When Even Is Odd
Our vibe is that there are two camps in the NL CY Young battle. One claims Carpenter is the frontrunner primarily by virtue of his lower ERA – and to a lesser extent – his better WHIP and K/BB ratio. The other camp sees the top candidates as "dead even" – the above statistical advantages essentially cancelled out by Webb’s "extra" win.
First, Webb pitches half his games in MLB’s third best hitter’s park whereas new Busch currently ranks 24th. Chase enables 16-20% more runs(1.112/.937 = 18.6%) than Busch. When one adjusts for the parks(by chopping off half of that 16-20% – for home starts only), Webb’s adjusted ERA drops below CC’s impressive 2.79.
Chris is still the best home hurler(1.46 home ERA) by a considerable margin, even after park adjustments, which pare his sizable ERA advantage down to about half a run per game in real terms. Still significant, but not as much as the two aces road disparity.
Pitching in a variety of road parks, Webb’s ERA(3.35) is a full run lower than Carpenter(4.52). That real difference is about twice that of the park adjusted home ERAs. Even that road dominance, however, isn’t Webb’s most compelling claim over Carpenter, nor is the fact that he plays with a slightly weaker supporting cast than does the defending CY Award winner.
Most significantly, Webb has battled all year against stronger competition – primarily due to the unbalanced schedule and the fact that the NL Central has suppplanted the NL West as MLB’s weakest division. The league’s two weakest teams are the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. Brandon has pitched against each team once, beating both. Chris has pitched against these doormats eight times, going 5-1!
What about the NL’s top shelf? In late May, Brandon pitched 7 shutout innings at Shea to earn a no decision against Pedro. A week later he faced Beltran & Boys at Chase – 8 innings, 1 earned run – and picked up a loss for his trouble. Now constrast that with Carpenter’s exploits against the league’s juggernaut. In the first game at Shea, Chris…what’s that? Carpenter didnt pitch against the Mets all year? Oh. Well then, maybe we can examine how he did against the Dodgers and Padres – the two next best teams(based on current record). Against San Diego, Chris..what’s that? He didnt pitch against San Diego either. Oh. Webb faced them three times. Each candidate faced the Dodgers once, pitched well, and won their respective game. In sum, versus the league’s best, Webb made six starts (seven if you include his one hitter against the Cards) and Carpenter made one.
Both pitchers are scheduled to start tomorrow, Thursday, Sept 21. Rest assured, we will hear about what an amazingly tight race this is, and how the award result hinges on the next couple of starts. What appears to be a dead heat, however, is so only on the surface. Brandon Webb, pitching in a disadvantageous park, on a lesser team, against demonstrably superior competition has clearly outperformed Chris Carpenter to date, and barring a monumental letdown, should win the Cy Young Award.