Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quite a Horse Race for AL Cy Young Award

How amazing is it that Tuesday night featured all three of the year's top contenders for the American League Cy Young Award pitching on the same night? They all won. All three were impressive. The three contenders are C.C. Sabathia, Jared Weaver and Justin Verlander. There could be a fourth as Dan Haren has had a terrific year too. But we'll stick with these three. Unlike last year when the top pick was barely winning any games, this year's trio seem to win all the time. The three pitchers are a combined 43-14! Let's take a quick look at how the race may play out.

C.C. Sabathia: Joe Girardi probably did Sabathia no favors by bringing the pitcher back after the second rain delay last night. Sabathia had nothing after two delays and walked three straight batters to start the eighth. David Robertson got out of the jam but it still cost Sabathia in the stat department. If Sabathia doesn't start that inning, his line looks like this: 7-1-0-0-0-14. Instead, it ended up, 7-1-1-1-3-14. Still impressive but ill advised on the part of Girardi. Even so, Sabathia still leads the other two in fWAR. He also leads the majors in wins. He has the highest ERA of the three at 2.56, but his FIP leads the other two. He also has the best home run per nine inning rate among the three, which is impressive considering where he throws his home games.

  • ZIPs projection for the rest of the season: 8-3 with a slightly higher ERA. That would make Sabathia 23-8 and tough to beat.

Justin Verlander: Verlander has the 100 MPH fastball and a no hitter this year. So it's hard to forget about those things. Plus, he is pitching in a dogfight of a division race and came up big last night against the White Sox. He gives up more homers than the other two, but consistently throws more innings and more pitches. Verlander has the flash the other two lack.

  • ZIPs projection for the rest of the season: 6-4 with a higher ERA. That would finish Verlander at 20-9 and that won't beat Sabathia. But again, Verlander could pitch in more big games and if he wins them, look out.

Jared Weaver: Weaver has the toughest task because the Angels are not prolific scorers. If he keeps his ERA under two like it is now at 1.79, that would be hard for voters to ignore. His K/BB ratio is fantastic but falls slightly behind his two competitors in that category. He'll get starts down the stretch against the Mariners and Athletics in his own division and that will certainly help him. If the Angels can keep this a race against the Rangers, that will help him too.

  • ZIPs projection for the rest of the season: 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA. That will leave Weaver at 19-8 and will hurt his chances. But that projection seems overly pessimistic to this observer. 

If you were to simply bet this horse race based on ZIPs projections, Sabathia would seem to have the inside track to win the award this year. But again, Jared Weaver and Justin Verlander have a chance to make a difference in their division races while Sabathia will simply keep the Yankees on course for the wild card (no way they catch Boston). If the Angels and Tigers stay relevant down the stretch and Weaver and Verlander have big parts to play in those races, either of them could upset the Sabathia-train and steal this award. It's going to be a great race to watch.

No comments: