The Mets made one of the biggest offseason signings to date on Monday, when they signed three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to three years. Shortly after New York’s big signing, the Mariners made quite a stir for themselves, signing reigning AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a five-year contract.
One thing in common between the two teams: They both missed the playoffs in 2021. The Mets led the division for much of the season, but fell to third place and finished 11.5 games behind eventual World Series-winning Braves in the NL East Division and 13 games out of the second wild-card spot. The Mariners were in contention until the final day of the regular season, but ultimately fell two games behind the Yankees for the second wild card and five fewer than the AL pennant-winning Astros in the AL West.
There’s no question that going out and signing two of the best weapons on the market will increase your chances of making the playoffs and becoming a better team. But how much better will these pitchers be for their new teams? Sporting News dives into the numbers to find out.
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Having a Cy Young winner versus not having one
Last season, the Mariners were a middle ground when it came to pitching success. His staff had the 15th-highest ERA at 4.30, and Fangraphs’ 17th-highest WAR at 14.3. Just for a very basic addition, Ray adds 3.9 fWAR to the team and brings in a 2.84 ERA. Add in both fWAR and the Mariners are at 18.2, which would have been eighth best in baseball.
Of course, it won’t work so cleanly. The Mariners will have a different pitching staff, Ray will have different results and the general standard for fWAR will be adjusted based on the new results in the league. Without player projections for the league, it would be difficult to see exactly how much value Ray will bring to the Mariners.
However, we can see how teams have historically fared with having a Cy Young winner on their team rather than not having one. According to data from the Lahman Database, which includes annual results before 2021, teams with at least one Cy Young winner have a .526 winning percentage and reach the playoffs 32 percent of the time. That doesn’t sound overwhelmingly great, but compare it to teams without a Cy Young winner on the staff and teams have made the playoffs only 13.3 percent of the time and posted a .485 winning percentage.
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Even just having one Cy Young winner on staff makes a resounding difference. Historically, teams with only one Cy Young winner have made the playoffs 28.3 percent of the time and have a .522 winning percentage.
And winning a World Series is very difficult without a Cy Young winner on the staff. Teams lacking a previous Cy Young winner have won a World Series only 1.8 percent of the time. Having even a single pitcher on the team with that previous level of success increases the percentage to 5.5 percent.
Now, it is important to keep in mind with all those numbers that it is about the 30 teams in the league each year. Only two Cy Youngs are awarded each year, one before 1967, so there aren’t many teams that have Cy Young winners on their roster. There is also only one World Series winner each year, so each team starts with a 3.3 percent chance each year.
How about multiple Cy Young award pitchers?
A lot of noise has been made about the super rotations that have been created with various Cy Young winners. Last year, Scherzer was acquired by the Dodgers and joined Clayton Kershaw and David Price to form a rotation that featured seven Cy Young Awards. Now, Scherzer and Jacob deGrom mean five Cy Youngs total in the Mets’ rotation.
That sounds like a lot, but how much does it really help?
Teams that have multiple Cy Young winners on their staff have historically averaged a .538 winning percentage and made the playoffs 43.5 percent of the time. Those teams have also won the World Series 13.6 percent of the time.
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There are Mets fans excited about the prospect of having five Cy Youngs on the pitching staff. Only 47 teams have boasted a pitching staff that included at least five Cy Young Awards in total. How have the previous 47 fared?
Only three have won a World Series: the 1995 Braves, 1999 Yankees, and 2000 Yankees. The 1995 Braves had Greg Maddux’s four Cy Youngs (including 1995), Tom Glavine’s 1991 win, and Steve Bedrosian’s from 1987. For both Yankees teams, Roger Clemens represented five Cy Youngs. The 2000 Yankees also got the 1985 award from Dwight Gooden. No other team has won the World Series with so many individual pitching trophies.
Don’t worry too much, Mets fans. Again, this is a small sample size and any team that featured Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson in their later years is included in that sample because they won seven and five awards, respectively.
Which teams had the most Cy Young awards combined?
There have been nine teams that featured a pitching staff that contained seven Cy Young Awards in total at the same time.
Unsurprisingly, two of them are just the Astros with Clemens in their later years.
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Here’s a look at how each of those teams performed with all of their pitching awards.
|Team||Year||Cy Young Winners||Record||Get out|
|white sock||1986||Steve Carlton (4), Tom Seaver (3)||72-90||Lost playoffs|
|Braves||1999||Tom Glavine (2), Greg Maddux (4), John Smoltz (1)||103-59||Lost world series|
|Yankees||2000||Roger Clemens (5), David Cone (1), Dwight Gooden (1)||87-74||Won the World Series|
|Braves||2001||Tom Glavine (2), Greg Maddux (4), John Smoltz (1)||88-74||NLCS lost|
|Braves||2002||Tom Glavine (2), Greg Maddux (4), John Smoltz (1)||101-59||NLDS lost|
|Astros||2005||Roger Clemens (7)||89-73||Lost world series|
|Astros||2006||Roger Clemens (7)||82-80||Lost playoffs|
|Yankees||2007||Roger Clemens (7)||94-68||Lost Division Series|
|Giants||2009||Randy Johnson (5), Tim Lincecum (1), Barry Zito (1)||88-74||Lost playoffs|
Only three of those teams missed the playoffs, and in each example it’s because Cy Young counts are largely driven by veteran pitchers. Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton were 41 years old on that White Sox team. Clemens was 43 years old with the 2006 Astros. Johnson was 45 years old with the 2009 Giants.
It’s not surprising to see that stacked rotation of Braves pitching with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz popping up on this list, considering they might still have a case for the biggest rotation of all time to this day.
The 2009 Giants were also an especially fun team because Tim Lincecum won his second straight National League Cy Young that season, which means that, in some ways, that team had the most Cy Young awards combined with eight.