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GROCHOWSKI: Sabermetrics can clarify crowded MLB awards picture

Sabermetrics show Tigers ace JustVerlander was best pitcher AL. | Getty Images

Sabermetrics show Tigers ace Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in the AL. | Getty Images

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Updated: December 7, 2012 6:15AM

Much of sabermetrics involves using statistics to evaluate individual contributions while filtering in outside influences, such as park effects and the contributions of teammates.

Next week, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will be announcing its major awards for the season. Today, let’s look through a sabermetric lens at candidates for the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards.

American League Cy Young: By traditional numbers, this would seem to be a race between two 20-game winners in the Rays’ David Price (20-5, league-leading 2.56 ERA) and the Angels’ Jered Weaver (20-5, 2.81).

But park effects at Tropicana Field and at Angel Stadium both favor pitchers, while those at Comerica Park in Detroit favor hitters. Given the context, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64) was more than the equal of Price and Weaver.

Wins Above Replacement ranks Verlander as the AL’s best pitcher at 7.6, with Price second at 6.4, the Rangers’ Matt Harrison third at 6.2 and Weaver out of the top 10 at 3.7. If we use Bill James’ Win Shares instead, Verlander leads at 23, with Price and the White Sox’ Chris Sale at 19 and Harrison at 18.

By the numbers, Verlander was No. 1.

National League Cy Young: The Mets’ R.A. Dickey (20-6, 2.73), the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez (21-8, 2.89) and the Reds’ Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.78) had flashy records, while the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (14-9) led the majors with a 2.53 ERA.

Even taking into account that he plays in a pitcher-friendly park, Kershaw led NL pitchers in WAR at 6.2, followed by Cueto at 5.8, Dickey at 5.6 and Gonzalez at 4.5. By Win Shares, it’s Cueto at 20, Kershaw and Dickey at 19 and Gonzalez at 17.

AL Rookie of the Year: There’s no question here. The Angels’ Mike Trout was not only the AL’s best rookie, but he was also the league leader in WAR at 10.7 and Win Shares at 38. His name will crop up again next week.

NL Rookie of the Year: The favorites are Diamondbacks left-hander Wade Miley (16-11, 3.33), Nationals outfield phenom Bryce Harper (.270, 22 home runs, 59 RBI) and Reds first baseman-outfielder Todd Frazier (.273, 19 homers, 67 RBI).

Harper gets a big boost in the field, with a 1.4 defensive WAR to Frazier’s minus-0.2. He also led Frazier in offensive WAR, 3.4-1.9. That’s partly a reflection of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati favoring hitters more than Nationals Park.

Miley’s a strong candidate with a 3.2 WAR that beats Frazier’s 1.9 but is not as strong as Harper’s 5.0. By Win Shares, it’s Harper 21, Miley 14 and Frazier 13.

By the numbers, Harper is the NL Rookie of the Year.

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