1) C.C. Sabathia – 18 – 1st in AL

2) Felix Hernandez – 16 – 3rd in AL

Justin Verlander – 16 – 3rd in AL

4) Zack Greinke – 14 – 8th in AL

Jon Lester – 14 – 8th in AL

Here is where Lester’s candidacy takes a hit, as he is lined up at the bottom with Greinke, two wins behind Felix and Verlander, four behind Sabathia. This could change with a few quality starts over the rest of the season, though wins are always hard to come by.

Innings Pitched

1) C.C. Sabathia: 220.1 IP – 2nd in AL

2) Justin Verlander: 217.1 IP – 3rd in AL

3) Felix Hernandez: 216.1 IP – 4th in AL

4) Zack Greinke: 210.3 IP – 5th in AL

5) Jon Lester: 194.2 IP – 11th in AL

Though this is a secondary category, a pitcher’s “workmanlike” status helps his candidacy. Lester will finish the season with over 200 IP, but the others will receive the “workhorse” label at 220 IP, which makes them more valuable to their team.

Though Lester doesn’t stack up well in Wins and Innings Pitched, he still deserves to be mentioned in the conversation. No pitcher on this list is without flaw: Greinke is last in wins; Sabathia is last in Ks, despite pitching the most innings; Verlander is last in ERA; Hernandez does not lead a single category.

Voters also like the pitcher’s team – not as much as the MVP race – but it still matters. They don’t want the Cy Young winner coming from Kansas City or Seattle, unless, of course, it’s San Francisco and Tim Lincecum is in question.

While Greinke would run away with this award were he on New York or Boston, this race has no clear front runner because he pitches for Kansas City. While Lester is not a favorite in this race, he absolutely should be in the conversation – especially after seeing how well he stacks up to the pack.

If the local media were to get behind their hometown hero, he could be considered a darkhorse to take home the hardware. Until that happens, he has about the same chance as a presidential write-in. At the same time, if Sabathia takes this one home, then… don’t get me started. A New Yorker in the running? All the more reason to pull for Lester.

Categories: Boston Red Sox C.C. Sabathia Felix Hernandez Jon Lester Justin Verlander Quick Post Zach Grienke

7 Responses to “Lester's Case for the Cy Young” Subscribe

  1. Adam Biggers September 22, 2009 at 7:31 PM #

    Good read, solid use of stats. I'd go for Greinke, myself, for A.L. Cy Young. Considering what he's done on such a dirt team, you'd almost have to give the kid the nod. Not taking anything away from Lester, but the BoSox are a good team. The Royals are one of the worst teams in baseball, but yet, have one of the best pitchers. I've become a big Zack Greinke fan over the last two years, and I can't see him NOT winning a Cy Young at some point in his career. I think this year his numbers are just as good as anyone else's, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get it.
    Great article, I enjoyed it.

  2. Gerry September 22, 2009 at 8:00 PM #

    Thanks for the excellent information. I wonder how Lester ranks in Run Support for his W-L during significant parts of the season such as his early poor performance, his recent great performance. How many wins did he NOT get that were quality starts and not supported. Could he be in the same boat as Greinke in the matter of 'not enough wins' due to poor support? Could Beckett? Conversely, how many of CC wins game with excellent run support.
    There is a lot to be said about pitching in a much weaker division but, after his 2 hitter against the red hot Red Sox bats, that argument may not wash at all, which reduces the force of that argument in favor of CC (and Lester). In this regard, it would also be valuable to compare WHO Zack, Lester, CC, Felix beat, at home and on the road. After seeing Greinke tonight, he sure has my vote at this point.

  3. Alpine McGregor September 23, 2009 at 6:33 AM #

    With all due respect, this is absurd.
    Grienke is by FAR the best pitcher in the American League this year, and there's even a credible argument to be made for his MVP credentials.
    Joe Posnanski assembled a list of pitchers who've had 200-200-200 seasons (200 IP, 200K, 200 ERA+). It's an even more elite club than Hall of Fame starters. Grienke's 2009 season makes the list.
    http://joeposnanski.com/JoeBlog/2009/09/18/200-20
    The Cy Young award goes to the best pitcher in the league. After watching last night's game, and looking at his numbers all season long, can anyone honestly say Grienke is not the best pitcher in the AL?
    Advocating for Lester simply to sabotage Sabathia is intellectually dishonest.

  4. Mike Silver September 23, 2009 at 8:48 AM #

    … and the MVP should go to the best player in the league as well, but thats just not how it works.
    I, too, feel that Greinke is the best Cy Young candidate for this season, though I don't particularly care about wins. It's in the article, so my position is clear.
    However, wins have historically been one of the major categories that voters vote on. There's no denying that. Otherwise, Sabathia would have no business even being in the conversation and there would be no reason to bring up any other candidates.
    Jon Lester is every bit as good as C.C. and Verlander, the candidates on good teams, and is just a step behind Felix. He's not in Greinke territory, but no one is. Still, with C.C. and Verlander being talked about, Lester absolutely deserves to be a candidate.
    And no one's advocating sabotage on Sabathia. To me, he's by far the least appealing candidate. And when would Boston fans ever want a Yankee to beat the field when a Sox player is just as good a candidate, or maybe better?
    Intellectually dishonest? Let's not reach for hyperbole, shall we?
    And the Cy Young award does not go to the best pitcher in the league, it goes to the player that voters vote for. They do not always line up.

  5. Lee September 23, 2009 at 11:14 AM #

    "And the Cy Young award does not go to the best pitcher in the league, it goes to the player that voters vote for. They do not always line up."
    In that respect, you're right, Evan. The voters don't vote the way.
    Whether that's due to curmudgeonry from voters that still look at things like Wins, Heart, and Pinstripitude(yes Jon Heyman, I'm talking to you!), or a propensity to wet themselves when presented with the harsh cruel world of mathmatical analysis that drives them to stick their head in the sand like petulant creationists afraid of science is irrelevant. We should still strive to educate and expand the understanding of the game past subjective whims.

  6. Lee September 23, 2009 at 11:22 AM #

    Replace "Evan" with "Mike". My fault for my own failure to read names properly :(

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. All-Aughts Team of the Decade SP4: Jon Lester | Fire Brand of the American League - November 28, 2009

    [...] was considered by some a very darkhorse favorite for the Cy Young award. (Fire Brand archive: Lester’s case for the Cy Young, 9/22/09.) His Cy-friendly numbers took a step back with a 15-8 record and 3.41 ERA, although he [...]