AND THE NOMINEES ARE…
Though he reverted to, well, more Kyle Lohse-ish stats by the end of the season – and a side note, a 3.39 ERA is only a 107 ERA+? Please bring back steroids – on July 3, Lohse’s ERA was under three (and had been under three since mid-April), and Carpenter’s was 4.00. Adam Wainwright was on the DL. This team won the World Series. God, how I love the 2011 Cardinals for all the wackiness they provided.
The absurdity of the Atlanta bullpen, specifically setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, and closer Craig Kimbrel, is worth a mention. Combined, they provided 238.2 innings of a 1.66 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 10.94 K/9, and K/BB of 3.02. In case you weren’t aware, that is outstanding. With much of Atlanta’s starting pitching either not very good (hi, Derek Lowe) or seriously injured (hi, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson), the three of them contributed much more to their team’s success than most relievers do. Kimbrel’s numbers were even more ridiculous prior to September 9, when he gave up two runs in a blown save to St. Louis, and posted a 7.36 ERA for the rest of the season; his sharp decline obviously played a large role in Atlanta’s collapse, considering how strongly they leaned on their bullpen, but it’s safe to say being overused earlier in the season contributed to the bullpen ending the season so poorly.
Prior to 2011, Charlie Morton was a career 5.98 ERA pitcher (!!!) with a 1.595 WHIP. But before the season began, Morton studied and aped Roy Halladay’s delivery, and in mid-June his ERA was in the low 3s. His peripherals never matched his low ERA, or came close to Halladay’s – his HR/9 falling from a rather high career average of 1.1, including a ridiculous 1.7 the year before, to a tiny 0.3 certainly helped – and he didn’t pitch as well for the rest of the season, but Morton ending up with a solid 3.83 ERA* and standing out at various points in the year earns him a nomination here.
AND THE WINNER IS…
No one, however, could beat Ryan Vogelsong for your NL Cy Young YCPB winner. Rebecca already covered this a few times, but to summarize: while Vogelsong was originally drafted by the Giants, he was best known for his years on the Pirates, which were, to be honest, pretty awful. He hadn’t even been in MLB since 2006. After failed attempts to get back to professional baseball with minor league deals from the Phillies and Angels, the Giants signed him before 2011, and he emerged as an important part of their excellent rotation. ERA is very far from the be-all-end-all, obviously, but Vogelsong’s 2.71 ERA was the lowest among the Giants’ starting staff. There was a little squabbling about whether Vogelsong deserved the Comeback Player of the Year Awards he won – how can you make a comeback when you were never really very good before, after all – but there is no question that he deserves the YCPB NL Cy Young.
* As a side note, this was good for a 100 ERA+. Just for comparison’s sake, Andy Pettitte came in second in the 1996 AL Cy Young, with a 3.87 ERA – which was a 129 ERA+. Dear lord, we miss steroids. This cannot be said enough.