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Volume 91, Issue 16
Wednesday, September 24, 1997
Montreal's Pedro Martinez deserves to win the National League Cy Young Award as the league's most valuable pitcher, but he may be short-changed simply because he plays for a Canadian team.
The formula to determine both the league's most valuable player and pitcher honours is a cast ballot composed of two sports journalists from each city with a Major League Baseball franchise. With Canada having only two out of the league's 28 teams, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that Canadian representation doesn't amount to much.
With Toronto's Pat Hentgen winning the American League Cy Young Award last year and another Blue Jay, Roger Clemens, being a virtual lock for the award this season, the panel of predominantly American writers could be hesitant in rewarding both awards to pitchers who play north of the border.
Many point to Atlanta's Greg Maddux and Denny Neagle, or to Houston's Darryl Kile as the front-runners for the honour. However, when taking a look at the numbers it becomes clear that Martinez brings the best portfolio of all National League pitchers to the awards' mound.
Martinez leads the National League in complete games with 13, seven more than Kile, who of the three other contenders is the closest. Only Curt Schilling's 313 strikeouts are higher than Martinez's 296, but Schilling's 2.95 earned-run average (only eighth-best) takes him out of the running. Martinez has also allowed the least hits of the bunch and is in a three-way tie with Kile and Neagle with four shutouts apiece. To look at each pitcher's earned-run average, the true test of a pitcher's skill, Martinez is miles ahead of the competition with an ERA of 1.92, almost 0.3 points ahead of Maddux who is second.
If there is any blemish on Martinez's statistics, it would have to be in the win column. Pedro has only 17 wins compared to Neagle's 20 and Maddux's 19, but there can be a case made against the two Atlanta Braves' pitchers. Firstly, the Braves' batters, who were second in runs and third in average, hit much better than the Expos did a team that scored the second-fewest runs and had the fifth-worst batting average in the National League.
In addition, Atlanta's new home park, Turner Field, is well-known to be a pitcher's park and was designed purposely for what has been the team's biggest strength over the last decade. Olympic Stadium is a much more hitter-friendly park, which makes Martinez's numbers all the more impressive. If Martinez had been pitching for the Braves instead of the Expos, who are presently 21 games behind, he may be hovering at around the 25-win plateau and probably would have beaten Neagle to the magical 20-win mark for which Neagle received much publicity.
As far as Kile's case is concerned, the Astros hitting was about equal to that of the Expos, yet the Houston pitcher's ERA is 0.63 runs higher and he has almost 100 fewer strikeouts.
Martinez looks even more remarkable when you compare him to the top guns of the American League, namely Clemens and Seattle's Randy Johnson. Martinez has more strikeouts and a lower ERA than the two credentials that no other National League pitcher can boast.
Martinez has presented himself as the hands-on choice to win the Cy Young and the fact that there is substantial debate about who should win the award is truly frightening. Frightening, because American bias could effect the final tally, overlooking the most deserving candidate of the coveted Cy Young.
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