Cy Young voting has always confused me and really, I don’t think closers deserve to win. That is to say, they should have their own award. It isn’t meant as a slight. It’s just that comparing starting pitchers to relievers just isn’t fair. They are three very different skills and aren’t interchangeable in the game so why overlap them with a reward? Both groups deserve recognition.But that is beside the point.
This season has been dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher” and rightly so. There are a number of great Cy Young options in both the American and National Leagues.
AL Cy Young of the Mid-Season
Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
When you lead the American League in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts, you’re probably doing a good job. Verlander has been phenomenal this year. Since taking a no-decision shellacking at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays on May 24, Verlander has seven starts and seven straight wins. But let’s not fail to mention his near perfect game (one walk allowed) on May 7. That no-hitter easily makes him the AL Cy Young winner of the mid-season. He’s on pace to throw around 275 strikeouts this year (130 in 135.2 IP) while only walking 29 batters thus far. That makes for career-bests of 1.92 BB/9 and 4.48 K/BB. Most impressive to me is his major league-leading 0.86 WHIP, that’s just incredible for a guy who has pitched so many innings. Verlander is a big reason why the Detroit Tigers recently overtook the Cleveland Indians for the AL Central lead.
Honorable mention: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
Weaver takes the slight edge over CC Sabathia due to a lower ERA, more shutouts and a better strikeout rate. James Shields, Jon Lester, and C.J. Wilson are also having fine years. Mariano Rivera is the only AL closer worth a shoutout. But in any case, Weaver was pitching like a man possessed for the first month of the season. The hype built up rapidly as he won each of his first six starts. Since then he’s been hot and cold but the overall numbers are still strong: 1.97 ERA, 0.36 home runs allowed per nine innings, 2.04 walks per nine innings and a very solid 106 Ks in 123.1 innings pitched. The combination of Weaver and teammate Dan Haren has been one of the best starting pitching duos in the American League.
NL Cy Young of the Mid-Season
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Was there any doubt? Well teammate Cliff Lee is coming on strong but what separates these two teammates is that Halladay hasn’t had any awful starts. He’s had one, maybe two bad appearances but nothing awful. Just about every elite pitcher has one really bad game or two, but Halladay has been a quality starts machine. But let’s get to the hard numbers: 10-3 record, a career-best 8.69 strikeout rate, 1.13 walks per nine, 0.49 homers per nine, 2.40 ERA, 2.14 FIP and to make matters even more impressive, he’s sporting a .303 BABIP. Compare that to Verlander’s (admittedly lucky) .222 BABIP. Halladay is the best pitcher in the best starting rotation on the best team in baseball, simple as that.
Honorable mention: Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
The media has been riding Lee’s jock as of late, but really, the guy deserves most of that attention. So far in June, he’s had three complete game shutouts, five wins, 42 innings pitched, only one earned run allowed, 29 Ks, 21 hits and 8 walks allowed. That’s a 0.21 ERA! Whaaaaaaaaat? His strikeout totals are trending down from the first two months of the season, but it obviously hasn’t hurt his game at all. Lee is on another level right now and it’d be foolish to put anyone, except Halladay, ahead of him.