Thursday, September 10, 2009

Justin Verlander: strange season, but good chance at Cy Young Award

Justin Verlander's Cy Young hopes took a but of a hit last night when he got the loss to the Royals, even though he pitched well (6 IP, 1 ER, 8 SO, 3 BB). He probably has 4 more starts, so he could end up with 18 wins and 250 SO. If things break right for him, he still has a pretty good shot at the AL Cy Young Award. His ERA (3.24) is hurting him a bit, and a lot of that has to do with his 6.75 ERA in April (1st start was 3.2 IP, 8 ER).

2009: 16-8, 3.24 ERA, 230 SO

It's unusual for a pitcher to have a high number of wins and strikeouts, with a high winning percentage and have an ERA over 3.00. Here are the pitchers, since 1900, who have had:

17+ Wins, 3.00+ ERA, 240+ SO, .650+ W-L%
1941 Bob Feller (Indians) 25-13, 3.15, 260
1967 Jim Lonborg (Red Sox) 22-9, 3.16, 246 (Cy Young)
1970 Bob Gibson (Cardinals) 23-7, 3.12, 274 (Cy Young)
1982 Steve Carlton (Phillies) 23-11, 3.10, 286 (Cy Young)
1986 Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers) 21-11, 3.14, 242
1993 Randy Johnson (Mariners) 19-8, 3.24, 308
2002 Curt Schilling (D-Backs) 23-7, 3.23, 316
2004 Jason Schmidt (Giants) 18-7, 3.20, 251
2009 Justin Verlander (Tigers)? 16-8, 3.24, 230

Verlander is having an unusual season, as there are only two other pitchers on the list who won less than 20 games, which Verlander likely to miss as well: Randy Johnson in 1993 and Jason Schmidt in 2004. There will likely not be any AL pitchers with 20 wins, which gives Verlander a chance to win the Cy Young is his ERA keeps coming down closer to 3.00, he gets to 18wins and finishes with 250 strikeouts.

It's going to be close: ESPN's Cy Predictor (created by Bill James and Rob Neyer) has Verlander in front, barely, over C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Zack Greinke and Mariano Rivera. It's up for grabs, and the final vote will likely be close, but with his high strikeout total, tied for lead in wins and lower ERA than Sabthia, he is in a prime position to win it.

How many AL Cy Young Award winners (non strike-shortened seasons) have been starters with less than 20 wins and higher than a 3.00 ERA? Just two: C.C. Sabathia (Indians) in 2007 (19-7, 3.21) and Pete Vuckovich (Brewers) in 1982 (18-6, 3.34).

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