A Victory for Lincecum, A Victory for Fascism?

As the great American political philosopher Crash Davis once informed us, strikeouts are fascist. Tim Lincecum won the Cy Young Award yesterday because of his strikeout totals. Thus the title of this post. (I leave it an open question if I, as someone who said Lincecum should win, am objectively pro-fascist.) Of course, no one said that they voted for Lincecum solely because of his strikeouts. So let’s breakdown the statistical case for Lincecum and see what is at the heart of it.

Let’s start with traditional stats. Lincecum led the league in strikeouts, shutouts, and complete games; Wainwright in wins, games started and innings pitched; and Carpenter in ERA. Moving to slightly more advanced stats, Lincecum led in K/9; Joel Pineiro led in fewest BB/9 (with Dan Haren 2nd and Carpenter 3rd); Haren led in strikeout-to-walk ratio (with Carpenter 7th and Lincecum 8th); and Carpenter led in fewest HR/9. Moving on to advanced statistics, Lincecum led the league in FIP and WAR, Carpenter led in WPA (win probability added).

Now let’s look at Lincecum’s advantages. First off, he tied for the league lead in shutouts with only 2, and he tied for the league lead in complete games with only 4. These leads are minor at best. Second, he led the league in strikeouts by 23, a substantial lead. This leads directly to his lead in K/9. What about the advanced stats? Remember the formula for FIP:

FIP={13HR + 3BB – 2K}/IP

Given that Lincecum did not lead the league in fewest BB or HR per 9 and rather trailed Carpenter in both categories, his lead (by 0.40) in FIP has to fall back on his lead in strikeouts. Given that pitchers’ WAR, as calculated by Fangraphs, is heavily dependent on FIP and innings pitched (in which Wainwright led), his lead (by nearly 2.0) is again dependent on his strikeouts.  There is one other possibility that could factor in:  this season AT&T Park in San Francisco was a bit of a hitter’s park, while Busch Stadium in St. Louis was a bit of a pitcher’s park.  That strikes me as the only factor to mitigate the completely strikeout-based case for Lincecum.  Lincecum’s run support was not exceptionally bad, and it was only slightly worse than Carpenter’s. By ESPN’s run support measure, the gap is even narrower. He did edge Carpenter in Quality Start %, 81 to 79, though both trailed the immortal Brad Penny. So where does this leave us?

The decision was not based upon the pitcher with the greatest workload. That would give the award to Wainwright. The decision was not based upon the pitcher with the best rate stats. That question is at best even, and at worst gives the award to Carpenter. The voting, then, comes down to some combination of the two. The only way that goes to Lincecum is by focusing in on strikeouts as the most important rate stat and/or counting stat. Given my own support for Lincecum, I clearly like a strikeout. I loved watching Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and other great strikeout pitchers. I think strikeouts are fun to watch. (Does this mean fascism is fun? Maybe.) Sadly, though, no voters seem to acknowledge their votes are based on Lincecum’s strikeouts. I don’t mind that as a reason, but I would like to see an honest debate on the merits of the question.

What should be the basis for the Cy Young Award? How do you determine what pitcher has had the best season?

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3 Comments on “A Victory for Lincecum, A Victory for Fascism?”

  1. Millsy Says:

    Can’t do much more to pull me into an article than to mention Crash Davis. Despite being a former finesse guy that idolized Greg Maddux, I love the strikeout as well. It makes things seem so dominant.

    With that said, I think Lincecum had the other stats to support it. Strikeouts should definitely be considered, all else being roughly equal-ish. Similar to the Home Run, strikeouts have a special aura of dominance and athleticism about them to the point that I think it’s reasonable to take them into account. They put him over the top, rather than gave him the award. However, I’d be happy with any of those 3 guys winning. This is probably one of the closer 3-way races we’ve ever seen, which makes it exciting to talk about.

  2. verdun2 Says:

    Comrade PhD
    The peace loving peoples of the world are horrified to hear that the running dog fascists of the world have again chosen power over peace. Do you want to bring back the Cold War, comrade?

    Wonder how much the votes were split up by both Carpenter and Wainwright playing for the same team?

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