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Yankees and the Cy Young award

Only five Yankees have ever won the Cy Young award. Here's a closer look at each winner and whether or not they deserved it.

Chris Trotman

Up until his last three or four starts, Hiroki Kuroda looked to be at least a contender for the 2013 AL Cy Young award. That ship appears to have sailed, but that doesn't mean we can't take a look at the Yankee pitchers that have won the award since its inception in 1956. All data courtesy of baseball reference.

Roger Clemens in 2001: 20-3, 3.51 ERA, 213 K, 5.6 WAR

It doesn't seem like that long ago, but even as recent as 2001 a pitcher's win-loss record was the key to winning the Cy Young award. In that now infamous year, Clemens won 20 of his first 21 decisions and seemingly had a strangle hold on the award all year. He won it by a comfortable margin over Mark Mulder who had the nerve to mix in 8 losses with his 21 wins.

Who should have won: Despite having a record of just 17-11, Clemens' teammate Mike Mussina probably deserved the award. Mussina pitched better than Clemens in just about every way and was worth 7.1 WAR which topped all AL pitchers. Also, he had that magical night at Fenway in September where he was one out away from perfection. Damn you, Carl Everett!

Ron Guidry in 1978: 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 K, 9.6 WAR

The Louisiana Lightning man was otherworldly in 1978. The Yankees miraculously fought their way back to the World Series and won for a second straight year. Nobody's contribution was greater than Guidry's.

Who should have won: There's no question that the Gator deserved it. In fact, his 9.6 WAR led the AL so you can make the case that he deserved the MVP on top of his Cy Young award.

Sparky Lyle in 1977: 13-5, 26 Saves, 2.17 ERA, 68 K, 3.7 WAR

In the 1970s the closer, or "fireman", role was becoming the vogue, with the perception that a good one could make or break a team's chances of being successful. Sparky Lyle benefitted from this perception greatly in 1977. He had a very good year nailing down 26 games for the Yankees and was lucky enough to be credited with 13 wins. In reality though, he probably wasn't even one of the five most valuable players on his own team.

Who should have won: In his quest for a Cy Young three-peat in 1977 Jim Palmer had another great year in Baltimore. For the California Angels, AL strikeout leader Nolan Ryan placed second in pitcher WAR while his teammate, a young Frank Tanana, led the league in both ERA and WAR. These three and probably a dozen more pitchers were worthy of the award ahead of Lyle.

Whitey Ford in 1961: 25-4, 3.21 ERA, 209 K, 3.8 WAR

With a career .690 winning percentage, Whitey Ford took advantage of his run support better than just about any pitcher in Major League history. His 1961 season was no different. While the Yankees hit home runs at an unprecedented rate, he cruised his way to 25 wins. However, his ERA that year was only about 15% above average. That's nothing to sneeze at, but not nearly as great as he was throughout the rest of his career.

Who should have won: The Cy Young award wasn't league specific until 1967 so Ford beat out every other pitcher in baseball for this one. There are quite a few pitchers that could stake their claim for the award instead of Ford. The most obvious ones are Don Cardwell of the Chicago Cubs and Jack Kralick of the Minnesota Twins who led their respective leagues with 6.1 WAR apiece. The great Sandy Koufax and Cuban sensation Camilo Pascual led their respective leagues in strikeouts while earning WAR values about two wins better than Ford.

Bob Turley in 1958: 21-7, 2.97 ERA, 168 K, 3.6 WAR

Bob Turley was an average starting pitcher that happened to have a very good year in 1958. To go along with his 21 wins he had a .750 winning percentage which led the major leagues. Unsurprisingly, this caused the Cy Young committee to vote Turley. Despite also leading the majors in walks, he beat out Warren Spahn by a single vote to take home the hardware.

Who should have won: The St. Louis Cardinals were a bad team, but they featured the 1958 MLB strikeout king Sam Jones. Jones' ERA was about 44% better than league average and he was worth almost three more wins than Turley. Also more worthy was Turley's familiar teammate, Whitey Ford. Ford had a better year in 1958 than he did when he won the Cy Young in 1961, but didn't rack up enough wins to wow the voters.

So for a real long time, the win was king when it came to the Cy Young award. You could make the case that only one of the Yankees that have won the award actually deserved it, while other Yankees may have been stiffed. Thanks to the infiltration of sabermetrics, this trend has bucked in recent years as Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez have won the award despite low win totals on bad teams. Alas, Hiroki Kuroda still probably doesn't stand a chance.

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