Blake Snell captured his second Cy Young award this week, pinning down 28 of 30 first-place votes.
Snell, the Padres’ ace, led Major League Baseball with a 2.25 ERA and allowed just 19 runs in his last 23 starts of the season — a historically dominant stretch of pitching.
After Snell’s landslide victory, Logan Webb finished second, garnering a majority of the second-place votes. One voter — a Chicago-based writer for MLB.com — penciled in Webb as first on his ballot.
With his second-place finish, Webb became the first Giant to finish in the top-three since Tim Lincecum won his second Cy Young award in 2009.
The main question BBWAA voters had to assess was how to balance Snell’s efficiency versus Webb’s volume. Their conclusion, in Snell’s advantage, was clear.
On a game-by-game level, Snell had a better season than Webb. But that’s not exactly how baseball works.
Webb led MLB with 216 innings pitched. He finished 36 more innings than Snell, roughly equivalent to pitching six extra games. Those innings have tremendous worth to a team; the deeper Webb pitched into games, the more rest the bullpen got. Facing more batters prevented less trustworthy relievers from impacting games.
For much of the season, Webb and Alex Cobb were the Giants’ only two traditional starters in the rotation. The Giants needed every one of those 216 innings to prevent the pitching staff from totally burning out.
Webb led the National League with 6.26 strikeouts per walk, an elite number that negated the 201 hits he surrendered. He finished a close second in the National League behind Corbin Burnes in WHIP on the year. Snell, who walked an MLB-high 99 batters, ranked ninth in the category.
Neither pitcher led his team to the postseason, but Snell went 14-9 compared to Webb’s 11-13 record. Webb received historically poor run support from the Giants, who managed to go 15-18 in games the ace started.
A deeper head-to-head dive reveals a race that may have been even closer than the voting indicates.
|Logan Webb||Blake Snell|
|fWAR||4.9 (5th in NL)||4.1 (6th in NL)|
|bWAR||5.5 (2nd in NL)||6.0 (1st in NL)|
|ERA+||130 (9th in MLB)||182 (1st in MLB)|
A fair takeaway would be that Snell was more dominant, but Webb provided his team with more quantity of quality. Comparing the two is a question of what to value in a starting pitcher.
Their contrasts were on Sept. 25 in Oracle Park, when Webb out-dueled Snell to lead the Giants past the Padres, 2-1. That night, Webb allowed one run compared to Snell’s zero, but went the distance while Snell exited after six innings. Webb needed 110 pitches for his complete game, while Snell departed after 100.
In 2022, Webb’s previous best season, he finished 11th in Cy Young voting. If he’s able to replicate last year’s campaign, he’ll finish much closer to first than 10th on a perennial basis.