Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dwight Gooden vs. Rick Sutcliffe - 1984

What a better way to start off a Saturday than with analysis of the 1984 Cy Young Award race between Rick Sutcliffe and Dwight Gooden. While looking at Doc's Baseball-Reference page, I clicked on the 1984 Cy voting results and found that Sutcliffe was unanimous selection for 1st place that year. I eyeballed their stats and felt that Doc got screwed. I'm pretty sure he did, but let's take a look at the important statistics.

(Note: While even I acknowledge that the MVP Award should take certain other variables into account besides just straight up statistics, i.e. how well team performed, the player's position, performance in pennant race, etc., the Cy Young Award is as close to a "Who had the best statistics?" award as it gets. Also note that Sutcliffe was traded from the Indians to the Cubs on June 13th, in similar fashion to C.C. Sabathia this year. Only his NL stats count towards consideration for the NL Cy Young.)

ERA
Gooden - 2.60
Sutcliffe - 2.69

IP
Gooden - 218
Sutcliffe - 150.1 (granted Sut is at a disadvantage for pitching about 2/3 of the season, but why should Gooden have to suffer for this?)

WHIP
Gooden - 1.07
Sutcliffe - 1.08

K/9
Gooden - 11.39
Sutcliffe - 9.28

K/BB
Gooden - 3.78
Sutcliffe - 3.97

HR/9
Gooden - 0.29
Sutcliffe - 0.54

ERA+
Gooden - 137
Sutcliffe - 144

VORP
Gooden - 47.1
Sutcliffe - 31.2 (again, Sut is disadvantaged here, but again why should Gooden suffer)

Keep in mind no other NL starter is even close to these two for consideration. Bruce Sutter had a great year in relief, but Gooden and Sutcliffe each deserved the award more than he did. In my opinion, Gooden is the clear cut Cy Young Award winner for 1984. He was robbed. Doc had a lower ERA with 68 more IP, and beats Sut in just about every meaningful category except ERA+ and K/BB. The fact that Doc got zero first place votes is a joke. Sutcliffe won because his W-L record was 16-1 compared to Gooden's 17-9. However, I did some further research:

Run Support
Gooden - 3.76/game
Sutcliffe - 5.55/game

Perhaps their W-L records had something to do with the Cubs scoring almost 2 full runs more per game during Sutcliffe's starts? Just a thought 1984 voters!! It remains to be seen if 2008 voters will value C.C. Sabathia's 1/2 season performance for the Brewers as they did Sutcliffe's. My guess is no, and the award will go to Tim Lincecum or Johan Santana.

3 comments:

Mike Newman said...

Doc's season was one of the greatest in the modern era. If I remember correctly, Sutcliffe won because he went something like 16-1 after being dealt to the Cubs and carried them into the playoffs on his back. His raw numbers were secondary.

weesle909 said...

Agree with MN. Sutcliff won because of what he did for his team - not for raw stats. Maybe not fair for Gooden.

Have to say that Time magazine cover was sad. Reminded me of what Doc could have been... I remember how good he was.

Mets Tailgate said...

Mike is right - Sutcliffe won because his W-L record was 16-1 compared to Gooden's 17-9. This probably had a little to do with the fact that the Cubs scored almost 2 full runs more for Sutcliffe than the Mets did for Gooden. I covered it in the last couple paragraphs of the post - further evidence why W-L record for pitcher's is a nearly worthless stat.

Weesle,
You say Sutcliffe won "because of what he did for his team." I argue that what Gooden did for his team was superior. He was a better pitcher than Sutcliffe, regardless of how many runs his team scored or how good his bullpen was. The award goes to the best pitcher in the league - not the best pitcher in the league on a playoff team.

Check out these games Doc pitched in 1984, which ended in a no-decision or a loss for him:
7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
9 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 7 K
9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 11 K
8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 16(!) K

How much fun is it to discuss postseason awards from 24 years ago? I could do it all day...