In other news, the sun rose this morning.
I don't mean to downplay the significance of a Twins pitcher winning this coveted award, but considering how incredible Johan Santana's 2006 season was and how large the statistical gap between him and his competitors was by the end of the season, this outcome was never in doubt. Santana won unanimously, receiving all 28 first-place votes. His first Cy Young in 2004 also came by unanimous decision, and he joins Roger Clemens ('97 and '98), Pedro Martinez ('99 and 2000), Greg Maddux ('94 and '95) and Sandy Koufax ('63, '65, '66) as the only pitchers to win the award unanimously on multiple occasions. Not bad company.
Santana joins a list of 13 pitchers in baseball history who have won multiple Cy Young Awards. Of those 13, six are in the Hall of Fame and five (Martinez, Maddux, Clemens, Johnson, Tom Glavine) are still pitching.
Of course, I can't really approach this topic without bringing up the fact that this most certainly should be Santana's third consecutive Cy Young Award. I have talked to a number of Twins fans who have actually let themselves believe that Santana's 2005 season was a step down for him simply because of the fact that he didn't win the Cy Young, which shows the sad amount of power these postseason awards can have over even adamant fans who watch all the games. In reality, the '05 season was just business as usual for Santana.
Santana 2004: 228 IP, 20-6, 2.61 ERA, 265 K / 54 BB, OPP .192/.249/.315
Santana 2005: 231.2 IP, 16-7, 2.87 ERA, 235 K / 45 BB, OPP .210/.250/.346
Santana 2006: 233.2 IP, 19-5, 2.77 ERA, 245 K / 47 BB, OPP .216/.258/.360
It's unlikely that Johan will ever match that unbelievable 2004 campaign, but the reality is that Santana's 2005 and 2006 campaigns were nearly identical. The ERA was up slightly in '05, but opposing hitters actually fared worse overall against him in the year he failed to win the Cy Young. Santana's inability to capture the award in 2005 had less to do with better competition and more to do with his low win total which was almost entirely due to his team's complete offensive ineptitude that season. In any case, this is a topic that has been exhaustively covered so I'm not going to delve into it anymore. The fact is that Santana has consistently been the best pitcher in baseball over the past three years and he's showing no signs of slowing down at age 27. Plus, he has pretty much never missed a start due to injury over those three years, which is extremely valuable when you look at all the injuries being sustained by pitchers around the league and even in the Twins' organization.
Finishing second in the AL Cy Young voting was Chien-Ming Wang, basically because he won 19 games. A more deserving second place finisher would have been Roy Halladay, who had an excellent season and finished a close third behind Wang. Fifth in the voting was Twins' closer Joe Nathan. While I'm glad to see his name in the voting results, I'm a little disappointed he didn't get more recognition. In 2005, Mariano Rivera finished second in the Cy Young voting (ahead of Santana) by saving 43 games in 47 opportunities and posting a 1.38 ERA while holding opponents to a .177 average. In '06, Nathan was 36/38 in save opportunities and he posted a 1.58 ERA and .158 opponents' batting average. Nathan also posted an incredible 95/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year, signficantly better than Rivera's 80/18 in 2005. I'm not saying that Nathan's 2006 season was better than Rivera's 2005, but it's at least very close and I'm disappointed that it received so little press. Nathan wasn't even the top finisher among closers in the Cy Young voting, as the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez landed ahead of him in fourth place despite being significantly worse in most categories (though not bad, by any means).
Clearly the Cy Young voting is faulty in many regards, but it's still fun to analyze the results because it truly is one of baseball's most recognizable and heralded awards. Twins fans and baseball fans alike have to be happy with the results this year, as the guy who should have won did so in dominant fashion.
Congratulations Johan on your second Cy Young. I think I speak for everyone when I say I doubt it will be your last.