2003 National League Cy Young Award
When someone breaks records, it tends to carry some significant weight when it comes to taking home postseason awards. Such was the case with Eric Gagne‘s 2003 campaign.
Gagne, the erstwhile and be-goggled Dodgers closer, enjoyed a season for the ages in 2003. After finishing the 2002 season with 52 saves, Gagne set his eyes on the single-season saves record. While he put up what was then the second-highest total of all-time (55), he would ultimately come up short of Bobby Thigpen‘s record but equal the National League mark held by John Smoltz. However, he would write his own name in the history books by converting a record 84 consecutive saves between 2002 and 2004.
In 2003, Gagne threw a total of 82.1 innings, working to a 1.20 ERA, a 0.86 FIP, and 14.98 K/9. That left Gagne worth a career-best 4.6 fWAR. When the vote tally was completed, Gagne took home the Cy Young award on 91% share of the vote, including 28 of the 32 first-place votes cast.
While an admirable season, it may not have been completely Cy Young worthy either.
One can argue about the veracity of including a closer in the CY Young calculations, especially when there are at least two starting pitchers that likely should have been considered for the award.
Finishing second and third in the voting were Jason Schmidt of the rival San Francisco Giants and flame-throwing Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs. Schmidt took home a 46% share of the vote and two first-place votes on the back of a season where he went 17-5 with a 2.34 ERA, 2.64 FIP, a 9.01 K/9, and an fWAR of 6.6 to finish second. Meanwhile, Prior went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA, a 2.47 FIP, a 10.43 K/9, and a 7.8 fWAR while finishing third in the voting.
If the vote were recast with all the data present, Prior would likely be the obvious winner of the 2003 Cy Young vote.