Peter Gammons & The AL Cy Young Race

While eating a delightful sandwich that I made for myself this afternoon, I caught a bit of Joe & Evan’s interview with Peter Gammons on WFAN. This exchange struck me as problematic:

WFAN: Would you actually consider a guy like Felix Hernandez – I know he’s 10-10, but you look at his other numbers for a bad team – would you consider a guy like that for the Cy Young, Peter?

GAMMONS: I would consider it. I just don’t think that when you look at his body of work… He’s been great, there’s no question about it. He’s got the highest quality start percentage and all that, and he leads the league in innings, which I think is very important. I take that into consideration. I think he’s there, but it’s just that there are some pitchers with really good records that have had extraordinary seasons. I mean, I think Sabathia – it’s not just leading the league in wins, it’s that consistency. He’s always there . . . I still think that right now, CC is the leader. It’s not just the wins but also what he means to that staff. He’s been the one guy all year long. They’ve run a lot of different guys in there behind him . . . I was actually thinking this morning “where is he going to sit in terms of the MVP race?”

There are some pretty obvious themes that I write about here on the blog: old school analysis versus new school analysis, scouting versus statistics, subjective arguments versus objective arguments, etc. Certainly, Gammons’ belief that Sabathia should win the AL Cy Young award could easily be turned into a classic “baseball men vs. nerds” post. I could go into detail about why Sabathia is more like the fifth best pitcher in the AL, citing statistics like WAR and xFIP along the way. But forget about all that for a moment. This isn’t about that.

My problem with Gammons’ argument is simply the inconsistent thinking behind it. Gammons likes but doesn’t love Hernandez because of his 10-10 record. We can agree that this record is largely because the Seattle Mariners stink. To be clear: it’s Hernandez’s teammates’ fault that his record is middling. Then, Gammons loves Sabathia because he’s been “the one guy” the Yankees can count on all season long. Why has Sabathia been “the one guy”? Because the rest of the Yankees’ rotation has been shaky. Sabathia shines because the rest of the starters are inconsistent or outright bad.

You probably see where I’m going with this now. Gammons isn’t into Hernandez because his teammates stink, but Gammons loves Sabathia because, well, his teammates stink.

In my vision of a perfect world, baseball analysts would routinely use advanced statistics (or at least convey advanced concepts in accessible terms) to make arguments for or against something. I would turn on ESPN News and see the league leaders in xFIP scroll across the bottom of the screen instead of league leaders in wins. But I realize that that’s unrealistic right now. In the meantime, all I want is a fundamental level of consistency when making a point, and Gammons falls short of that here.

Although if Gammons starts actively pushing CC Sabathia for AL MVP, you might see my patience deteriorate pretty quickly.


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