There’s been an interesting silence coming out of New York since the release of Cy Young voting Tuesday. David Robertson, the Yankees’ set-up man, was listed fifth on one of the five-spot ballots, making him one of 11 pitchers to get votes. Now Robertson did have a great season. He was a deserving All-Star. But one of the five best pitchers in the American League? To get to there from here takes algorithms that I don’t think even the estimable Keith Law and Rob Neyer can devise. Props to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News for claiming his vote, if not for the vote itself. He wrote about it in his blog, saying he felt that Robertson was the best reliever in the AL. A lot voters gave relievers consideration, perhaps because they don't have their own award (some in the BBWAA are pushing for a so-called Jerome Holtzman Award, honoring the former Chicago Tribune columnist who invented the save), but the other guys felt Jose Valverde or Mariano Rivera were more deserving. Everybody gets an opinion. It's interesting that this is a New Yorker giving a New York player a questionable vote. It's the kind of thing that New Yorkers would be screaming about if it was a Texas player casting the only ballot for a Rangers player or a Kansas City writer casting the only ballot for a Royals player. But all you can do is vote the way you believe. Feinsand, we assume, did that. (And for what it’s worth, it never should have happened because the BBWAA should not have expanded the Cy Young ballot from three players to five players a couple years ago. The purpose of the Cy Young vote is to determine the best pitcher in each league, and a three-player ballot did that just fine. Some smart guy decided that good pitchers weren’t getting as much “credit’’ as good position players because there were seven fewer spots on a Cy Young ballot than an MVP ballot. It was a silly idea at the time.)
Now, I will be the first to concede that ERA+ for relievers is an imperfect stat, but Robertson's ERA+ last year?
To contextualize how absurd that number is, remember when Eric Gagne was setting save records, striking out everyone, and destroying the universe with his 'roided up arms? His best ERA+ was 326.
Remember that first year as a setup man when Carlos Marmol was the nastiest thing since, well, Gagne? His ERA+ that year was 325.
Robertson threw 66.2 innings, gave up just 8 earned runs, just 40 hits, just 29 non-intentional walks, and struck out 100. Those numbers are perverse.
That is all to say that Robertson had an historically good season for a reliever, but he doesn't get the love because he's (1) not a closer, and (2) not a closer on a team whose closer is the best closer of all-time.
The one guy who voted for Robertson (for fifth place) shouldn't have to explain his vote. Everyone else should have to explain why they DIDN'T vote for him.