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Cy Cobb's Case for the Cy Young

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Dontrelle Willis likely has two starts left for the Marlins this year. One will take place tonight (against the Nationals) and the second will likely come on Sunday against the Braves (although I suppose it's debatable as to whether or not he'll actually get to make that start).

I haven't spent much time trumpeting Dontrelle's Cy Young credentials, because I thought I'd just come across as a homer. Well, that was part of it: the other part was that in the earlier part of the year I thought Roger Clemens was more deserving of the honor, and more recently, I've thought that Chris Carpenter deserved the award.

Willis has surged of late though, and that changes things to some degree. While Dontrelle's strong finish hasn't been enough to propel the Marlins into the playoffs, the Marlins' shortcomings this year have nothing to do with Willis.

Using statistics from The Hardball Times and Baseball Prospectus, let's take a look at how the NL's top three Cy Young contenders stack up:

Win Shares
Some have made the case that Dontrelle Willis should receive some special consideration because of his abilities with the bat. Not only is Dontrelle a good hitting pitcher, but Jack McKeon even thinks so highly of Willis' bat that Dontrelle hit seventh last week (the first time that's been done with a pitcher in the majors since 1973).

Win Shares allow us to account for that, as we can break them into batting, pitching, and fielding components. Here's what they look like for Carpenter, Clemens, and Willis (randomly ordered and without their names):

Pitcher A: 0.5 batting, 24.1 pitching, and 0.0 fielding for a total of 24.6
Pitcher B: -0.4 batting, 24.4 pitching, and 0.0 fielding for a total of 24.0
Pitcher C: -4.5 batting, 24.6 pitching, and 0.0 fielding for a total of 20.1

Other stats
In addition to Win Shares, let's take a look at some other stats. We're all innundated with wins, losses, ERA, and strikeouts, but those often fail to tell the tale. Here are some other stats to take into consideration - some stats that you're less likely to hear referenced regularly.

Pitcher VORP Inn IP/S RA+
A 73.2 225.3 7.0 1.62
B 77.2 204.3 6.6 2.08
C 70.7 235.7 7.4 1.53

To clarify what the stats are in the table (in order): VORP = value over replacement player, IP = innings pitched, IP/S = innings pitched per start, and RA+ = run average (earned and unearned) normalized for park and league.

Which pitcher would you most like to have this year? Or rather: which one is most deserving of the Cy Young Award - A, B, or C?

Sure, it's a little like splitting hairs. Each of these three guys has had a great season. In many other years, they would have been the clear cut favorite to win the Cy Young Award (bear in mind that the best VORP posted by an AL pitcher this year would rank a distant fifth; there are only two AL pitchers in this year's MLB top 10).

In case you haven't figured it out already, the pitchers are: A - Dontrelle Willis, B - Roger Clemens, and C - Chris Carpenter.

My vote (if I had one) would go to Willis this year.

But it's all likely moot, as ESPN's Cy Young Predictor, which takes standings into account, has Chris Carpenter taking the hardware home. Without the boost that Carpenter gets from the Cards division title, it would be neck and neck right now between Carp and Willis (interestingly, Clemens ranks a distant 10th). The reality is that voters take each team's success into account when they vote. That's going to work against Willis unless he does something spectacular this week.