Today, we continue our voting for the 2010 Baseball Bloggers Alliance end-of-season awards. Today’s focus will be on a very interesting award, the National League Walter Johnson Award for best pitcher. There were a lot of candidates in this year’s star-studded field, and a certain Marlin was sure to make the cut for the award, so that’s always interesting. I’ll follow the same methodology described in the first post here, so no need to discuss that as of now. I will, however, put up a disclaimer mentioning that the methodology is still sort of preliminary in its execution; some of the numbers from FanGraphs have yet to be adjusted entirely, and I’ll probably revisit these votes a little bit later when the numbers have been properly adjusted. It should have little effect on the pitcher voting, but will probably handicap pitchers when it comes to the MVP votes.
With all that aside, let’s look at the top five candidates on the Marlin Maniac ballot, ordered by my choice with my homebrewed WAR totals in parentheses used as a guide.
5. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves (7.6 WAR)
Hudson resigned quickly with the Braves after returning late in 2009 from an injury and excelling. This allowed the Braves to trade away Javier Vazquez even after his dominant 2009 season. The move worked wonders for the Braves, as Hudson delivered a 2.83 ERA, though his less stellar 4.09 FIP/3.83 xFIP indicates that he pitched a bit above his head this season. Hudson led the league in GB% by a wide margin, racking up 64.1% of his balls in play on the ground, and a .250 BABIP helped him strand a boatload of runners this season (81.2% strand rate). Nevertheless, the Braves had to be happy with the results, as Hudson led their rotation to the playoffs.
4. Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (7.2 WAR)
I gave Wainwright the benefit of the doubt over Hudson because of Wainwright’s superior peripherals, and I think that was appropriate; he was definitely the better pitcher skill-wise this season. Wainwright’s 2.46 ERA isn’t shabby either, but where he eclipses Hudson is in his 2.86 FIP/3.14 xFIP. Once again, Wainwright dominated batters to the tune of a 23.4% K%, while doing a good job of limiting his walks (5.9% UIBB%) and getting hitters to pound the ball on the ground (51.4% GB%). He has been a top-flight ace for the last two seasons despite a drastically underwhelming fastball, which is probably one of the most intriguing things in all of baseball. Wainwright has surpassed Chris Carpenter as the ace of the St. Louis staff, and the best part for the Cards is that he’s locked up in a team-friendly deal through 2013 for a nice price.
3. Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins (7.9 WAR)
You had to figure JJ would have competed with the next two pitchers for the Walter Johnson crown had he not hurt himself late in the year and lost four or five starts in September. Johnson’s season was even more stellar than last year, which is extremely hard to imagine. His 2.30 ERA led all National League qualified starters, and his 2.41 FIP wasn’t too shabby either. Even if you adjust that miniscule HR/FB%, a likely consequence of luck, you still get a very impressive 3.15 xFIP akin to Wainwright’s. Johnson upped his strikeout totals to new heights, whiffing 25.1% of batters while walking a career low 6.2% of them. The only disappointing aspect of his season was the drop in ground ball rate, but that did not stop JJ from dominating batters all season. Marlins fans should be looking forward to at least three more seasons of this sort of spectacle.
2. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies (9.1 WAR)
It’s hard not to be impressed with Jimenez’ performance this season. He started the year on fire, allowing just seven runs (!) in his first 80 or so innings of work, including a no-hitter. Such a streak had fans thinking he’d go out and win 25 games this season, but Jimenez rightfully regressed a bit from his insane numbers and returned to earth; since his first June start, he’s maintained a FIP in the mid to high 3.00′s and an ERA of 4.08. Nevertheless, that doesn’t erase what he did to start the season, and it doesn’t change the fact that such a performance over a full year (2.88 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 3.74 xFIP) is nevertheless quite impressive when you pitch half of your games in the thin air of Coors Field. That alone bumped Jimenez a good deal, enough to get him to second place in the 2010 list.
1. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (10.1 WAR)
As good as Jimenez has been, Halladay has been better, which is an amazing feat to accomplish. Halladay was as dependable as ever once again, walking an insanely low 2.9% (!) of batters faced while striking out his typical 22.1%. The limited walks, high ground ball totals (51.2% GB%) and utter dominance were on par with what Halladay has done year in and year out whe he’s been healthy. What he tacked on in terms of “wow” factor, along with simply playing in a bigger market, was adding a perfect game (against our Marlins, no less) and throwing in a no-hitter in his first playoff game to boot. Oh, and he pitched 251 innings this season, best in baseball as well, including his standard nine complete games. Quite simply, Halladay is an amazing pitcher, the best in baseball right now, and he’ll continue to be this good for the Phillies for a few more seasons.
Congratulations to Roy Halladay, the Marlin Maniac’s pick for the 2010 National League Walter Johnson Award for best pitcher. Also, congrats to Josh Johnson for placing third; it’s a shame the back injury held him from competing with the two big dogs of this award this year.