AL Cy Young Award Race

Each year the best pitcher in each league is awared the Cy Young Award. This year’s AL race may seem to be over already, but who really deserves the award? Here is my list, in reverse order:

5. Josh Beckett – BOS –12-5, 2.49 (ERA) 0.985 (WHIP) 173.2 (IP) 155 (K) 1/1 (CG/SO) 6.1 (WAR)*
Beckett’s ’11 season has been hampered by injuries, but he does have the league’s second lowest ERA (2.49) and WHIP (0.985), and second highest WAR (6.1). However, the fact that he’ll probably start 4 or 5 few games than anyone else in contention cripples his Cy Young Award chances (no pun intended). If he’d had those games, and was sitting at 16 wins with his K’s nearing 200, he’d definitely be top 3. As it is, he had a hard time keeping Ricky Romero and ’10 winner Felix Hernandez off.

4. Jared Weaver – LAA –16-7, 3.35 (ERA) 1.027 (WHIP) 206.1 (IP) 176 (K) 4/2 (CG/SO) 6.0 (WAR)
Weaver may be the only starter with an ERA over 3.00 on this list (3.35), but he more than makes up for it in wins (16), WHIP (1.027), and WAR (6.0). Weaver, along with fellow ace Dan Haren, has kept the light-hitting Angels in the pennant race for the AL West, and if he had a lower ERA, he’d probably be able to make top 3. Even so, the two-time All-Star has a new contract extension and hopes to take his team into the playoffs, which is more than can be said for #2 James Shields.

3. C.C. Sabathia – NYY-19-7, 2.97 (ERA) 1.173 (WHIP) 218.1 (IP) 211 (K) 3/1 (CG/SO) 5.8 (WAR)
The still-youthful C.C. Sabathia is on his way to completing his most successful season as a Yankee (already more K’s, lower ERA, and equal number of wins than his previous two seasons), so why is the ’07 AL Cy Young Award winner not higher on this list? The reason is simple, Sabathia’s win-loss numbers (19-7) are inflated because of the team he pitches for. There’s no question he’s a top ace, but Sabathia’s WHIP (1.173) and ERA (2.97) are higher than the next two pitchers on this list. He’ll probably finish the season with 20+ wins and over 250 K’s, but playing for a team as good as New York will always hurt him in the Cy Young race. Still, if Verlander falters badly in his next few starts, Sabathia is a likely front-runner for the award. Either way, he should still finish in the top 5 for the 5th time in his career.

2. James Shields -TBR- 14-10, 2.77 (ERA) 1.023 (WHIP) 218 (IP) 205 (K) 11/4 (CG/SO) 5.0 (WAR)
used to be that a (relatively) poor Win-Loss total would doom a pitcher in contention for the Cy Young Award, but after last year’s voters chose a man with a 13-12 record (Felix Hernandez), that no longer appears to be the case. Voters understand that a mediocre team (like the 77-64 Rays) will have a negative impact on a pitcher’s record, regardless of how good that pitcher is. In 2011 Shields has already pitched an incredible 11 complete games, more than double the total of any other AL pitcher, and more than 12 entire teams in the AL. His tiny ERA (2.77) and miniscule WHIP (1.023) also make him a good choice for runner-up, as well as his 200+ K’s (205). He may not win more than 15 games, but if Verlander hadn’t had such a good season, he’d be the Felix Hernandez of 2011.

1. Justin Verlander – DET21-5, 2.34 (ERA) 0.910 (WHIP) 223 (IP) 224 (K) 4/2 (CG/SO) 7.7 (WAR)
Verlander leads the league in Wins (21), Win-Loss % (.808), ERA (2.34), WHIP (0.910), IP (223), K’s (224), and WAR (7.7). At this point, the only person who can beat the ’06 AL Rookie of the Year is himself. Verlander has simply had a fantastic year, and is on pace to win the pitching triple crown (Wins, ERA, K’s). Verlander has won over 25% of his team’s wins, and is part of a staff with only 1 other quality starter (Doug Fister, who has only been with the team for 7 starts). He’s not only the AL’s best pitcher in 2011, he makes a good case for MVP as well.

Honorable Mention:

Ricky Romero – Blue Jays – Very close, but few wins (13) and low K’s (157) hurt. Felix Hernandez – Mariners – Not ’10, but still good. Higher ERA (3.15) and no SO’s though Jon Lester – Red Sox – Also close, but no CG or SO C.J. Wilson – Rangers – Higher ERA (3.13) and low WAR (4.3) Danny Haren – Angels – Higher ERA (3.20), low wins (14), and low K’s (169) for over 200 IP

* ERA stands for Earned Run Average, WHIP stands for Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched, IP stands for Innings pitched, K stands for strikeouts, CG/SO stands for Complete Games/Shutouts, WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement

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