Big win total not necessary for Cy Young winners

One thing that was somewhat noticeable this week when the Cy Young Award winners were announced was that neither pitcher that won had a lot of pitching wins for 2021. Wins for pitchers don’t seem to have nearly the value they once did.

The American League winner was Toronto’s Robbie Ray. He went 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA that ranked first in the league over 193 1/3 innings with a 1.04 WHIP and .210 batting average against. The National League winner was Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, who was 11-5 with a league-leading 2.43 ERA in 167 innings with a 0.94 WHIP and .201 batting average against.

Ray’s victory total of 13 is tied for the fewest for a starting pitcher over a full season to win the American League award, matching that of the Seattle Mariners’ Félix Hernandez in 2010.

Burnes’ victory total of 11 is tied for the second-lowest of any starting pitcher in a full season to win the award, matching that of the New York Mets’ Jacob deGrom in 2019. The fewest victories overall by a Cy Young-winning starting pitcher in a full season is 10 by the 2018 National League winner, also deGrom of the Mets.

Now I certainly would not agree with a blanket statement that pitcher wins are not important. Winning the game is still the most important thing and pitcher wins still matter. Just much less than in another time and day.

Orioles bags.jpgTo get a win, a pitcher needs help. He obviously needs some run support, or he could give up one or two runs and lose. He often needs good defense and a solid bullpen performance to close out a win. He needs several players, maybe many players, to do their jobs well on a given night or he doesn’t get that individual W.

Another reason pitcher wins have been devalued is that a pitcher can throw poorly and still win the game, for instance by an 8-6 score or something similar. He could give up six runs over 5 1/3 innings and be a winning pitcher. Outside of eating a few innings, he didn’t do a heckuva a lot to win that game.

So we’re now in a time in baseball when the voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America probably look at several stat categories - advanced and otherwise - that they rate ahead of pitcher wins.

Back in Jim Palmer’s day, a pitcher winning the Cy Young with 11 victories would have been unheard of. Of course, back in that day, pitchers often made more starts (especially in four-man rotations) and threw more innings. They were in the games longer and thus were around to get more pitching decisions - wins and losses.

Speaking of the Orioles, they have not had a Cy Young Award winner since Steve Stone in 1980, when he went 25-7 with a 3.23 ERA. That year, Stone ranked seventh in the league in ERA but had three more wins than any other pitcher. So wins were no doubt much more valued then. In fact, that year, there were five 20-game winners in the AL, including two on the Orioles, as Scott McGregor went 20-8. There were 16 pitchers that season in the AL that won 16 or more games. This year in the AL, the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole led the AL with 16 wins. This season, there were just four pitchers in the majors with 16 or more wins.

The Orioles have had a player win the Cy Young six times and all came within a 12-year period.

1969 - Mike Cuellar (tied with Denny McLain)
1973, 1975 and 1976 - Jim Palmer
1979 - Mike Flanagan
1980 - Stone

Mesa wins AFL championship: The Mesa Solar Sox threw a four-pitcher one-hitter with 15 strikeouts in beating Surprise to win the Arizona Fall League’s championship game Saturday night. Mesa featured prospects from the Orioles, Cubs, Marlins, A’s and Blue Jays.

In the championship game, Cubs pitcher Caleb Kilian threw six perfect innings to begin Mesa’s 6-0 win. Lefty Nick Vespi of the Orioles fanned three batters in the seventh, but issued a two-out walk for the first baserunner of the game for Surprise. The O’s Logan Gillaspie, just added to the 40-man roster Friday, fanned the side in the eighth after runners reached on an error and single.

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