Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Webb Wins National League Cy Young Award.

Brandon Webb of the Arizona Diamondbacks was awarded the 2006 National League Cy Young Award today. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

NEW YORK - Brandon Webb of the Arizona won a wide-open race for the NL Cy Young Award, beating out San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman on Tuesday.

One of six pitchers who tied for the league lead with a pedestrian total of 16 wins, Webb received 15 of 32 first-place votes and 103 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Hoffman, who broke the career saves record this season, got 12 first-place votes and 77 points.

St. Louis Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, last year's winner, finished third with two first-place votes and 63 points.
Houston's Roy Oswalt, who led the NL with a 2.98 ERA, got the other three first-place tallies and came in fourth.

Webb, who went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA and made his first All-Star team, was listed second on seven ballots and third on seven others. No pitcher was included on every Cy Young Award entry. Webb's victory total was the lowest for a starting pitcher who won the Cy Young Award in a full season. The previous low was 17 wins, by Pedro Martinez of the Montreal Expos in 1997 and Randy Johnson for Arizona in '99. Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers was honored with a 13-7 record in 1981 and Atlanta's Greg Maddux went 16-6 in '94 — but those seasons were cut short by players' strikes.

Note: Pedro's ERA in 1997 was a stingy 1.90 that led the league. He also struck out 305 batters and led the NL with 13 complete games that season. In 1999 Johnson led the NL in ERA with 2.48, innings with 271.2, starts with 35, complete games with 12 and an astonishing 364 strikeouts.

Webb also is the first NL winner to have an ERA above 3.00 since Philadelphia's Steve Carlton had a 3.10 mark in 1982. Rick Sutcliffe split the 1984 season between Cleveland and the Chicago Cubs, finishing with a 3.64 ERA overall but a 2.69 mark in the NL.

Before Webb, Johnson was the only Diamondbacks pitcher to take home the award, winning four straight times from 1999-02.

The AL Cy Young Award winner will be announced Thursday — and Minnesota's Johan Santana is a heavy favorite. The NL and AL Manager of the Year will be revealed Wednesday.

My money is on Santana.

Webb threw a career-best 235 innings, which ranked second in the NL. The 27-year-old sinkerballer also tied Carpenter for the league lead with three shutouts and both had five complete games, good for second in the NL.

One of the biggest keys in Webb's development has been his ability to control his deceptive sinker, which helps him induce one harmless groundball after another when he's on top of his game.

After a strong rookie season in 2003, the right-hander walked a major league-high 119 batters the following year for a terrible Arizona team that went 51-111. Webb also led the NL with 16 losses and 17 wild pitches that year.

But he cut his walks in half in 2005 and issued a career-low 50 free passes this year. And he got more help from Arizona's much-improved infield defense.

Webb agreed to a $19.5 million, four-year contract with Arizona in January. For winning the Cy Young Award, the buyout of his $8.5 million option in 2010 doubles from $500,000 to $1 million.

The 39-year-old Hoffman finished with a league-leading 46 saves in 51 chances for the Padres. He has 482 career saves, breaking Lee Smith's previous mark of 478.

Hoffman went 0-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 63 innings spanning 65 appearances. He was listed second on three ballots and third on eight. Hoffman also was a Cy Young Award runner-up in 1998 to Tom Glavine of the Atlanta Braves. Carpenter and Hoffman each receive a $50,000 bonus for finishing high in the voting.

In a season in which there is no truly dominant starting pitcher, this award usually ends up in the hands of a closer. I have a feeling that not enough voters would have been comfortable giving the award for best pitcher to a guy with zero wins, no matter how many saves he had.

No doubt Webb had a fine year, and was vastly improved in just about all aspects of the game. Despite the mediocre win total, he is far from the worst choice ever for this award. That dis-honor falls to Pete Vukovich of the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, who had 18 wins, good for second in the AL, but an atrocious walk-to-strikeout ratio (102-to-105). The "Harvey's Wallbangers" Brewers clubbed their way to the AL pennant that year, and eventually lost the World Series to the Whitey Herzog's Cardinals, and Vukovich was definitely helped out by the bats of guys like Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie, Gorman Thomas and Ted Simmons.

Stay tuned for the AL winner, to be announced later in the week.

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