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Sunday March 14, 2010 2:26 pm

The overlooked relief corps of pitchers




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Athletes, MLB,

Zack GreinkeHave you ever wondered why relief pitchers don’t win the Cy Young Award more often? We’re not talking about the guys who come in to clean up a mess when down by seven runs. We’re talking about the guys who come in the tough situations, whether it is a two-inning setup man with an ERA under 1.50 who keeps his team in the game, or the “lights out” closer who shuts the door 45 out of 50 times. These are the guys who deserve just as much recognition as a 20-game winner, but just aren’t taken as seriously.

It’s not fair to relievers, really. Their job is just as tough as starters. They never know when they’ll pitch, and they can be thrown into far worse situations that are set up by the starters whom they relieve. And some are really good at it. Despite that, only nine relievers have ever won Cy Young’s Award since it was first given in 1956; four in the AL and five in the NL, with the most recent being Eric Gagne in 2003.

One of the most ironic stats since Gagne was honored is the breakdown of Cy Young voting against MVP voting. The MVP is clearly awarded to the best player. The Cy Young is essentially the same, but restricted to pitchers only. However, 6 out of 10 Cy Young Award winners – all starters, have finished behind relief pitchers in MVP voting. Brandon Webb won the Cy Young in 2006, but he didn’t receive any MVP votes that season. Trevor Hoffman finished 10th in MVP voting that year for recording 46 saves.

The Baseball Writers Association of America is ultimately responsible for selecting the Cy Young and MVP winners. Two writers from each city (i.e.: 28 American League writers, 32 National League) make their picks and the votes are tallied to determine winners. Some may see this as a flaw. How can one pitcher be worthier of an MVP than another, while that second pitcher is more worthy of the Cy Young? However, that’s part of what makes the end of season awards exciting; not knowing what to expect. There’s no reason to suggest changing or removing the questionable procedure in effect, as MLB is already concerned enough about removing the “human” element with instant replay. Until robot umpires are in place, the voting system is fine the way it is.

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