As soon as RA Dickey won his 20th game yesterday the Twitter world exploded with happiness and the proclamation that Dickey was the Cy Young award winner and when Gio Gonzalez got off to a slow start against the Phillies it looked like it could happen. Gio settled down and had another decent start. He pitched like an Ace should. He forgot all the trouble he had in the first inning and found a way to give his team a chance to win, and the Nationals did win earning Gio his 21st win of the season.
When it comes to winning Gio leads RA Dickey not just in the traditional and unimportant win stat, but in the important WAR stat. Gio has a 5.4 to 4.9 advantage. Gio also leads Dickey in FIP with 2.84 compared to 3.19 and K5 with 25.2% compared to 24.7%. Dickey leads Gio in ERA with 2.62 to 2.89, innings pitched with 226 2/3 tp 199 1/3, and strikeouts 222 to 207. The advanced stats say Gio should win while the advanced stats say that Dickey should win.
There is a reason why advanced stats were formed, and one of those reasons is demonstrated in the fact that Dickey has a lower ERA than Gio. The idea behind FIP is to look at only what the pitcher controls. So the first thought is that with a lower FIP Gio would have an even lower ERA because the Nats defense is better than the Mets. That isn’t true though, because the official scorer has an impact on what is considered an earned run. A pitcher that allows more runs could be considered to have a lower ERA because less of his runs are earned. Dickey has given up seven unearned runs compared to five unearned runs allowed by Gio. That makes no true significant difference but it does give Dickey a slightly inflated ERA.
The real point of why Gio should win over Dickey though is that when Gio is on the mound he is a better pitcher. Gio Gonzalez doesn’t just have a better FIP than Dickey he has the best FIP in the National League, which is also why he has the highest WAR. Advanced stats were created to help us judge who truly is the best and they point towards Gio. Dickey may have pitched more innings, but he did so while not being as good as Gio. Gio is the best pitcher in the NL and the Cy Young award is meant to be given to the best pitcher in the league.
Gio Gonzalez is also the toughest pitcher in the NL to get a hit off of. He leads the league in average against at .206 and H/9 at 6.7. It gets even more impressive when the entire batting line is laid out. Against Gio batters this season have hit .206/.283/.299. Against Dickey batters are hitting .225/.277/.357. Neither gives up very many hits, but Dickey is giving up more hard hit balls than Gio. Combine that with Gio’s strikeout rate and it can be seen that batters don’t often make contact against Gio and when they do it isn’t good contact. Gio Gonzalez has only given up 9 homers on the season compared to 22 for Dickey. So while neither gets hit often when batters do make contact off of Dickey the ball is more likely to travel far.
Looking at a month by month breakdown of the two pitchers and Gio Gonzalez has been the most consistent of the two. His two worst months were in June and July where he posted ERA’s of 4.34 and 4.59. RA Dickey struggled out of the gat in April with an ERA of 4.45, but his worst month by far was June where he pitched to an ERA of 5.13. Gio never suffered through a 30 day stretch in which he was barely a major league pitcher like Dickey has this season.
Speaking of consistency when looking at individual games Gio has had only three outings in which he allowed five or more runs while Dickey has had six such outings. On the other end of the spectrum they have both had 20 starts in which they have allowed two runs or less.
The fact that this much digging has to be done to make the case for either pitcher shows just how well both of them have pitched in 2012 and how close this Cy Young race is. It very well could come down to their final starts of the season. The big edge that Gio has over Dickey is that he has been the best pitcher in the NL while Dickey has pitched more innings, walked fewer batters, and amassed more strikeouts. If the award truly is designed to award the best pitcher in a league then it should be Gio’s, and in case you wanted to make an arguement for Kimbrel. Don’t bother. The Cy Young shouldn’t go to a pitcher that comes into a game once the rest of the team has worked for eight innings to have it won for him.