Cy Young Debate
By Andrew Krumme
The Cy Young. Its origins date back to 1955 through then commissioner Ford Frick who introduced the award. However, Frick limited it to just one pitcher in the league. After his retirement in 1966 the award for the best arm in the game was extended to both the NL and AL. In the National League it has been dominated for the past four seasons by the big lefty Randy Johnson, who also snagged the award in the AL in 1995 while throwing for the Seattle Mariners. With an exception to the young left handed gun in Oakland last year, Mr. Curve Ball himself Barry Zito, in the American League names like Martinez and Clemens have swapped the award back and forth for years. This year’s race is close in both departments. The National league has basically four in the race for the Cy Young, while over in the AL there are two men vying for the award with a couple lurking in the dark.
Starting off with the National League you have to begin with the most dominant closer in the game, Eric Gagne. Gagne hasn’t blown a save all year for the Dodgers. In fact he hasn’t blown a save since August of last season. (We do not count Hank Blalock’s bomb off him in the All Star Game). He is a stellar 55 for 55 this year in save chances. Gagne is flat out feared around the league. He has three pitches, all of which he can throw for strikes. His fastball, which approaches triple digits, is complemented with a great changeup and killer curve ball. His ERA is a disgusting 1.20 and to top that off he had 137 strikeouts in just under 83 innings.
Mark Prior, in just his second season in the big leagues, is another serious contender for the Cy Young. He teamed up with Kerry Wood this year to prove to be a pair of aces for the Cubbies who finally won the Central Division. Prior struck out 245 victims this year, second only to his partner in crime Wood. He won 18 games and posted a 2.43 ERA. Prior would have most likely won 20-23 games and had the award locked up, but he missed a few weeks after a scary collision with Braves’ second baseman Marcus Giles.
Jason Schmidt for the NL West champions San Francisco has anchored the Giants starting lineup all year. He won 17 games, not to mention throwing a shutout in the Giants playoff opener against the Florida Marlins. Schmidt struck out 208 batters in 2003, had a sub 2.50 ERA and held opponents to a .200 batting average.
Last but certainly not least was the Braves unexpected horse Russ Ortiz. Ortiz won an NL high 21 games for the Braves. He wasn’t overpowering and doesn’t have excellent stuff but he kept the Braves in games and made pitches when he had too.
Over in the American League, both Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez have been the most dominant pitchers. The young righty Halladay won a Major League high 22 games for the Toronto Blue Jays, and at one point he won 15 straight decisions. Roy used a nasty four-seamer known for its late movement to strike out over 200 batters and posted a 3.25 ERA. He was the only consistent pitcher in the Blue Jays lineup and stayed strong throughout the whole year. Although the Jays did not contend in the stacked AL East, Halladay pitched every game like it his last.
Over in Bean-town Pedro Martinez again dominated for the Boston Red Sox this year. He clearly does not quite have the electric arm he once had that used to hit near 100 mph with his fastball, but he still finds a way to put away batters. He again struck out over 200 batters and led the American League among starters with a 2.22 ERA. Although he only won 14 games, he missed starts periodically, not to mention what a horrible job the Boston bullpen did this year which may have cost Pedro himself three to five wins.Esteban Loaiza and Jaime Moyer also have a fair shot at the award. They both won 21 games and had ERA’s under 3.50, not to mention stepping up as their team’s ace.
It is clearly a tight race in both the NL and AL. My opinion, which probably doesn’t mean much to you, is a little different than what may occur. I think Jason Schmidt deserves the award in the National League. He along with Barry Bonds anchored that Giants team to the NL West Crown. He was also the only real consistent pitcher in their rotation and just downright dominated opponents, especially down the stretch. I do not think Gagne as a reliever should win the award, that is what the Rolaids Relief Man award is for.
In the AL I think Halladay deserves the award. He was the best pitcher throughout the entire year, and consistently gave the Blue Jays good outings. He did not sit out any games when he was just a little nicked up; contrary to what Pedro does (the guy is so soft and will skip his start with a head cold). However, I think the awards will be given to Gagne and Pedro, mostly because voters will focus too much on the fact that Gagne did not blow a save all year and that Pedro got Boston into the playoffs when really the BoSox offense is what got them in. As we get closer and closer to the decision let the debate begin.