Cy Young race tight
With the baseball season ending, the Cy Young Award voting is set to begin, and the sentiment among the handicappers is that this year’s AL race is wide open. Who might take home the hardware?
Cy Young voters always place a premium on wins and ERA, so let’s start there. The AL wins leader is CC Sabathia with 21. Jon Lester and David Price are right behind him with 19 apiece heading into Thursday night’s action. Felix Hernandez is the ERA leader (2.27), followed by Clay Buchholz (2.33) and Price (2.73). Lester comes in fourth, here, with a 2.96 ERA — the AL’s only other sub-3.00 starter.
Among these five, if I were a betting woman, I’d put my money on Sabathia or Price. CC’s team is going to the postseason and he has the most name recognition. Price’s advantage is being in the top three starters in both wins and ERA (and pitching for a contender).
But there are legit dark-horse candidates, too. Felix Hernandez may be one of these, though his low win total (just 13) may hurt him with traditionalists. He does, however, have the most strikeouts of any AL starter (232), the most innings pitched and a nickname — King Felix — which all bespeak a certain swagger. And if there’s one thing the BBWAA can’t resist, it’s a certain swagger.
What about our boys Lester and Buchholz? Lester was my AL Cy Young prediction at the start of the season, and I do believe he’ll win it someday. He, too, has an impressive number of K’s (220, good for third in the league). But he’s hampered by several factors this year: First, there are some who still think, reflexively, of Josh Beckett as Boston’s “true ace.” Second, he’s not pitching for a postseason-bound team (as if I need to remind you). Third, he doesn’t lead the AL in any single category, which may put him under the radar. Fourth, he’s comparatively low (for a Cy guy) in innings pitched. And, finally, there’s Buchholz himself — together, the two of them may split the ballots of some Boston-minded voters. Does Buchholz himself have a chance? Not unless the voters are feeling swept off their feet by the breakout star. … Think of it as The Oksana Baiul Effect.
Advanced metrics would add a couple more names to the list, notably Francisco Liriano and Cliff Lee (and perhaps Jered Weaver), and help improve the case for Hernandez. But the Cy Young is not decided on the basis of FIP, WHIP or WAR. And nor, it’s worth remembering, does it always go to the best pitcher.
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com. Follow her on Twitter @skgreen.
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