AL Cy Young Watch

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2010 has been a year unlike any other in Major League Baseball, particularly on the pitching side of things.

As we were witness to on Monday night, we are truly seeing another year of the pitcher.  

Matt Garza shut down a battered Detroit Tigers team, pitching the fifth no hitter in the majors this year and first in Tampa Bay Rays history, and it should come as no surprise to anyone.

Since 1968, the original year of the pitcher featuring seven 20 game winners and Denny McClain of the Tigers reaching a 31-6 record, there has been nothing quite like the pitching mastery of the 2010 season.

That gets one to thinking, in an AL that is predominantly known as the better offensive league, who has been the best pitcher against the strongest offensive competition in the world thusfar?

Some things never change, with many familiar names at the top, but there are a few surprises in the race for AL Cy Young trophy.

Favorites:
1.    Cliff Lee, SP, Texas.  No surprise here.  The man that has been most impressive this year among AL pitchers has definitely been Cliff Lee, and some of the numbers he has put up are downright goofy.  His 16.29-1 K/BB (114Ks-7BB) ratio is lapping the field of qualified pitchers, with Roy Halladay coming in second at 7.45-1.  His 2.4 ERA is the lowest in the A.L. and it’s not close, with Clay Bucholz checking in at 2.71.  Lee’s WHIP is the only one in the majors of qualifying pitchers that is below one, at 0.89.  He’s gone 8+ innings in 11 of his last 12 games, including seven in a row and seven nine-inning outings in that stretch.  The one thing that could stand between Lee (9-4) and his second Cy Young Award is the voters tendency to lean towards an impressive W-L record, as they did in 2004 when Roger Clemens (18-4) beat out Randy Johnson (16-14) despite Johnson leading the league in strikeouts and having a lower ERA than Clemens.  That being said, his trade to Texas’ high-powered offense can only resolve that problem.

2.    David Price, SP, TB.  Talk about a kid that has lived up to the hype, David Price has done that and more.  He leads the majors with 14 wins and his 2.9 ERA is nothing to scoff at either.  If he had pitched more innings (14th in the AL at 133 2/3) to this point he may be leading the league in strikeouts, but in eight of his 20 starts he has pitched six or less innings, something that may hurt him when it comes to the voting.  His numbers are impressive, but they don’t pop off the page like Lee’s do.

3.    Jon Lester, SP, BOS.  Jon Lester has never been the name Josh Beckett is, the phenom prospect Clay Bucholz was, or the legend Curt Schilling was, but this season he’s better than all of them (kind of by default with Schilling).  Lester has flown under the radar his entire career in Boston, but in his three full years as a starter has put up a 41-19 record with a sub 3.25 ERA and 520 K’s.  This year, he is flying under the radar in his pursuit of a Cy Young, and his 2.92 ERA (6th in AL), 143 K’s (3rd in AL, and 1.09 WHIP (4th in AL) give him a balanced resume for this award and his continued progress in becoming more of a strikeout pitcher is what gets him this high.  Look for him as a darkhorse down the stretch if he continues this great run of pitching, and it’s hard to imagine he won’t.

4.    Carl Pavano, SP, MIN.  Here’s where the fun really starts.  Maybe it’s getting to see him pitch every start or maybe it’s because I have to watch all the other Twins pitchers pitch every start that makes me put Pavano this high, but the seasoned veteran who was left for dead by other contenders is having a major resurgence this year.  He is 2nd in the AL in wins at 13, and his miniscule 1.03 WHIP keeps him in this conversation.  Granted, he is outside the top ten in ERA, but he is third in the AL in IP (148.2) and 2nd in complete games with five.  He has been a horse for the Twins and if the Cy Young was defined as a most valuable to your team award, Pavano would be it, having held together a staff that has three starters with 4.9+ ERAs.  Pavano is a long shot, but if he continues to put up numbers like he has the last two months (8-1, 2.6 ERA), he may garner some attention when voting comes around.

Carl Pavano

5.    C.C. Sabathia, SP, NYY.  Although Sabathia has only had two starts in which he allowed no earned runs, he has, as usual, been a model of consistency.  His last two months have been phenomenal (9-1, 2.25 ERA), and let’s be honest, you can’t really leave out the best pitcher on the best team in baseball.  Couple that with the fact that Sabathia is tied with Pavano for 2nd in the AL in wins, has a similar ERA and 40 more strikeouts, Sabathia could easily be fourth on this list.  If you were to ask those that are in the know about pitchers that will be in this discussion until the end, it’s almost guaranteed none of them would leave out the ever-present C.C.

Sleepers:
Trevor Cahill, SP, OAK.  Has been great since coming off the DL in late April (10-4, 2.93 ERA, 1.01 WHIP).  Strikeouts (70) are the only thing standing in his way of being on this list.

Felix Hernandez, SP, SEA.  AL innings leader, 2nd in strikeouts (145), 3rd in ERA (2.86).  If only the Mariners could win a game, Felix would have a better record than 7-7.

The Injury Bug:
Andy Pettitte, SP, NYY.  Was having a Cy Young type year (11-2, 2.88 ERA), but is expected to miss at least three more weeks with a groin injury.

Clay Bucholz, SP, BOS.  Missed nearly a month after putting up great first half numbers (10-4, 2.45 ERA) and has since returned with mixed results (1-1, 4.91 ERA).  If he can return to his first half form, watch out.

-Mike Gallagher

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Comments

  1. quite insightful, i like the pavano mention, although @ the time of writing seemed unlikely… he definitely picked up the twins midseason… the strength of the team this & other successful years is in the roster depth @ all positions, & pitching depth is obviously key this year… duensing has picked it up recently

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