Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Iron Man of the Mound

Wins count. That appears to be the message from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

This morning the BWAA announced Bartolo Colon as the runaway winner for the American League Cy Young Award. Colon ranked either first or second on all 28 ballots.

The award caps a solid year-and-a-half for the Angels’ starter. His 21 wins led the league in 2005, and his 222 IP again placed him in the top-ten. In a standard points format, Colon’s 470 points trailed only Johan Santana’s 535.

That last point should give the writers pause. Only three of the BWAA balloters made the Twins’ ace their top pick, while 20 slotted him in second and third. In the end, Santana was forced to take a back seat not only to Colon, but to closer Mariano Rivera.

Santana deserved better. His 2005 performance ended up being remarkably similar to his stunning 2004 breakout. His ERA and WHIP were devastatingly low (2.88 and 0.971 respectively), and his 238 K over 231 IP showed his ability to baffle hitters was no one-year-wonder.

The fact is, Santana’s year bested Colon’s across a wide variety of performance measures: ERA, WHIP, Kd9, BBd9, HRA, and IP. But Colon put up more wins.

As a collective entity, there is no way to make the writers responsible for their actions. It's frustrating. Consider that in addition to slighting Santana’s performance, 23 voters found Mariano Rivera’s 43 saves (with 4 BS, and 9.19 Kd9) award-worthy. Yet Joe Nathan’s 43 saves (with 5 BS, and 12.09 Kd9) were not mentioned on a single ballot.

While standing up for Santana, I should be clear that Colon’s dominance has gone unrecognized for too long, in favour of flashier performances.

In some respects, the 2005 Cy Young could be considered a ‘lifetime achievement award.’ Over the past 3 years Colon ranks first in the major leagues for wins (averaging 19 a year), and ranks second in the AL for innings pitched. That’s despite the rough and injury-marred first-half in 2004 following the trade to Los Angeles.

His reliability stretches back even farther of course. Over eight seasons, Colon has averaged 215 innings, and always made at least 30 starts. He is the iron man of the mound. Despite late-season back troubles this year, he’s still just 32. There should be many more quality seasons - and award chances - to come.


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