The first month of the 2012 Major League Baseball season is over, so let us all sit back and entertain various "If the season ended today..." scenarios.
For example, who would win the American League Cy Young if the season ended today?
Good question. Jake Peavy is an outstanding candidate, and at this point we have to recognize Yu Darvish as a legit Cy Young contender. Very quietly, Felix Hernandez has looked a lot like the pitcher who won the AL Cy Young back in 2010.
Okay, we've established that there are several candidates for the award. Now all we have to do is rank them.
And away we go...
Wait a second, am I really sitting here making a case for Bartolo Colon as a top AL Cy Young contender?
I sure am, and for good reason. He may be an old-timer and a weird-medicine miracle, but Colon deserves props for what he's done this season.
Colon has a record of 3-2 in six starts, and he has a 2.53 ERA with a 0.94 WHIP. He enters Tuesday ranked third in the AL in WHIP, and second in innings pitched with 42.2.
Colon has been outstanding in all but one of his starts: a 4.1-inning stinker against the Seattle Mariners in which he gave up seven earned runs. He's pitched at least seven innings in his other five starts, and in those starts he has an ERA of 1.18.
Outstanding control has a lot to do with Colon's hot start. He's only walked six batters so far, and 70 percent of his pitches have been strikes, according to Baseball-Reference.com. It helps that he threw 38 straight strikes in one start.
Through six starts, Colon's WAR is an even 1.0. Appropriately, that ranks fifth among AL hurlers.
So far, Yu Darvish's first season in the majors has been a tremendous success. He's 4-0 in five starts, sporting a 2.18 ERA and an even 9.00 K/9.
Darvish, of course, has gotten better with each start he's made. His last two starts have been particularly brilliant, as he shut out the New York Yankees over 8.1 innings and then gave up just one run in seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.
In his last two starts, Darvish has 19 strikeouts. He's made quite a few really good hitters look silly.
The only time Darvish has looked truly lost this year was way back in the first inning of his first start against the Seattle Mariners. He gave up four runs in that inning on four hits and three walks.
Since then, Darvish has a 1.13 ERA in 32 innings of work.
Darvish ranks just behind Colon with a 0.9 WAR, but I'm giving him the edge simply because he's been the more impressive pitcher since that one bad inning.
Justin Verlander ended up running away with the AL Cy Young award last year, but Jered Weaver was matching him step for step for much of the season. He carried an ERA under 2.00 into August.
This year, Weaver has picked up right where he left off. He has a 3-0 record in five starts, ranking fifth in the AL with a 2.02 ERA and third in strikeouts with 36.
Weaver has a minuscule 1.51 BB/9, but that number is actually misleading. He walked four batters in his most recent start, but before that he had only walked two hitters in his four previous starts. For the most part, his control has been tremendous.
In addition to not dishing out too many free passes, Weaver's not giving up many hits. Opponents are hitting just .217 off him, with a tiny .310 slugging percentage.
Weaver is tied for second in the American League with a 1.3 WAR. He's neck and neck with the next guy on this list.
Felix Hernandez is doing his Felix Hernandez thing again.
In six starts, Hernandez has pitched an AL-high 44.1 innings and has racked up an AL-best 42 strikeouts. He has a 2.23 ERA, and hitters are hitting just .211 off him.
Hernandez is another guy whose numbers have been skewed by one bad start. Against the Oakland A's on April 7, he gave up six earned runs in 6.1 innings of work. That's also the only start in which he's lasted fewer than seven innings.
Take that start away, and Hernandez has a 1.18 ERA.
King Felix has been a stud—plain and simple. He suffered from some bad luck last year, but this year the baseball gods seem to be on his side again.
There's only one guy in the AL who has a better claim to the Cy Young than Hernandez.
Jake Peavy is healthy for the first time in a long time, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised at how good he's been. Back in the day, Peavy was one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.
So far this year, Peavy has a 3-1 record in five starts. His 1.67 ERA ranks second in the AL, and he ranks first in the AL with a 0.69 WHIP.
In the one game Peavy lost, he went the distance against a very good Boston Red Sox offense, giving up just four hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Peavy isn't striking out hitters at the same rate he used to, but that's not such a bad thing. He's been remarkably efficient this season, throwing just 13.8 pitches per inning. Only Mr. Colon has him beat in that category.
He's been around the strike zone a lot, but hitters are hitting just .162 off him and he's walked just five in his 37.2 innings.
Peavy's 1.5 WAR is tops among AL hurlers.
So, if the season ended today, Peavy would win the Cy Young. He'd become the sixth pitcher ever to win it in both leagues.