For the last of these awards diaries I'm breaking format. There's been a lot of consternation here over Aaron Harang's "poor" showing in last year's Cy Young voting (he didn't appear on a single ballot). For my part I've been dismissive of these concerns. The question now is will he get a vote for 2007? The hardware gets handed out on Thursday.
The important thing to remember is each writer only names three pitchers on his or her ballot. I see two locks and a handful of challengers for the Harangatan. The fancy stats are Defensive-independent ERA and Value Over Replacement Pitcher from Baseball Prospectus, and Pitcher Runs Created and Win Shares from The Hardball Times.
Jake Peavy ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
19-6 2.54 2.88 159 223.3 1.06 240 68 13 143 77.0 23
Peavy should win in a landslide. I would be shocked if weren't named on every ballot. He was first in ERA (any way you slice it, although adjusting for park or defense does lessen his lead), first in wins, strikeouts and K-rate, first in Win Shares and he leads in WHIP, VORP and PRC by large margins.
Brandon Webb ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
18-10 3.01 3.30 156 236.3 1.18 194 72 12 129 66.1 22
The defending champ was second to Peavy in PRC, VORP, WS, Wins and ERA. He led the league in innings, complete games and shutouts. He too should be named on every ballot. He might steal a few first place votes from Peavy because he led his surprise team to the playoffs and because he threw 42 consecutive scoreless innings in a row, challenging Hershiser's record. It should be remembered that despite this amazing feat, his season on the whole still lagged Peavy's by almost any measure. He might get Shannon Stewart love because his team made their move during his streak.
If we assume that these two will be named on every ballot (and I think they should be) that only leaves one spot for Aaron. The contenders:
Brad Penny ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
16-4 3.03 2.99 151 208.0 1.30 135 73 9 108 61.7 21
I think Penny is Harang's stiffest competition. He's third in ERA+, VORP and Win Shares. He won as many games as Harang and his ERA looks very pretty. Harang's advantage comes in his peripherals. He pitched over 20 more innings, struck out many more and walked fewer, thus putting less responsibility on his defense. PRC aknowledges this. Will the voters?
John Smoltz ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
14-8 3.11 3.48 137 205.7 1.18 197 47 18 112 56.7 16
16-10 3.33 3.56 128 224.3 1.22 132 53 10 108 59.7 19
Smoltz and Hudson both tallied slightly more VORP than Harang. Timmy was credited with 2 more Win Shares. Smoltz and Harang tied for the league leade in K/BB ratio, but Harang threw 26 more innings. The big key here is that both of their ERA advantages over Harang disappear when we adjust for defense. Is Andruw still that much of a factor?
Roy Oswalt ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
14-7 3.18 3.26 138 212.0 1.32 154 60 14 110 59.8 18
I still maintain that he's slipping, but he did best Harang in VORP, Win Shares and ERA and its derivatives. And now our candidate:
Aaron Harang ERA DERA ERA+ IP WHIP K BB HR PRC VORP WS
16-6 3.73 3.38 125 231.7 1.14 218 52 28 119 53.8 17
The case for Harang as the (at least) third best pitcher in the league: He's a solid third to Peavy and Webb in PRC. His WHIP was 5th in the league but only Peavy's from this group was better (Young, Hamels and Lilly were the others). He was second to Webb in IP, second to Peavy in strikeouts. His strikeout to walk ratio tied for first in the league with Smoltz's. He threw 2 complete games (Webb led with 4).
The case against Harang as the third best pitcher in the league: He was 7th in the league in VORP (behind every pitcher here). His ERA is really bad amongst this elite group. Before you say GABP, his ERA+ is still last in this group. A better rallying point is the Reds' defense. Harang's DERA jumps the two Braves', is pretty close to Webb's, but still lags Peavy's and Penny's by a good measure. He's sixth in Win Shares, topping only Smoltz. Harang's major problem was giving up home runs. I thought there might be a park effect at work that ERA+ isn't accounting for, but his HR splits are almost identical (15 in 118.2 IP at home, 13 in 113 IP on the road).
I would cast a third place vote for Harang. I think he'll get some this year, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he got shut out again. These were the clear top 7 candidates by my stat-y evaluation, but others could pop up on the ballots. A few votes are usually collected by the top reliever (Saito?) or by a local champion (Hamels, Lilly?)