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November 18, 2010 at 2:10 PM

One of the Cy Young voters who didn’t have Hernandez in top-3? Says he couldn’t reconcile the win disparity

Our earlier blog post today spoke of the need to avoid absolutism in declaring who we think should or should not win the Cy Young Award. For me, most of the guys (and non-guys) doing the voting are not “idiots” or “crazy” or other things I’ve heard to describe people who go against the tide of popular opinion.
And I’m not about to do that now. But the BBWAA is about transparency and accountability in its voting results. Like I said before, we don’t know which players picked David Price last month as AL Pitcher of the Year in Players Choice voting. We don’t know which coaches voted Derek Jeter as the Gold Glove shortstop in the AL.
But we do know that seven voters went with somebody other than Felix Hernandez as their first place pick — I gave you their names on the prior post. And we also know who the two voters are who did not have Hernandez in the top-three.
Before I give you those names — and the explanations of one voter — let me say that, without exception, the non-Hernandez supporters placed a heavy emphasis on wins and the fact C.C. Sabathia and Price pitched on playoff teams while Hernandez did not. And there’s nothing wrong with it. These voters are not idiots. They just placed a heavier emphasis on things that I and many of you disagree with.
There are two voters who did not have Hernandez in the top-three: George King of the New York Post voted him fifth; Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal placed him fourth.
And once again, there’s nothing wrong with that. Larry Stone had Cliff Lee third. Nobody else in the voting did. Only three voters had Lee in the top-5. But I can attest that Stone is not an idiot. And neither are King and Ocker for looking at things differently. King is out of the country on vacation (yes, I’m not the only guy in America who does that) but Ocker took my call and had no problem explaining his reasoning for putting Hernandez fourth on his ballot.
Photo Credit: AP

“I’m sure the people who voted for him are being influenced by a lot of the newer statistics that we have,” said Ocker, who has covered the Cleveland Indians for 30 years. “For me, wins and losses matter. It also matters for a pitcher who pitches under the stress of a pennant race.”
Ocker voted for Sabathia because: “He had a lot of wins and the object of the game is to win.”
We talked about that a bit and about how Hernandez only had 13 victories. Ocker realizes Sabathia may not have had complete control over every single one of his wins — same as Hernandez may not have been able to prevent some of his losses.
But in the end, he said, the disaprity between a pitcher winning 20 games and one who wins only 13 was “too big a handicap for Felix to overcome.”
Ocker’s ballot had Sabathia first, Price second, Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox third, followed by Hernandez and then Jon Lester. Clearly, the choice of the three pitchers ahead of Hernandez was influenced heavily by their win totals.
At least he’s consistent.
“If you can’t argue about sports, what can you argue about?” Ocker said.
For those wondering about King, yes, he’s a longtime baseball scribe and a very good one — having worked in the tough New York and Philadelphia markets. He knows baseball and the folks around the game and is not shy about expressing an opinion.
Back in 1999, he caught some flack for being one of two writers who left Pedro Martinez off his MVP ballot completely. That helped decide the race for MVP, which was captured by Ivan Rodriguez of the Rangers. King simply did not believe a pitcher should be considered for MVP, since they have their own Cy Young category and do not contribute as frequently as everyday players.
You don’t have to like that opinion. But King wasn’t backing down.
And I’m sure he won’t this time when he gets back into the country. You don’t have to like that he put Hernandez fifth. But he places a higher value on wins and gave his honest opinion. Thing is, if you’re going to make an argument that Hernandez should finish second or third because of his low win total — as five voters did — then shouldn’t that logic apply to putting other pitchers with higher win totals ahead of Felix on the ballot?
There is some logic and consistency to that. Remember, we can all disagree.
By the way, know who else thinks wins matter? Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in baseball over the last decade.
In his conference call after winning the NL Cy Young on Tuesday, Halladay was quite blunt when asked whether wins matter for pitchers. His response is midway down the story I’ve linked.
“Obviously Felix’s numbers are very, very impressive,” Halladay said. “But I think, ultimately, you look at how guys are able to win games. Sometimes the run support isn’t there, but you sometimes just find ways to win games. I think the guys that are winning and helping their teams deserve a strong look, regardless of how good Felix’s numbers are.”
As many of you know, I think the world of Halladay as a pitcher and a human being. I disagree wholeheartedly with him on this issue and can back it up with stats from this year showing how poorly he fared over a stretch in which his team scored two runs or fewer. But even though I disagree with him on this, I guarantee you he is not an “idiot” when it comes to baseball. Halladay knows the game better than you, I and pretty much anybody I read on a daily basis. So, if he says wins matter, it won’t change my mind about Hernandez deserving his prize. But it will make me think about things going forward.
That maybe wins should not be forgotten about altogether. That maybe we should consider other intangibles like pitching for a playoff team.
We don’t all have to agree with one another. We just have to listen to others without dismissing their opinions outright.



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