The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

The Measure of the Man: Sabathia vs. Hernandez

Cy Young.

Image via Wikipedia

A recent article by a writer named Murray Chass called, “The Dark Side to Overtake Cy Young Award,” provoked me to write the following blog-post.

The ongoing argument between the modern stat-heads and the so-called traditionalists is getting old and boring.  The fact of the matter is, the stats the traditionalists use (Wins, ERA, Strikeouts) were all once ” new” stats as well.  Whether a stat is old or new isn’t important.  Any valid stat simply gives us a clearer, fuller picture of the objective value of a player, compared to other players.

I generally believe the modern stats have done a great deal of good for baseball.  Yet I suspect that the real, underlying complaint of many in the “traditionalist” camp is that they find many of the modern stat-heads to be insufferable, arrogant bastards.

As for this criticism, they have a valid point.

I can name a few prominent stat-heads who irk me at times not so much for their point of views, but for how they express their ideas.  In a sense, they appear to be more in love with numbers (and their reputations) than with baseball itself (again, not necessarily a majority of them, but enough of them to matter.)  They automatically dismiss any disagreement with their opinions as the delusional rantings of the ignorant rabble.

Still, the so-called traditionalists are often no less boring to listen to as they relate stories about how the best players demonstrated intangibles like guts, leadership and hustle that do not easily translate into cold, hard numbers.
The truth, of course, is that the vast majority of excellent players possess both the intangibles as well as the objective data to lay claim to their status as great players.

Regarding the Sabathia vs. Hernandez debate, I think both pitchers are worthy candidates to win the Cy Young award.

Of course wins matter.  How can they not?  Do we now believe that a 300-career win pitcher, for example, is not deserving of significant honor and respect?  A pitcher who wins 20 or more games in a season has had a fine year, and certainly deserves to be in the running for this award.

At the same time, if a pitcher has suffered from extremely poor run support all season but has pitched his way to an ERA title, led the league in innings pitched (indicating a true work-horse, which the traditionalists should admire), and is near or at the top in several other statistical categories including ERA+, WHIP, strikeouts, etc., then it’s nonsensical to argue that, if only he had pitched better, he would have “found a way” to have won more games.

From my standpoint, the best thing that could happen this year is for Sabathia and Hernandez to be co-winners of the Cy Young award.

This outcome is highly unlikely, of course, but it would demonstrate proper, measured, and sensible respect for the superior accomplishments of each of these two admirable pitchers this past season.

This isn’t a cop-out on my part.  And I am realistic enough to realize that few will agree with my proposal.

So think of this post, then, as my way of saying to the partisans on each side, shut up and pay proper respect to the opinions of your fellow baseball fans.

No one cares who is smarter or more passionate in their opinions.  If the game of baseball is big enough to contain both Red Sox and Yankee fans, (not to mention shell-shocked Pirates fans), then there is certainly room enough for multiple points of view regarding how to take the measure of a man who dons a baseball uniform.

Because the game itself is bigger than any one man, especially those who presume to measure the value of others.


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6 thoughts on “The Measure of the Man: Sabathia vs. Hernandez

  1. Excellent post, Bill. Even as a Yankees fan, I did not begrudge Hernandez’ Cy Young win. But you are right to point out that the stodgy old traditionalists (like me) do still have a point. Nice work.


    • Thanks, Mike. I always enjoy your blog-posts. Sabathia had a fine season. Can’t imagine where the Yanks would have been this year without him. I appreciate your following along. Regards, Bill

  2. Jacqueline Peters on said:

    Hi Bill,

    Have enjoyed your ‘Best Forgotten Series’ tremendously. Thank you.

    In my opinion, King Felix deserved to win the award… hands down. Thank goodness he wasn’t penalized for being on a bad team.His stats proved why he won. He did his part, controlling those aspects of the game he could.

    Being in the AL West we get a chance to see his performance up close quite a few times per year. He is tough to beat. I also believe, because he pitched so well against the NY Yankees in the Bronx tipped some votes in his favor.

    • Hi Jacqueline, Always nice to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words about my “Best Forgotten…” series. Only one more installment to go! If I’d had a vote, I would have given it to King Felix myself. But I do understand the point of view of those who disagree with me and who would have (or did) vote for either Sabathia or Price. All great candidates.
      Thanks so much for continuing to follow along. And have a nice Thanksgiving, Bill

  3. I enjoyed reading all 625 words in this post, not counting the headline.

    Seriously, I’m aware of the traditionalist/stat-heads factions, but your stance seems entirely reasonable and I suspect I’d line up closely with you on the point.

    Good post!

    • Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to read this post. I’m very interested to see who wins this award, and to read the follow-up opinions that are sure to be all over the net. BTW, no one is really talking about David Price, but he is a worthy candidate as well.
      Take care, Bill

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