To no one's surprise, Jake Peavy won the NL Cy Young Award on Thursday. The vote was unanimous, the crowning a achievement of a spectacular season is which Peavy led the National League in the traditional Triple Crown stats of wins (19), ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240). In the latter two categories Peavy was miles ahead of the competition: nearly a half-run better than Brandon Webb in ERA, and 22 whiffs clear of the Reds' Aaron Harang.
Now, it's not unheard of for a pitcher to dominate the traditional stats and still be challenged for the Cy Young Award. After all, wins are not really a metric as much a dated scoring construct, subject to the vagaries of chance.
Strikeouts do not always track with performance -- they're a leading indicator, but anyone who watched Daisuke Matsuzaka rack up 200 of them this season wouldn't use that figure to build up his case for shiny hardware. Even ERA, the safest of the triad, can be influenced by park, by a pitcher's relief staff and, most importantly, his home park.
In fact, Peavy would seem to be a candidate to lose ground upon closer inspection. After all, he made 19 of his 34 starts in Petco Park, the best park for pitchers in 21st century baseball. Adjusting his performance relative to a pitcher such as Webb, who toiled in the unfriendly confines of Chase Field, should close the gap between the two, perhaps by enough to throw the issue up for debate.
A look at the advanced metrics, however, shows that Peavy was no creation of his environment. He led NL hurlers in Value Over Replacement (77.9, to Webb's 66.1), in Runs Prevented (49.3 to Webb's 36.8), in Expected Wins (17.9, over Brad Penny at 16.1), Support-Neutral Value (9.1, ahead of Tim Hudson's 7.9) and Wins Above Replacement (10.6, beating out Penny and Hudson at 8.6).
Whether you look at Peavy's season using the tools of 1907 or 2007, the conclusion is clear: He was the best pitcher in the NL this year, and a deserving unanimous winner of the Cy Young Award.