|Handicapping the AL Cy Young Race|
Written by At Home Plate Staff (Contact & Archive) on August 10, 2011
This year the AL Cy Young race is a tough call.¬† While you can make cases for Dan Haren, Josh Beckett, James Shields and even Texas' Alexi Ogando, none of them realistically are even in the running at this point.¬† That's not to say things won't change, but Beckett and Shields don't have a shot at 20 wins and both Beckett and Ogando have pitched fewer innings than other contenders.
Dan Haren is the dark horse at the moment - his numbers are very much in line with CC Sabathia's.¬† But while Haren has yielded fewer walks and hits per inning, he's failed to keep up with CC's strikeouts, or win total, although the wins are clearly the fault of the underwhelming offence behind him.¬† He also unfortunately pitches in LA as opposed to New York, and shows up in fewer national games than Sabathia does.¬† Due to that, he'll be far less in the mind of sportswriters when it comes time for the postseason hardware voting.¬† Barring him going on a tremendous run and winning most of his remaining starts to bring him close to 20 wins, or a collapse by the three frontrunners, Haren won't be taking a Cy Young home this season.
In terms of hype, Sabathia is clearly the favorite due to the fact he's a co-leader in Wins at 16 and he's playing for the Yankees in the sports media capital of the world.¬† That's a double edged sword for Sabathia as all the Yankees hype, and the well televised rivalry with the Red Sox certainly highlights his skills.¬† He's clearly an elite pitcher on the big stage, and voters in the past certainly have been more apt to choose MVPs and Cy Youngs from playoff bound teams.¬† Of course a couple of big stumbles down the stretch while on that big stage could weaken his case quite a bit too and he just stumbled big time against the Red Sox this past weekend.¬† The fact the Yankees offense is so potent, could also hurt him when it comes to comparison with his competition as 20 wins by CC certainly wouldn't be thought as much of an achievement as 20 wins by any of his competitors.
But while Sabathia is great, his numbers just don't match up at this point with his two biggest competitors to this point.¬† Sabathia's line currently stands at 16-6, 2.81, with 168 K's, 46 walks, and 162 hits allowed in 182.2 innings.
Ahead of him statistically is Justin Verlander who's also managed to win 16 while losing 5, has more strikeouts, a better K:BB ratio (186:36), has allowed fewer hits 126, ahas pitched more innings (188) AND has an ERA more than half a run lower at 2.30. ¬† Verlander is certainly no slouch in Detroit, and many of the things said above about Sabathia and the media do apply - the baseball press in Detroit is pretty good, and the Tigers have a very good shot at winning their division, something that would highlight Verlander well when the national media compares him with Sabathia.
But at the moment the man who I'd consider the favorite has to be Jared Weaver, the least likely of the trio to win 20 plus games, but hardly though fault of his own, as the anemic Angels offense has cost him s number of wins.¬† Those included two gems where Weaver shut out the opposition over nine innings each time, but the Angels failed to score for him.¬† Even so, Weaver could easily finish with 17+ wins.
But it's not the Wins, or the strikeouts (150), that could make Weaver a Cy Young winner but the sub 2.00 ERA that he currently boasts (1.78) more than a full run better than that posted by Sabathia, and more than a half run better than Verlander.¬† Sub 2.00 ERA's are rare in either league and the last time an American League pitcher had one was back in 2000 when Pedro Martinez did the job.
Hs other numbers are better than Sabathia's in every respect save Strikeouts and wins.¬† He's 14-5, with a 1.78 ERA, 150 Ks, 39 BB, and has yielded 127 hits in 176.2 innings thus far, and it can be argued that his efforts more so than any of the other pitchers on this list has kept his team in the race - in fact the Angels are just a single game behind the Rangers in the AL West, meaning that Weaver could end up finishing on a playoff bound team too.While all of these pitchers still have the potential to blow it as we move into the final 8 weeks of the season, they also have a chance to excel and to keep on doing what they've done til this point.¬† If Weaver keeps his ERA under 2 and finishes with 18 plus wins it would be hard for him not to win the Cy Young, but a couple of bad innings could just as easily hand it to Verlander or Sabathia.¬† It's big game time for all these contenders - and while there is still time for a dark horse contender to come forward and steal the crown, that time is running out rapidly.¬† It should make the last 8 weeks something well worth watching no matter how the race ends up.