AL Cy Young Watch: Felix Hernandez, then everyone else
With a little more than six weeks left in the season, Felix Hernandez is the prohibitive favorite for the AL Cy Young award.
The end of the 2014 regular season is less than seven weeks away. Between now and then, we will check in on the major awards races every so often to see who is in the lead and who is the primary competition. Today we'll look at the AL Cy Young award.
As a reminder, this is just a snapshot of the Cy Young race and things can certainly change in the weeks ahead. Also, this is not how we would vote for the award, but instead a prediction of what will happen based on voter tendencies.
[Players listed alphabetically within categories]
Felix Hernandez , Seattle Mariners
Hernandez has separated himself from the pack over the past few weeks by going at least seven innings with no more than two runs allowed in each of his past 16 starts, the longest such streak in history by three starts (and counting!). He leads the league in wins (13), ERA (1.95), FIP (2.07), WHIP (0.86), H/9 (6.1) and WAR (6.0) while ranking second in strikeouts (194). Felix is on pace to be the first AL pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA since 2000 Pedro Martinez and only the third in the past 25 seasons. The Cy Young is Hernandez's to lose at this point.
|In the mix|
Corey Kluber , Cleveland Indians
In his first full season as a member of Cleveland's rotation, Kluber is 13-6 with a 2.46 ERA and a stellar 187/36 K/BB in 171 2/3 innings. He is third in the league with a 5.2 WAR and 187 strikeouts, and over his past 11 starts, he has a 1.46 ERA with 83 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 80 1/3 innings. Kluber does not have the name value or long track record like some of the other candidates, but he has been outstanding this year and deserves serious Cy Young consideration.
Jon Lester , Boston Red Sox / Oakland Athletics
Lester is actually in the middle of his best season. He is one of many tied for the league lead with 13 wins, though he also boasts career bests in ERA (2.51), FIP (2.54), WHIP (1.11) and K/BB (4.57). Lester ranks 10th in the league with a 3.2 WAR, and with more and more voters taking sabermetrics into consideration, that may hurt his case. Rick Sutcliffe is the only player to win the Cy Young after being traded at midseason.
David Price , Tampa Bay Rays / Detroit Tigers
It's fitting that Price was traded to the Tigers at the deadline, a team known for power workhorse starters. The southpaw leads the league in innings (185 1/3), batters faced (749) and strikeouts (205) while ranking third in K/BB (7.88). Price's candidacy will be hurt by a good but not great 11-8 record and 3.21 ERA. He also lags in WAR (3.0) behind the other candidates. Still, his season will get him plenty of Cy Young votes.
Garrett Richards , Los Angeles Angels
I still can't believe Richards was not an All-Star this summer. He is currently 12-4 with a 2.54 ERA, placing sixth in the league with 4.1 WAR, fifth with a 1.02 WHIP and seventh with 157 strikeouts. Richards has thrown 159 2/3 innings this year, seventh most in the league but also a career high. The Angels are only 3½ games back in the AL West (they have a comfortable lead on a wild-card spot), so shutting Richards down a la Stephen Strasburg is presumably off the table, especially with Tyler Skaggs blowing out his elbow and C.J. Wilson struggling. His candidacy will take a hit if the team starts scaling back on his workload, though he has been fantastic.
Max Scherzer , Tigers
Sort of a quietly great year for the reigning AL Cy Young winner. Scherzer has those 13 wins and he is fourth in the league with 5.0 WAR, plus his strikeout (10.2 K/9) and walk (2.5 BB/9) rates are essentially identical to last year (10.1 and 2.4). His 3.13 ERA and 1.16 WHIP do lag a bit compared to last season, though Scherzer isn't competing against the 2013 version of himself. He's competing against the crop of AL pitchers in 2014. The last pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Youngs in the AL was Pedro Martinez in 1999-2000.
|On the periphery|
Yu Darvish , Texas Rangers
Darvish is having arguably his finest season yet in MLB, though his record (10-7) doesn't reflect it because his team is terrible. A neck problem forced him to miss a few starts earlier in the year, putting him about 30 innings behind the other candidates. But a 3.06 ERA with a league-leading 11.3 K/9 and 3.6 WAR? That's worthy of Cy Young votes.
Chris Sale , Chicago White Sox
I'm starting to think Sale will be a modern day Mike Mussina. Consistently excellent and underappreciated. Even though an elbow injury shelved him for several weeks early in the season, Sale is still second to Hernandez with 5.3 WAR. He is 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA and a 150/24 K/BB ratio in 130 innings. Wowza.
Masahiro Tanaka , New York Yankees
Tanaka's elbow injury effectively ended his Cy Young chances, though had he stayed healthy and kept up his pace, he would have had the best chance to challenge Felix. Tanaka went 12-4 with a 2.51 ERA and 135/19 K/BB in 129 1/3 innings before getting hurt. He still ranks eighth in the league with 3.6 WAR.
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