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Friday, November 30, 2012

Who pitches to whom?

Yesterday on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential program there was a discussion about the American Conference Cy Young award.  They sort of compared the batting records of teams against which the top two candidates pitched: winner David Price (153 points) and runner up Justin Verlander (149).  Price supposedly faced better batters, although runs scored by the opposing teams was never mentioned and only OPS, not OPS+.

For instance the Yankees, who play in the same division as Price, scored:
- home: 406 Runs in 3,004 PA; OPS .807; HR 138
- road: 398 Runs in 3,227 PA; OPS .774; HR 107

It's a good general point, to look at opposing batters, but it can be done with much more granularity, a word from my distant corporate past.

It reminded me of something I stumbled upon when researching Duke Snider after his death in 2011.

Monday, February 28, 2011
Duke Snider died at 84.

Snider's HR splits home/road and v. righty/lefty pitchers detract from his big home run seasons and overall career stats.  See the data.

During his five consecutive 40 HR seasons Snider hit these HR against lefty pitchers: 3, 2, 3, 1, 0.  1956: 40 homers, all against righty pitchers, probably a record.  For perspective, all 1956 Dodgers against lefties:294 / 8 = 36.75.  The entire Dodger team hit only 8 homers against lefty pitchers.  Snider was very well protected in a heavily right handed hitting lineup, which faced few lefties.

In 1957 Hall of Fame southpaw Warren Spahn won the MLB Cy Young award.  He faced the Dodgers only once: Sunday, August 4, 1957 1:32PM, County Stadium.  Spahn relieved in the ninth and faced two batters: Don Zimmer and Jim Gilliam, retiring both; Spahn was credited with a save.
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Remember, when the pitching award named after Cy Young started, there was only one award per season from 1956 through 1966.  After that an award was given in each of two entities: American and National.  I wonder if Spahn would have been viewed differently if they had used the criteria described above back in 1957.  Spahn would have won; he received all but one vote (there was no point system then), the other going to Dick Donovan.

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