The Precedent for the Tight AL Cy Young Race
The 2013 American League Cy Young race is very close. According to FanGraphs WAR here are the top three finishers:
I realize that Wins Above Replacement is not a be-all end-all but it is a pretty good estimate of value over a long season (in this case ~30 starts each).
Looking back at the history of the AL Cy Young award I found another very tight three-way race. Back in 1971 the AL leaders in pitching fWAR looked like this:
Lolich, the Detroit Tigers ace finished second in the Cy voting. The 15 (out of 24) voters who didn’t place Lolich first had to overlook his AL leading 25 wins and 308 strikeouts.
Also in 45 games started the lefty averaged 8 1/3 innings pitched per start. Lolich threw an astounding 376 innings in 1971! This was forty-two more than the second most in the league hurled by Wilbur Wood (who finished third in the voting for Cy).
Like this year any of the three guys in ’71 was a worthy choice although it’s hard to argue against the winner, Vida Blue. The twenty-one year old Oakland Athletic led the AL in K rate (8.6/9 IP), shutouts (8) and WAR!
The voters got the jist of the whole thing four decades before saber-metrics became mainstream. We’ll find out later today if they’ve still got it.