Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kershaw or Halladay?

Update: shortly after I posted this entry it was announced the Philadelphia chapter of the Baseball Writers Association named Cliff Lee the Phillies pitcher of the year. I will post a revision to this entry soon and include Lee in the discussion.

Rounding Third and Heading Home has returned! I had several items that filled my life this summer and I was left with little time to watch games and no time to post to this blog. But things have now settled down and I’m once again able write. Hope everyone enjoys reading my thoughts and opinions.

With all due respect to the other National League pitchers that are having outstanding seasons, I see the NL Cy Young Award as a two horse race between Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay. To begin, I will compare Kershaw and Halladay using four traditional statistics: earned run average, (walks+hits)/innings pitched ratio, strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, and strikeout to walk ratio  

Comparison Using Traditional Statistics
Clayton Kershaw2.270.999.644.57
Roy Halladay2.411.058.586.38

Kershaw does walk more batters, but his ERA, WHIP and K/9 are better than Halladay's. But the traditional statistics don't take into account the home ballpark of the pitcher, the defense behind the pitcher, and various elements of good and bad fortune a pitcher has during the season. Thankfully, we have a website like FanGraphs and modern statistical analysis to help us get a clearer picture of which pitcher is having the better season.

I chose three sabermetric statistics to use in this comparison: wins above replacement, fielding independent pitching, and expected fielding independent pitching. If you are not familiar with these statistics click on the table heading for a more detailed explanation.

Comparison using Sabermetric Statistics
Roy Halladay8.02.182.68
Clayton Kershaw6.82.422.82

When home ballpark, balls in play, and team defense are considered, Roy Halladay seems to be having the better season. Clayton Kershaw benefits from pitching half of his games at Dodger Stadium and having a better defense behind him. But even when these additional factors are included in the discussion, the numbers are very close.
A strong case can be made for either pitcher. Even though I'm a firm believer in sabermetric statistical analysis, I don't believe the traditional statistics like ERA, WHIP, and K/9 should be ignored when evaluating a player's performance. Even though both pitchers are deserving, Kershaw has had a phenomenal year and I believe he should win the Cy Young Award.