Miguel Cabrera’s recent triple crown run, and successful completion of that task captured the eyes of the nation. It is rare that Detroit becomes the focus of the baseball world like that, but in this case, it was well deserved. It also didn’t hurt that Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels had himself a historical rookie season, provoking the conversation of the baseball world to revolve around who should be MVP. That talk has quieted down quite a bit since the end of the season and Cabrera’s accomplishment.
The baseball playoffs always have something to do with post-season awards talk quieting as well. After all, there are some dramatic games going on, and always some controversial umpire’s calls to talk about. Lost in all of the triple crown, MVP, and playoffs madness has been the discussion of who should be the Cy Young award winner for the American League. And this race is just as contentious as the MVP.
As I see it, there are essentially three players vying for the A.L. Cy Young award; David Price, Justin Verlander, and ex-Tigers closer Fernando Rodney. Where is Jared Weaver you may ask? Eliminated from my discussion. Weaver of course is going to get some votes, and he should, simply because he was tied with David Price for the league lead in wins. The problem with Weaver is that he didn’t take the ball every fifth day this season like Verlander, Price, and Felix Hernandez. You could certainly mention Chris Sale in this conversation as well, but a fade late in the season takes him out of the conversation.
Here is a look at the contenders:
Verlander is the advanced metrics king. According to Fangraphs, he led all A.L. pitchers in WAR. But careful Tigers fans, if you use this as a reason for his winning the award, don’t you have to do that for Trout and the MVP? So I won’t use WAR. Verlander led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts again this season. Nobody is a bigger anchor for their team, and the Tigers cashed in by getting into the playoffs. That is of course only going to help Verlander’s case. On top of the innings and strikeouts, Verlander finished second in ERA to Price.
Verlander doesn’t have the wins in 2012 that several other pitchers posted. In fact, not only was he behind David Price and Jared Weaver, who had 20, Verlander finished behind Matt Harrison who had 18. Seventeen wins for a starting pitcher is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and we at MCB realize that wins are just a function of the rest of the team during a pitcher’s starts. However, if history shows us anything, the voters for these awards typically like wins, sans Felix Hernandez’ dominant statistical season of a few years ago.
Leading the league in wins is clearly a positive for the Rays ace. Not only did Price lead the league in wins, but he also led the the league in ERA as well. That’s two heads of the pitching triple crown, and it’s not like Price doesn’t strike out any batters either. He finished with 205. Another positive I saw with Price is consistency. His month-to-month production was amazing, only going over a 3.00 ERA once in June, and that was at 3.29. Other than that, his ERA was consistently below 2.75.
None really to speak of this season. He has the wins, the ERA, and was really consistent. I guess the only negative of Price is that his team didn’t make it into the playoffs, and sometimes that can have an affect on these things. Price was excellent in September though, going 4-0 for the Rays.
Rodney literally had one of the best seasons ever for a closer. Not in terms of the sheer number of saves, but everything included adds up to a phenomenal season. First of all, he saved 48 of 50 games. While that number was second to the Orioles’ Jim Johnson, Rodney was more dominant in terms of strikeout rate and K/BB ratio. Rodney struck out slightly more than a batter per inning, but it was his K/BB ratio of a little more than 5.00 that showed his true dominance. Oh, and his ERA of 0.60 is so miniscule, even Yankee great Mariano Rivera has never approached that number. Rodney’s WHIP of 0.777 and BA against of .167 with an OPS against of .417 further tell the dominance story. His ERA+ number? 634! One hundred is average for that number.
Perception and reputation. Rodney doesn’t have the best reputation, and because of that it’s going to be difficult to win the award. Like Price, not making the playoffs doesn’t help either. I will say this. If this season was put in by Mariano Rivera, and I checked (he’s never had ERA numbers this dominant, and bested that WHIP only once), I think Rodney would win. Oddly enough, Rivera’s best season in 2008 resulted in a fifth place finish in the Cy Young voting. Relievers have a tough mountain to climb to win the award.
Who I think will win:
David Price. I think Price wins, not because he obviously had the best season, but because of the consistency. Verlander was consistent as well, but August was tough for Verlander, as he posted an ERA of 3.53 that month. Those couple of bad starts could cost him the award. Verlander’s September was great, and that will help his cause, but him winning the award last year, as well as the MVP isn’t going to help. It’s difficult to repeat, if for no other reason than the writers wanting to give it to someone different.
Who should win:
With all due respect to Justin Verlander, who I believe is the best pitcher in baseball, I might be in the minority and will say Fernando Rodney should win this award. I tend to believe the Cy Young award should go to a starter, but this season is different. No starter in particular has stood above the others. With Verlander, Price, Hernandez, Weaver, and Chris Sale all posting great numbers, it’s become a muddled mess of excellence. Rodney’s excellence this season stood out. Yes, Jim Johnson had a phenomenal year, but he is missing the dominance aspect that Rodney had.