A Look Back: The 2005 American League Cy Young
Image courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez, USA TodayWith Colon joining the Twins and making a start tonight, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at that 2005 American League Cy Young vote through the lens of what we now know. Was Johan still robbed?
Of course he was robbed, we’re Twins fans. He absolutely deserved to win it. Santana won the AL Cy Young Award in 2004, and then he again won it in 2006. However, we’ll still contend that he should have won three in a row.
I always find it interesting that we think that Johan Santana was robbed. However, we forget that Santana didn’t even finish runner-up in the 2005 American League Cy Young voting. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera finished second in the vote.
Bartolo Colon actually won the vote quite handily. He accumulated 118 points. Mariano Rivera had 68 points, and Johan Santana had 51 points. Colon received 17 of a possible 28 first-place votes. Rivera got eight first-place votes with Santana tallying the other three.
Let’s start with the obvious, the statistics. First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge that all three of these pitchers had tremendous 2005 seasons. I don’t think anyone would or should say anything differently. At the same time, it’s impossible to look at the numbers and not think that Santana was the obvious choice.
Here are some key statistics for your consideration:
- W-L Record: Colon 21-8; Santana 16-7, Rivera 7-4 (with 43 saves)
- Innings Pitched: Santana 231.2, Colon 222.2, Rivera 78.1
- ERA: Rivera 1.38, Santana 2.87, Colon 3.48
- WHIP: Rivera 0.87, Santana 0.97, Colon 1.16.
- FIP: Rivera 2.15, Santana 2.80, Colon 3.75
- K/9: Santana 9.2, Rivera 9.2, Colon 6.3
- BB/9: Santana 1.7, Colon 1.7, Rivera 2.1
- bWAR: Santana 7.2, Colon 4.0, Rivera 4.0.
- fWAR: Santana 7.1, Colon 4.1, Rivera 2.9
- WPA: Santana 4.16, Rivera 3.15, Colon 2.77
But Rivera was the one that most nationally (and particularly in New York) thought was snubbed. In fact, when asked, Colon thought Rivera had a good chance to win. “"Mariano had a great year," Colon said, thanking Rivera for teaching him how to throw his cut fastball. "I did think about the fact that maybe he was going to come away and be the winner."”
However, if you were to compare just the starting pitchers, there really is no comparison. The only area where Colon had a better number was the wins category. We don’t need to go through the whole discussion about how meaningless that number is.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) had Santana clearly better. Why? Because Santana struck out 50% more batters than Colon. You can make an argument about a strikeout pitcher needing more pitches.
In an ESPN article back then, “If I can get an out with one or two pitches and use my sinker or my cutter, I'm better off," Colon said through a translator. "I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock through a wall, and started thinking about being a guy that could last longer, to take some off my fastball and not to depend only on throwing hard.”
Well, that may be fine, but in the same number of starts, Santana threw more innings. He gave up fewer runs, walked the same low number, and Santana had a WHIP under 1.00, which is crazy good for a starter.
So whether you look at the more traditional stats like ERA and WHIP and K/9, Santana was clearly better. If you look at the more advanced stats like FIP, WAR (wins above replacement) or even WPA (win probability added). If wins are your stat of choice for a pitcher, well, then Colon was the rightful winner.
In a New York Times article discussing the 2005 vote, Akron Beacon writer Sheldon Ocker acknowledged that he put Rivera and other relievers into the MVP candidates more than the Cy Young because they are used more often but for a lot less innings. His comment regarding why his ballot went 1.) Bartolo Colon, 2.) Cliff Lee, 3.) Mark Buehrle illustrates the thinking of the writers who voted for these awards just a dozen years ago.
“It's just a whole different animal from starting pitchers," he added. "If the best starting pitcher in the league only won 15 games and Mariano Rivera or someone else saved 45, I'd vote for Rivera. But in a season with a 20-game winner and an 18-game winner, I felt the starters should get my vote.”
Wins. Wins… That’s a pretty direct indictment on how Bartolo Colon won that award over Johan Santana.
While obviously Twins fans are a bit biased, it’s fun to check out a couple of national sites and blogs and get some other opinions.
Bleacher Report posted an article in which they determined the 10 most undeserving Cy Young Award winners. Bartolo Colon came in at #6. “The more deserving candidate was Johan Santana, who went 16-7, with an ERA of 2.87 and led the league in WAR and ERA-plus with a 6.3 and a 155 respectively. Santana also struck out the most batters by a wide margin and had a ridiculous .97 WHIP.”
Seamheads posted and article called the Most Egregious Cy Young Snubs. Colon/Santana was only mentioned in saying that if they had listed 11 instead of 10, they would have made the list.
So while most thought that Santana should have won it, statistics tell us that the voters got it wrong on several occasions.
Shortly after Colon was awarded the 2005 AL Cy Young, ESPN’s Jayson Stark wrote an article highlighting why Santana, not Colon, deserved to win the award.
Here are a few excerpts from the article:
- Colon finished strong, going 10-2 in his last 14 starts “for a team that needed every one of his wins to hold off Oakland.”
- Colon was helped out by his bullpen which blew zero saves for him.
- Indians hitters averaged 6.02 runs per game when Colon started.
- “Santana piled up 81 more strikeouts, beat Colon in ERA by 61 points, allowed almost two fewer base runners for every nine innings, and had more innings pitched, complete games and shutouts.”
- “Hitters who faced Colon had a batting average of .254 against him. The on-base percentage against Santana was .250.”
- “Colon got a ridiculous 1.32 more runs per game than Santana did. And Santana’s totals in his last three no-decisions tell it all: 23 innings, 9 hits, 3 runs, 0 wins.”
- “But the history of the award tells us that no starting pitcher has won just 16 games over a full season and won a Cy Young.”
So while there are more ways to determine and vote for Best Pitcher, it will continue to be dependent upon the 15 BBWAA writers from each league that cast their vote.
I don’t think anyone is going to expect Bartolo Colon to come to Target Field today and hand over that 2005 Cy Young Award. And frankly, there’s no reason to bring it up.
Instead, let’s cheer on Colon and hope beyond hope that he can be a solid contributor to the Twins for the rest of the season. Or, he’ll be so bad that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will have an easy decision to let him go in the next few weeks. If nothing else, it’ll be fun to watch the oldest pitcher to make a start for the Twins in their 57 seasons in Minnesota.
- wavedog, Cory Engelhardt, h2oface and 1 other like this