|Is one of these hurlers your new AL Cy Young frontrunner? (Getty Images)|
What's changed since last we checked in on the AL Cy Young candidates? Quite a bit, actually. But before we see how each serious candidate is trending, please remember that these aren't statements of who deserves the hardware; rather, we're making judgments based on what voters tend to look for in a candidate ...
Felix Hernandez, Mariners: Since last we checked in, King Felix has spun a perfect game and winnowed his ERA down to 2.43. Besides pacing the majors in ERA, he also leads the big in innings and ranks third in the AL in strikeouts and fifth in K/BB ratio. Voters also might be drawn to his 13-5 record, which he's crafted despite pitching for a last-place team. Also in Hernandez's favor? An obscenely low 1.23 ERA in the second half.
Justin Verlander, Tigers: The reigning champion isn't going anywhere. Verlander's numbers across the board are quite similar to Hernandez's, if just a tick or two off the pace. He ranks second in the AL in ERA, innings and strikeouts, and he checks in at fourth in K/BB ratio. Will voters hold his thus far modest win total against him? Will the bar be raised for him as the 2011 winner? That remains to be seen, but right now there's little in the numbers to distinguish him from King Felix.
David Price, Rays: At first glance, Price's resume isn't as impressive as that of Hernandez or Verlander, but keep in mind that Price has faced much tougher offenses than they have. Price's majors-leading win total will surely help him with voters, as will his 2.53 ERA.
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Matt Harrison, Rangers: Harrison's case depends heavily upon the fact that he pitches his home games in offense-boosting Arlington and that he's emerged as the ace of what may wind up being the best team in baseball. Also among his merits is that he ranks fourth in the AL in ERA+.
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees: The free-agent bargain of 2012 continues to impress. Despite having pitched the healthy majority of his innings in hitter-friendly Yankee, Kuroda has driven his ERA below 3.00. He's also been a stabilizer in a rotation that's been waylaid by injury.
Chris Sale, White Sox: For a while there, we thought young Sale and his high-stress delivery might be hitting a wall, but he tapped into his reserves in August. For the month, he drastically increased his strikeout rate and strikeout percentage without sacrificing any control. He won't have the innings to compare to Hernandez and Verlander, but the win total and ERA should earn him some traction.
Jake Peavy, White Sox: Peavy continues to show the durability that's eluded him for years, but he's overshadowed on his own staff by Sale. He'll get some down-ballot support, though.
Jered Weaver, Angels: Weaver has certainly taken a tumble since the last time we checked in. His 16-3 record will garner him some support among those who still pay attention to a deeply flawed measure like pitcher win-loss record, but Weaver's August decline (4.85 ERA for the month) has likely cost him. Like Sale, Weaver's not going to have the innings load to compare to the frontrunners, but a strong September could put him back among their ranks.