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November 13, 2013
Internet Baseball Awards
AL Pitcher of the Year
Strikeout rates have climbed higher and higher in recent years, and the starters at the vanguard of that trend earned prominent places in this year’s Internet Baseball Awards AL Pitcher of the Year voting results. The league’s leading punchout artist, Yu Darvish, managed a respectable runner-up finish in the polls, but nobody could compete with the leader of Detroit’s intimidating rotation. In dominating fashion, Max Scherzer has won the 2013 IBA for the AL Pitcher of the Year Award.
Scherzer’s stats certainly pass the eye test for a Pitcher of the Year: he posted a crisp 2.90 ERA, which lined up nicely with his 2.74 FIP and 3.23 FRA. Scherzer’s win-loss record, too, looks like that of a top-flight pitcher, though his winning percentage was inflated by a hefty run support average of 5.29 runs per game. But it was his mastery of the swing-and-miss that set him apart from (most) of the field. Scherzer finished third in the AL in swinging strike rate, due in large part to wielding the league’s most valuable fastball (according to PITCHf/x run values).
Scherzer’s slider, which registered as the third-best in the league, also enhanced his ability to miss bats. He even mixed in a lefty-neutralizing curveball, a pitch he had almost completely avoided throwing in the past. These three pitches, along with his changeup, produced a gaudy 28.7 percent K rate. Scherzer actually struck out fewer batters this season compared to last, but a diminished walk rate allowed him to become more efficient with his pitches overall: he posted a 4.29 K/BB rate, good for third in the AL.
Scherzer’s nastiness, though, is best seen from the victim’s—ahem, hitter’s—perspective. He limited the opposition to a putrid .198/.254/.329 line, putting together one of the filthiest highlight reels of the season in the process. Sleep well, Chris Davis. You’re not the only one.
Perhaps themselves intimidated by Scherzer’s repertoire, voters cast 468 first-place votes for him, compared to Darvish’s 46. This wide disparity drove even wider margin of victory, as Scherzer notched nearly 3000 more ballot points than did Darvish.
This talk of Scherzer’s nastiness and dominance makes Darvish seem somehow unworthy of the award, but in fact, Darvish’s statistics are arguably as compelling as Scherzer’s. He struck out a staggering 11.89 batters per nine innings, nearly two Ks per nine more than Scherzer’s mark. Darvish beat Scherzer in the ERA category, as well, despite pitching in a hitter’s park and having the homers allowed to show for it: his mark of 2.83 was fourth in the league. Granted, Darvish walked batters at an uncomfortably high rate (3.43 per nine innings), but in the aggregate, his numbers are quite comparable to—and in some cases, better than—Scherzer’s. And, of course, there was this. If it were still socially acceptable to accuse people of witchcraft, Darvish would be my first target.
The rest of the ballot features Seattle mainstay Felix Hernandez in third place, capturing 24 first-place votes. Some notable names appearing in the awards conversation for the first time are Hisashi Iwakuma and Boston sensation/David Ortiz shoulder ornament Koji Uehara. This year’s top 10 contains three Tigers, so congratulations to Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Justin Verlander. May you haunt the dreams of major-league hitters for years to come.
You can view the full IBA AL Pitcher of the Year results here.