10/17/2003 2:53 PM ET
Schmidt deserves Cy Young Award
A comparison of the top candidates puts Jason on top
By Rich Draper / MLB.com WorldSeries.com
Despite dealing with his mother's death, Jason Schmidt compiled a 17-5 record. (AP Photo)
SAN FRANCISCO -- What are Jason Schmidt's chances of winning the National League Cy Young Award?
About the same as Jason Schmidt's chances of NOT winning it.
It's a toss-up, a jump ball between the Giants right-hander, Dodgers closer Eric Gagne and Cubs ace Mark Prior, with high-ERA guys Russ Ortiz (Braves) and Woody Williams (Cardinals) considered longshots.
On the surface, Gagne is the favorite -- lots of hype, a record 55 straight saves in the season, a closer's superman flair, bat-silencing heat.
First let's explore the pitching depths before handing it to Gagne, who is the runaway Rolaids Relief Man winner anyway, no small feat in itself and a prestigious honor because there are no biased views, only stat-based facts.
But the best pitcher in the Senior Circuit? That may be going too far.
The case for Schmidt: His 17-5 (.773) record topped the competition, his 2.34 ERA was best in the NL and so, too, was his opponents' batting average of .200. His three shutouts tied for the league lead, his five complete games tied for second.
Schmidt pitched 207 innings and was fourth in the NL in strikeouts, with 208.
Other factors: Missed five starts due to injury and bereavement leave following the death of his mother. Pitched the final two months with a partially torn elbow tendon. Tied for the league lead with 15 sacrifices. Pitched three consecutive complete games.
Ask Giants pitching coach Mark Gardner, and there's no question for whom he'd vote.
"Schmitty has a great chance," he said. "He dominates in every category but wins. He had some nagging inuries and was still grieving at some points because of his mom. So there are other considerations."
Still, you don't know what the voting members of the media are thinking. They have biases, too. Are they dazzled by stats alone -- victories rule! -- or the hype and game-closing pizzazz surrounding Gagne?
The Dodgers fireballer saved 55 straight games this season and sported a 1.20 ERA over 77 games and 82 1/3 innings pitched.
Outstanding. But he pitched one inning at a time. He could throw as hard as he could with every pitch. Power, power, power. And he mainly pitched in save situations, not from the onset, where it's anybody's game.
Gardner, a 13-year Major League pitcher for Montreal and San Francisco, agrees that Gagne had a super season and blew away the opposition. But...
"I've always been in favor of the starting pitchers winning, not the relievers -- they have the Rolaids Awards," he said. "Gagne had a strong season, but I lean toward the guys who pitched 200 innings."
The case for Prior: If you go with starters, the Cubs star had an 18-8 mark and 2.43 ERA, plus 245 Ks and only 50 walks. Brilliant.
Other factors: Prior also missed games because of injuries.
"Prior is in the same boat as Schmitty. He was as dominating and overpowering as Schmidt," said Gardner.
The case for Ortiz: Great 21-7 record, the most victories by a National Leaguer, 149 Ks over 212 innings. What'll hurt Ortiz is his 3.81 ERA and 102 walks, the latter figure being the highest in the league.
Other factors: Ortiz was routinely blessed with Braves' runs.
"Russ had all the wins and took the ball every time, every game," noted Gardner. "There is durability there. Wins are not that easy. He also had good run support, but you can't fault him for that."
The best fireman in the NL was Gagne. Period. No one doubts that.
But you're comparing different animals -- aardvarks and lions -- when it comes to the Cy Young Award. Different baseball species. And if you do it by the numbers, as Rolaids does, then Schmidt is still the top choice, considering that he was in the top five league leaders in a multitude of categories.
A point for a win, minus a point for a loss. Five points if you lead a positive pitching category in the league, four points for second, three for third, etc. Let's add Schmitty's points: 17 victories minus five defeats: 12 points. First place in ERA, opponents average, shutouts, winning percentage: 20 points, 32 overall. Third in wins, second in complete games, fourth in fewest walks per nine innings, fifth in strikeouts: 10 points, 41 overall.
Prior? Twelve points for W-L record, four for second in Ks (16 overall), second in victories (20), third in ERA (23), second in winning percentage (27).
Ortiz? Wins minus defeats: 14. Led NL with 21 wins (19 total). Second in winning percentage (23), fourth in opponents batting average (25), third in games started (28 overall).
Sorry, but that 3.81 ERA won't cut it, and those walks eliminate him, considering that Schmidt had only 46 and Prior 50. Games started means he wasn't hurt and stayed healthy, period.
It's a clear choice. Schmidt should be the second Giant in history to capture the Cy Young Award, joining Mike McCormick (1967). Add the numbers, spit 'em out. And leave the relievers in their special category, where they belong, and the starters in theirs.
"His numbers speak for themselves," said Gardner of Schmidt. "He was dominating every time he went out there. He should win it, hands down."