Walter Johnson Award

As you may be aware, we here at 1BlueJaysWay are proud members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. We were welcomed into the alliance with open arms early on and occasionally, we are required to give our opinions on baseball related topics. This year we were given the option on which season ending award we wanted to vote on and I decided to go with the Walter Johnson award for best pitcher in the American League. I did it in hopes that I may be able to answer a question that has been bothering me for quite sometime:

Am I a stats dork or a baseball purest?


I grew up in a time when the internet did not exist. There were no cellphones or debit cards and my only sources of baseball data were the boxscores, books and second hand stories. This is my point of reference.

That being said, I have embraced the modern world in which we live. When I need to research a post, I normally start with the website FanGraphs.

But deep down inside, I always seem to be swayed back to my point of reference. I take the statistical data and run it through my brain in an attempt to try to find something that makes sense.

You see, I love stats. I really, really do. Even the ones that are relatively new like BABIP, WAR, FIP and UZR.


Baseball, at the end of the day, is about winning and losing the game.

I think the best Toronto Blue Jay to ever wear the uniform said it best while he was being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, courtesy of chapter president The Blue Jay Hunter:

Roberto Alomar spoke very highly of his teammates from the Toronto Blue Jays and relayed an important message which rings true today:

"When I came to Toronto, I played with a great bunch of guys. And to win championships, you have to win together and you have to lose together."

As Robbie said, baseball is a team game. And the best teammates a guy could ask for, are the ones who give them self up for the benefit of the team. It's the little things that win ball games. Especially the close ones in the playoffs.

Now, I know most of you out there think Joe Morgan is an idiot. Personally, I can't stand his broadcasts and I think he is a horrible communicator. But he is a winner and he played the game at a very high level for a very long time.

I found this article and I think you need to see this.

RandBall: Speaking of those MVP awards, I was looking back at your career. Your walk-to-strikeout ration and your on base percentage stuck out. Listening to your broadcasts, I know you don’t care a lot for some of the modern statistical measures we have now. But you were a player the sabermetric people might have loved. Do you find any irony in that?

Joe Morgan: First of all, the things I’ve always felt were important are still important. Some of the esoteric stuff is not. On base percentage has always been important. You know, guys getting on base. The thing that bothered me, the Billy Beane thing [Moneyball], was like he invented on base percentage. They said don’t steal bases because if you get thrown out you take an out away from your team. But it’s OK to stay at first base and have a hitter hit into a double play. They said that’s part of the game. That bothered me about that kind of statistic. And for someone to act like they invented on base percentage when I’d been talking about it on TV for 20 years, yeah that bothered me. One guy tried to act like I don’t care about numbers, which is false. I just care about certain numbers more than others.
We’re having a big discussion about Cy Young Award now. People are saying (Felix) Hernandez should win. I’m not saying he shouldn’t. But how are you going to judge what he would have done if he was on the Yankees. It’s tougher to pitch for the Yankees and win or the Twins than it is Seattle. All individual awards are team awards. My MVP awards were won because my team helped me. … I think the problem I have, though, with some statistics is we start to individualize the players. I don’t want that. It’s still a team game. ... When you start to individualize things like that, it takes away the team concept from the game. It’s like a pitcher who goes out and pitches five innings every game and doesn’t give up anything. Is he better than the guy who pitches nine innings and loses one every once in a while? The guy who pitches nine innings helps the bullpen. The guy who pitches nine innings makes it easier on the manager for the next few games. There are so many things that are involved other than just throwing a number on something. If people think I’m not for that, then they’re right. Because I still think it’s a team game.

Anyone can go and find the stats to back up your argument, whatever it may be.

Here is what I was able to find:

Felix Hernandez led the league in ERA (2.27), innings pitched (249.2), quality starts (30) and he was second in WHIP (1.06) and strikeouts (232).

He became the first pitcher since Randy Johnson in 2002 and only the seventh since 1980 to have a season with 30 quality starts - three earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings - and lasted into the seventh inning for 25 consecutive times, extending his club record.

In his 12 losses, the Mariners scored a total of eight runs while he was on the mound -- and no runs in his last five losses since mid-July.

King Felix was 5-1 with 0.63 ERA (4 ER, 57.1 IP) in 7 starts against the big boys in the AL East, including 3-0, 0.35 in 3 starts against the Yankees.

Those are the stats and they are truly compelling. It is pretty obvious that he played on a shit team with a terrible offense and a very shaky bullpen. How else does a pitcher like this end up with a 13 - 12 record?

Some Things To Consider:

Safeco Field, Angel Stadium of Anaheim and Tropicana Field are pitchers park. Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington are certainly not.

Tampa Bay, New York and Texas made the playoffs. Seattle, Anaheim and Boston did not.

A good friend of mine made the point that quality starts may be a bit overrated. His reasoning was sound. If a pitcher throws 6 innings and allows 3 runs every time, his ERA would be 4.50 for the year.

No starting pitcher, in a non-strike season, has ever won the Cy Young award with fewer than the 15 victories that Tim Lincecum posted last season.

At least five pitchers in the past led their league in ERA and K's and did not win the Cy Young.

I completely understand the argument that King Felix cannot be penalized for being part of a team that has no hitting and plays in a huge ballpark. But on the flip side of that argument, I don't think you can hold it against CC for the opposites being true either.


King Felix is a very worthy selection for this award and all things being considered, he does get my vote.

But I'll bet he won't win the Cy Young and I think I understand why.

The BBWAA, the body of writers that vote on the "official" awards are mostly old school type guys like Joe Morgan. Besides, most of them live on the East Coast and I'll bet they don't get to watch King Felix in person very often, if at all.

The Keith Law's and the Mike Wilner's of the world are growing in their influence but still are out numbered by a wide margin.

And to be honest with you, if you are trying to build a winning ballclub then I think you need at least a couple of baseball purists around to provide their valuable insights.

But when it comes to naming individual award winners, the way to go is the stats dork route.

I believe this really is a two horse race. The vote will be very close and the final results will further the massive divide between the stats dorks and the baseball purists of the world.

My ballot for the Walter Johnson Award:

1. Felix Hernandez
2. CC Sabathia
3. Jon Lester
4. David Price
5. Jered Weaver

Honorable mention goes to Cliff Lee.


  1. I loved the preamble up to the reveal of the vote. Ultimately, the Cy Young is an individual award, but like Robbie said "you win as a team, and you lose as a time".

    That's why I think a lot of the traditional writers will have a tough time handing the Cy Young to Felix Hernandez because he not only played on a losing team, but his win/loss record was just over .500.

  2. @Ian,

    It should be a nail biter for sure. Really interested how both votes turn out.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. i predict CC wins, but Felix should.