Yesterday afternoon, Dan Szymborski of ESPN wrote a piece (for site insiders only) which noted the status of Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers as an early favorite for the Cy Young award in the American League. The sabermetric writer cited the results of the Cy Young Predictor, a tool developed by Bill James and Rob Neyer, two leading minds in baseball analysis, and presented in their book, “The Neyer/James Guide To Pitchers,” whose method has successfully predicted seven of the past 11 winners of the honor in the AL.
Cy Young Predictor, which can be found on ESPN.com, currently shows Scherzer as the league’s frontrunner with 110.6 points, trailed by Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox, who has 104.6. Buchholz hasn’t started since June 8h due to neck stiffness and is looking at a minor league rehabilitation start before he can resume racking up points.
Scherzer, meanwhile, has developed into a bona fide ace, winning his first 11 decisions and becoming the first Detroit pitcher to do so since George Mullin in 1909. He has benefited from extremely strong run support, but you don’t go until almost July undefeated by sheer luck. Scherzer has struck out 10.63 batters per nine innings, third in the league being Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers and Tiger teammate Anibal Sanchez. His average Game Score (another Bill James statistic) sits at 64.1, behind only Buchholz. At 0.91, his WHIP is the second-lowest in the league behind that of Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners.
He has struggled, relatively speaking, in the ERA department, his 3.05 mark ranking as only the 12th-best in the league. But that number has come down as of late, and his Component ERA, which attempts to forecast ERA based on hits and walks, is second-best.
Provided the Tigers remain atop their division and Scherzer doesn’t fall apart, it’s hard to see anyone overtaking him in the race. The closest competitor, Buchholz, will have fallen four or five starts behind upon his return, and may find it difficult to close the gap.
Apparently, all this adds up to Scherzer having a 19 percent chance of winning the Cy Young as things stand today. Justin Verlander, meanwhile, has a 10 percent shot.
Szymborski also noted that Scherzer will become a free agent after the 2014 season, and the hardware he might earn might tax Mike Illitch’s checkbook. We’ll soon see if the Tigers can afford to keep two of the league’s best pitchers on their staff. But for now, we can enjoy watching one of the best groups of arms this town has ever seen assembled.