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September 02, 2016

Cole Hamels listed as favorite for A.L. Cy Young – but will he win?

In case you haven’t noticed, Cole Hamels has fared pretty well since leaving Philadelphia.

Hamels is 21-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 39 starts with Texas since the trade. The Rangers have won 30 of the 39 games he’s started.

Following his brilliant performance a week ago against one of the American League teams, I guessed, without really doing any research, that he had to be the favorite for the American League Cy Young.

And, sure enough, even after that game against Cleveland was followed by a clunker, the good folks at Bovada sports book in Las Vegas released various odds on the baseball season yesterday, heading into September, Hamels, a former World Seres and League Championship MVP but never a Cy Young Award winner, was the favorite for the A.L. Cy Young Award.

Odds to win AL Cy Young, according to Bovada

Cole Hamels, Texas    2/1
 Corey Kluber, Cleveland  3/1 
 Chris Sale, Chicago 3/1  
 J.A. Happ, Toronto 8/1  
 Rick Porcello, Boston  8/1
 Aaron Sanchez, Toronto  8/1
Justin Verlander, Detroit   12/1
 Zach Britton, Baltimore 20/1 

But will Hamels actually win the award? Does he have the goods?

There are still four weeks left in the season (just last year, Hamels made seven starts after Sept. 1) so a lot can happen between now and the final day of the season, when Cy Young Award voters begin casting their ballots. The voters, selected members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, must send in their ballots before the beginning of the postseason.

At least in the Philadelphia chapter of the BBWAA, which voters vote for which awards changes every year. But since we’re seeing primarily National League players, we vote on the N.L. awards. And we’re also not allowed (or encouraged) to divulge who we are voting before the results are there for everyone to see when the winners are announced in November.

As you can see from those results, I voted for the National League Cy Young Award last season, and, yes, it was doozy. I probably spent about 10 days (the time spanning the final two weekends of the regular season) really researching and twisting my brain to figure out what separated the super trio of Zach Greinke, Jake Arrieta and Clayton Kershaw (plus others, like Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer).

My vote wasn’t the popular one, but I felt very confident standing by it. (And I wasn't alone in thinking Kershaw, either.) I poured through the numbers, honestly. And each time I added a new stat, Kershaw kept coming out on top. I can’t find that beat-up notebook at the moment, but I remember cracking over 30 stats in an attempt to find some kind of separation.

And, admittedly, statistics don’t tell the entire story. I think some folks last year probably got wrapped up into the Arrieta storyline (his historic second half) and that factored into their thinking.

This year, you can certainly make the case that Hamels deserves extra credit for the intangible of being the only dependable Rangers starter from start to finish this year, and how he helped save an injury-ravaged rotation throughout the summer by turning in one quality start* after another throughout the season. Others in the hunt for the award (Kluber, Happ, Sale) have some pretty formidable teammates in their own rotations ... and I realize now that this is also something that could be said last year with the Dodgers two candidates, and I still voted for Kershaw. 

*The quality start statistic (at least 6 innings, no more than 3 earned runs) is probably my least favorite statistic in all of baseball. If a pitcher gives up three runs in six innings, that’s a 4.50 ERA. That’s not quality. Neither is pitching only six innings and turning over 1/3 of the game to your bullpen.

But I digress. I adjusted the actual quality start stat below.

But back to Hamels. Would he actually win the Cy Young award if voters had to turn in their ballots prior to September, backing what Las Vegas says?

Again, last season I took more than a week to run through probably close to three dozens statistics, in addition to talking with players, coaches and fellow writers from around the league. This morning, I did none of that.

And I also didn’t include Zach Britton, since I value innings pitched more than most and I can’t see voting for a reliever when there are worthy starters. And I only went with the seven other pitchers in Bovada’s list (Kansas City’s Danny Duffy, among others, has had a fine year and will surely get plenty of votes, even if he’s not the winner).

So I took about two hours and went through less than a third of the stats that I looked at last year, but I included both traditional and sabermetric figures, plus I added a couple of numbers I’ve invented (for lack of a better term) while voting in recent years.

This (incomplete) exercise is for entertainment purposes only. And, again, if I was voting for this award, I wouldn’t tell you before it was released and the research would be a lot more copious.

So take this for what it is: something fun to pass the time between now and the beginning of your holiday weekend. 


1. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto  2.88 
 2. Cole Hamels, Texas  2.91
 3.Corey Kluber, Cleveland  3.09 
4. Chris Sale, Chicago 3.10 
5. J.A. Happ, Toronto  3.23 
6. Rick Porcello, Boston  3.26 
7. Justin Verlander, Detroit  3.30 


1.  Verlander  0.99
2. Sale  1.02
3. Porcello 1.04 
4. Kluber 1.05 
5. Happ  1.15
 6. Sanchez1.16 
 7. Hamels1.26 

Innings per start

 1.Sale  7.14
2.  Kluber6.80 
 3. Verlander 6.71
 4.Porcello  6.65
5.  Sanchez6.49 
6. Hamels  6.41
7. Happ 6.23 

K/BB rate

 1.Porcello 5.43 
 2. Sale 4.40
3. Verlander 4.30 
4. Kluber  4.11
5.  Happ3.02 
6.  Sanchez2.73 
7.  Hamels 2.63

HR rate (HR/9)

1. Sanchez  0.61
2.  Kluber0.88 
3.  Sale0.92 
4.  Hamels0.99 
5. Porcello 1.0 
6.  Happ1.11 
 7.Verlander 1.20 

Opponents' OPS

1. Sale .621 
2.  Sanchez.624 
3.  Kluber.625 
4. Verlander .632 
5. Porcello .658 
6.  Hamels.674 
7.  Happ.677 

WAR (according to

 1.Sale 4.7 
 2. Kluber 4.6 
 3. Verlander4.0 
 4. (tied) Sanchez3.7 
 Porcello 3.7 
 6.Hamels 2.8 
 7. Happ  2.7

FIP (fielding independent pitching)

 1.Kluber 3.16 
 2. Sale3.34 
3. Sanchez 3.36 
 4. Porcello 3.55
5.  Verlander3.61 
6.   Hamels3.86 
 7. Happ3.94 

ERA + (adjusted ERA)

1.  Hamels155 
2. Kluber 152 
3.  Sanchez148 
4. Porcello 140 
5.  Happ132 
6.  Sale 131
7.  Verlander 124

Actual Quality Start (at least 7 IP, 3 ER or fewer)

 1.Sale 18 of 26 starts, 69 percent (.692)  
 2.Kluber 15/27, 55.6 percent 
3.  Verlander15/28, 53.4 percent 
4. (tied) Hamels 14/27, 52 percent
  Sanchez13/25, 52 percent
6.  Porcello12/27, 44 percent
 7.Happ 9/26, 34.6 percent

Super Quality Start (more than 7 IP, 2 ER or fewer)

 1.Sale 9 of 26 starts, 34.6 percent   
2.  Kluber8/27, 29.6 percent 
3. Hamels 6/27, 22 percent 
4. Verlander 5/28, 18 percent 
 5.Sanchez 3/25, 12 percent 
 6.Porcello  2/27, 7.4 percent 
7.  Happ1/26, 3.8 percent

And we're back. After sorting through those 11 admittedly very arbitrary stats (again, if this was an actual voting process, this would probably account for a third of the data I'd assemble, not to mention the educated opinions of players, coaches, writers, etc.) Hamels may be the favorite according to Vegas but he might not be among those that will be doing the voting next month.

By taking each of the above categories and adding them up (in a 1-to-7 scoring system, with the lower number being the better one) here is how this very unscientific (but fun?) process has AL Cy Young contenders stacked up heading into the final four weeks of the season:

1. Chris Sale, Chicago   24 points  
 2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland  27 
 3. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto  40 
4.  Justin Verlander, Detroit   47
 5. Rick Porcello, Boston  48 
 6. Cole Hamels, Texas 52 
 7. J.A. Happ, Toronto 68 

So much for the good folks at Vegas. (And, sorry, former Phillies.) We'll see who's closer in mid-November, when the winner is announced. 

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21