Let's start a new award and call it the Cy Schourek. It goes to a player who would've won the MVP/Cy Young in any other year had he not been just blown away by a historic performance.
It is named, of course, after Pete Schourek, whose 18-7, 3.22 ERA performance in 1995 was great...but stood no chance to Maddux giving up 20 non-intentional walks and 8 homers (aka "A week in the life of Jimmy Haynes") all season. Another candidate, say, would be Sammy Sosa's .328/.437/.737 64-HR season in 2001 that didn't hold a candle to Barry Bonds' 73-shot year. He received two first-place votes.
You can see where I'm going with this. Johnny Cueto led the 2014 National League in starts, innings, strikeouts, and hits/9. He also doesn't stand a chance at the Cy Young Award.
It's really hard to overstate Cueto's season. He pitched through the sixth in his first 9 starts, and he gave up just nine runs in September while gunning for win #20 in a lost season. He didn't give up double-digit hits ever. He had just four no-decisions, and ended the year on a 12-3 run. That may make him sound like a second-half pitcher who was better when the lights dimmed, but Cueto went to his first ASG with a 2.03 ERA at the break.
Did you ever read Life of Pi? Some people love the book, but I'll admit I only mostly liked it. There were parts I loved, but I dunno, maybe it just hit me at the wrong time or something. It just didn't do much for me. But there's one scene I love where Richard Parker, the seaborne tiger, stumbles into a meerkat colony and is just demolishing the critters. Like he ate a few for food but after a while he's just swatting these things that have never seen a predator before out of his way with like three of them hanging from his jaw. The tiger starts playing with them and just goofing off because he can't believe his good fortune at so much prey overwhelming his predator drive.
This was the year of Johnny Beisbol. Killin' dudes at first to show how good he is, but later just because he's got nothing better to do than be killin' dudes. Happily killin' dudes by groundout, popout, or strikeout. Killin' dudes in ways you didn't think it was possible to kill a dude, just because he wanted to kill a dude.
It would be pretty much unprecedented for Cueto to build off of 2014 next year, in his age-29 season. Cueto's BABIP was .238, after .236 in 2013, .296 in 2012, and .249 in 2011, when his reign of terror began. He pulls this off not just through groundballs (constantly below 50%) but also just a ton of flyballs (up to 34.5% this year) that he leaves up to his defense to snag. Fangraphs hates this, but for Cueto it's just another meerkat to swat.
Let's hope for more of the same in 2015, his last year under contract. Even if we're not sure we can rely on it.