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September 6, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

An Unexpected Race

by Joe Sheehan

It's fair to say that Pedro Martinez has locked up the American League Cy Young Award. I'd like to think of it as a small feather in our cap: at midseason, our informal poll gave all ten votes to Mr. Martinez, while many other polls gave some votes, even the award at that point, to David Wells.

In the National League, though, an interesting contest has seemed to develop, as the overwhelming midseason favorite, Randy Johnson, has fallen from grace while a few other pitchers have performed very well.

Now, after last night's Diamondbacks/Braves game, you're going to hear and read a lot about how Tom Glavine is right there with Johnson, even possibly ahead of him, in the NL Cy Young race. Just for fun, here are the two pitchers' lines, along with those of two other top NL starting pitchers.:

                 ERA      IP   SNPct.  SNWAR   VORP  OOPS
Randy Johnson   2.45   216.2   .740     7.32   74.9   614
Tom Glavine     3.61   207.0   .594     3.66   43.7   669
Pitcher X       3.35   212.1   .622     4.50   55.1   656
Pitcher Y       2.62   196.0   .697     5.91   64.1   595

The "SNs" you see above are Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral figures. VORP is Keith Woolner's Value Over Replacement, available at Keith's www.stathead.com site, and included as an additional data point. It does not include last night's starts for Johnson and Glavine.

Johnson, to this point, is still so much better than any of the competition it's not even funny. Glavine, in fact, isn't the best Cy Young candidate on his own team: Greg Maddux, played by Pitcher X, has thrown a few more innings with a better ERA. That performance is reflected in the additional value he's added, as measured by SN stats and VORP.

And Maddux isn't even the top challenger to Johnson. Kevin Brown has been the second-best pitcher in the league this year by far, even after accounting for Dodger Stadium. If anyone deserves to be mentioned as a Cy candidate, it's Brown.

Of course, the truth is that none of these guys are close to Johnson. Glavine's "19" under the W header is the reason there's a debate, and while Glavine has pitched well this season, he's not the best pitcher in the league, the second-best or even the fifth-best. If he steals the Cy Young Award from Johnson, it's a travesty of the highest order.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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