If you’re a regular reader, you know that my primary role here at FanGraphs is to talk to people within the game and share their thoughts. Many of my conversations are with pitchers. From them, I’ve heard a particular phrase countless times:

“My job is to give my team a chance to win.”

The extent to which such a thing can be quantified is subjective. That doesn’t make it meaningless. In my opinion, the supposition — for lack of a better term — should factor into the Cy Young Award debate.

It’s well known that pitchers have little control over wins and losses. The best they can do is limit the opposition’s run total. They don’t have complete control over that, either, but they do strongly influence it. As a rule, the best pitchers have the lowest ERAs. Again, not a perfect stat, but it tells a big part of the story.

Corey Kluber, Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, and Justin Verlander will likely receive the most support on this year’s American League ballot. Of them, Verlander recorded the lowest ERA, albeit by a small margin. He has a clearer advantage in the nebulous “My job is to give my team a chance to win” category.

To wit:

  • Verlander allowed two or fewer earned runs in 23 of his 34 starts. Kluber allowed two or fewer in 19 of 32, Sale in 18 of 32, Porcello in 16 of 33.
  • Verlander allowed three or more earned runs 11 times. Kluber did so 13 times, Sale 14 times, Porcello 17 times.
  • Verlander allowed four or more earned runs five times. Porcello did so six times, Sale eight times, Kluber nine times.
  • Kluber has the advantage when it comes to scoreless outings. He allowed no earned runs six times. Sale and Verlander did so four times, Porcello three times.

How much weight should be put on those numbers? A lot depends on how much you value raw earned-runs-allowed totals. For pitchers whose bottom line is “Giving my team a chance to win,” they’re pretty meaningful. Your mileage may vary.