Cy Worthy?

My friend Ryan asked me an interesting question last night, one night after Kris Medlen’s most recent dominant performance.  He asked me if I thought that Medlen should be or would be in the hunt for the Cy Young Award.  It made me think, and my immediate response to him was that I thought he would surely be in consideration for the award.

Has Medlen been the best pitcher in the National League for the entire season?  No, he has not, which will most likely eliminate him from a realistic shot at bringing the award back to Atlanta.  But, he has compiled some excellent numbers, all while staying below the dreaded, mythological “innings limit.”  For the season, he is 9-1, with a 1.51 ERA in 48 games, spanning 125 innings.  He has notched 108 strikeouts.  As a starter, he is 8-0 with a 0.76 ERA in 10 starts.  The reason he will not get the award is that the Braves took the smart approach (if there can be a smart approach when you establish an innings limit on a pitcher before Opening Day) and had him start the season in the bullpen.  They maximized his abilities early on, and when a spot in the rotation came up, they threw him into the mix, and he has not disappointed.  Since the last time I wrote about Medlen (linked above also), he has started three times, and gone 2-0 while allowing 13 hits in 21 innings pitched, with 22 strikeouts.  He has struggled some, allowing 3 earned runs in that time for an ERA of 1.29 (if he does not win the Cy Young Award, he can look to his starts on September 8, 14, and 19 as the reason why!).

It might be hard to justify Medlen winning the Cy Young given how his season has been split between the bullpen and the rotation, and Gio Gonzalez (19 wins, 2.95 ERA) and R.A. Dickey (18 wins, 2.67 ERA) making strong cases as well.  But I also do not think he should be punished by voters because of the split time; his overall numbers show that he has been effective to dominant, regardless of his role.  With wins being a very arbitrary statistic that does not always indicate the true dominance of a pitcher (Alfredo Aceves notched 10 wins in both 2009 with the Yankees and 2011 with the Red Sox), it is hard to completely discount a 19 game winner or an 18 game winner; their sample size, start-wise, is much more significant than that of Medlen.

It will be interesting to see how many votes Medlen receives in the Cy Young balloting.  At the very least, he should be in the conversation of pitchers who deserve the award.


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