Before I begin my rant, I'm going to make a major assumption: The saber-metric geniuses who devised the formula for estimating a player's true value in wins created - Wins Above Replacement (WAR) - should be trusted. After all, according to WAR, players like Ruth, Williams, Mays and Mantle were usually at or near the top of the Wins Above Replacement heap, year in and year out - right where they belong.
WAR cuts through all the useless misinformation with one simple number that can be used to determine the best overall player in baseball - or, in the case of Cy Young Award voting - the best pitcher. Quite often, the best pitcher also happens to be the best overall player. Something voters tend to ignore when deciding Most Valuable Player Awards.
Much to my surprise, the pitcher with the highest WAR failed to win the Cy Young Award for the first seven years of its existence (1956 - '62). As a matter of fact, the pitcher who deserved the award wasn't even on the ballot the first six years! Chances are, they never even knew they deserved the award - but if they're still alive, maybe they'll find out through word of mouth. If you happen to run into them, congratulate them for me - although they still won't get the plaque. This is merely an unofficial adjustment, for the sake of Wins Above Replacement authenticity.
PART ONE - Revising CYA History - The Early Years (1956 - 1975)
Of course, over a half-century ago, nobody knew anything about WAR. Cy Young Award voters favored the pitchers from teams that won a pennant (or finished the regular season in a first-place tie), as long as they won 20 games. ERA didn't seem very important - just wins, and getting into the World Series. This process excluded the pitchers who actually had better seasons, but flew under the radar, with deceivingly mediocre won-loss records - playing on mediocre teams that didn't win. But it wasn't their fault - as their WAR numbers suggest.
Year - CYA Winner vs The Best Pitcher
1956 - Don Newcombe (4.5) - Early Wynn (7.8)
1957 - Warren Spahn (4.7) - Don Drysdale (6.1)
1958 - Bob Turley (3.6) - Frank Lary (6.7)
1959 - Early Wynn (2.8) - Larry Jackson (7.2)
1960 - Vernon Law (4.2) - Ernie Broglio (7.2)
1961 - Whitey Ford (3.8) - Don Cardwell (6.1)
1962 - Don Drysdale (5.3) - Bob Purkey (7.3)
1963 - Sandy Koufax (10.7)
1964 - Dean Chance (9.3)
1965 - Sandy Koufax (8.1)
1966 - Sandy Koufax (10.3)
1967 (AL) - Jim Lonborg (4.1) - Jim Merritt (6.4)
1967 (NL) - Mike McCormick (4.4) - Jim Bunning (7.8)
1968 (AL) - Denny McClain (7.4) - Luis Tiant (7.8)
1968 (NL) - Bob Gibson (11.9)
1969 (AL) - Tie: Mike Cuellar (4.5) and Denny McClain (8.2) - Just McClain (8.2)
1969 (NL) - Tom Seaver (7.2) - Bob Gibson (11.3)
1970 (AL) - Jim Perry (3.8) - Sam McDowell (8.3)
1970 (NL) - Bob Gibson (8.9)
1971 (AL) - Vida Blue (9.0) - Wilbur Wood (11.7)
1971 (NL) - Fergie Jenkins (10.3)
1972 (AL) - Gaylord Perry (11.0)
1972 (NL) - Steve Carlton (12.1)
1973 (AL) - Jim Palmer (6.3) - Bert Blyleven (9.9)
1973 (NL) - Tom Seaver (10.6)
1974 (AL) - Catfish Hunter (6.9) - Gaylord Perry (8.6)
1974 (NL) - Mike Marshall (3.1)* - Phil Niekro (7.8)
(*Marshall had the distinction of being the first erroneously selected CYA winner who was a relief specialist. Others would follow in years to come - all mistakes.)
1975 (AL) - Jim Palmer (8.4)
1975 (NL) - Tom Seaver (7.8)
Imagine that. Jim Merritt and Luis Tiant over Jim Lonborg and Denny McClain in '67 and '68. Or Wilbur Wood over Vida Blue - who made the cover of Time Magazine in 1971!
Up next: PART TWO - Revising CYA History - (1976 - 1985) - 5 Out of 20 Correct CYA Winners!