When talks about the AL and NL Cy Young awards comes up, the general consensus usually comes up with four or five solid candidates for the awards. This season, there is no doubt that the NL race is between these three guys:
Tim Lincecum (SF)
Adam Wainwright (StL)
Chris Carpenter (StL)
So, that race is one in itself. The AL race is a totally different race from my perspective. There are so many quality guys in the AL that are worthy of the award but since I pretty much have to narrow it down to a few guys, I have come up with five guys that could possibly win it.
Being a Yankee fan myself, you have to think I’m gonna start off with the top guy in the Yankees’ rotation. And he is not just on this list because of where he plays. He is a legitimate candidate. Sabathia came just short of reaching twenty wins for the season when the Rays tore up the Yankees on Friday, 13-4. CC just wasn’t on his game and unfortunately he was unable to make it to twenty wins. That doesn’t mean his chance at winning Cy Young were shattered. No it just means that he isn’t going to have the distinction of having twenty wins. It’s alright. Adam Wainwright was also denied twenty wins when he recorded a no decision in his final start of the regular season.
Sabathia has had the pleasure of playing in New York and behind an offense that is probably the best in the league at scoring runs. That right field fence has looked great all year for Yankee hitters and he has really taken advantage of that. His record to finish off the season is 19-8. A solid record for any pitcher. To get to 19 wins is a huge aspect of his Cy Young resume. His 8 losses aren’t too bad a total but Sabathia definitely had some trouble at the beginning of the year that drew up that ugly loss total.
Sabathia’s ERA at the end of the season totals up at 3.37 which is a respectable one. Any ERA below 3.50 is generally considered solid. Sabathia has really picked it up toward the end of the year compared to the beginning of the year. He had real trouble early and that is why his ERA after the first month of play was really high.
Sabathia also finished the season with 197 strikeouts. He finished two complete games and one shutout. Sabathia’s season was definitely worthy of a Cy Young award. But personally, he would be my third choice for the award this year despite being a Yankee. I know it’s unfortunate but I am making my picks according to how good they had over the season and Sabathia did not have the best season among the AL pitchers.
2. Felix Hernandez
This young flamethrowing Mariner is a clear candidate for the Cy Young this year. His season has included two complete games and one shutout. He struck out 211 guys over the season. And guess what… he still has one more start today. Despite playing for a Mariners team that lacks much offense, other than Ichiro, Hernandez has done a great job of maintaining his success. Hernandez has one more game to go but his current record is 18-5. A record that is a little better than Sabathia’s. Sabathia does have one more win than Hernandez but Hernandez has less losses. It’s close but that is not the only thing that goes into account when thinking of a Cy Young resume.
Hernandez has a phenominal 2.38 ERA which to me is just fantastic considering he doesn’t get much run support from the M’s. He really can control a game and knows how to get it done like the best of them…. wait a minute, he is one of the best of them.
Hernandez’s age is what is so amazing. He is so successful so early in his career, this being his fifth year in the league. He still has a long way to go and this success and poise he is showing now will surely get him into high places as his career goes on.
Hernandez also finished the season with 232 innings of work which is clearly more than any other guy on the Mariner rotation or bullpen. He has really done something special in Seattle this year and he is a legitimate Cy Young candidate as well. He is my second pick in this contest.
3. Justin Verlander
Verlander has also had a fantastic season. He has led that Tigers team back to the spotlight in the AL Central after a few really really really really… okay you get the point… bad years. With the Tigers on the brink of a playoff birth, Verlander will be a key to the Tigers’ success if they get to the playoffs.
Verlander finished this season with a 19-9 record. A very good one that easily compares with Sabathia’s and Hernandez’s that will go up as the top three records in the league. Verlander has been a solid… more than solid… top of the rotation guy for the Tigers. He has been the vocal point of this team all year. The offense hasn’t been great but it has been good enough to support the pitching and Verlander hasn’t really needed all that support. With the stuff he has, there isn’t really much you can do to support him other than put a single run up on the board.
Verlander always finishes at the top or near the top of the strikeout list. This season, he finished with 264 and every one made the opposing batter just look back and think about how good the pitch was. Verlander is that good. You always have to include this flamethrower in the Cy Young conversation. The only difference this year is that his team has been a little more successful and he has gotten more recognition that he has the past few years. Verlander’s ERA was also fantastic this season at 3.45 which is a little lower than Sabathia’s. To me, either him or Sabathia would go third in my voting but I would put Sabathia there because of the success of the Yankees this year. Nothing against Verlander but they are both great performers.
Verlander also finished the season three complete games and one shutout.
4. Roy Halladay
You always have to include Roy Halladay in the Cy Young talks no matter what. He has had that kind of influence in this league since he came into it as a rookie.
Halladay’s numbers this year have been down and his Cy Young resume has decreased in value. Much of this came from the constant rumors of his being traded at the deadline in the summer. His performance surrounding the deadline shows many stats that are uncharacteristic of his career. Some bad losses, tough ERA numbers. And just about anything that can go wrong during an outing. It happened to him.
Halladay didn’t have a terrible season though. His record was 17-10 to finish the season. Not terrible but a tough number of losses. He probably could’ve come up with a win or two more but that was due to the trade rumors and the fact that the Jays had a tough time getting runs on the board over a period of time over the summer.
Halladay is the lowest on my list of candidates for every reason I explained to you now. He finished with nine complete games and four shutouts, which are two stats he holds over the other candidates in this competition. He struck out 208 guys which is a respectable number. His season has been a generally good on but not a Cy Young good season.
Winner: Zack Greinke
I know, I know he’s on the Royals. But that is a key reason why he is the winner of this competition. I mean come on… a Royals pitcher in this conversation? That’s ridiculous. Well, it’s not. With the numbers he has put up this season, he is clearly the best pitcher in the AL.
His record doesn’t give him justice of how well he has pitched. At 16-8, Greinke has lossed more games than he should have if he had more run support. His ERA is a league low 2.16. That just proves that he really didn’t get enough run support ot get the wins. If he gave up one or two runs a game, he lost the game because of the lack of run support the Royals’ offense gave him.
Greinke also put up some good strikeout numbers finishing the season with 242. He six complete games and three shutouts. With the team he was pitching behind, I think it is possible that he could get a loss when he threw a shutout. Just kidding but still, I’m just making a point. Greinke’s season would’ve been no doubt a perfect Cy Young season if he was with any other team that could put up three or four runs a game of run support. The Royals have had a tough history and Greinke has been unfortunate enough to be stuck on that team and be such a great pitcher. With the talent he has, he is no doubt the Cy Young award winner in the AL this season.
P.S. My NL Cy Young vote is Adam Wainwright.