AL Cy Young Award Rankings: Yankees Ace CC Sabathia Finally Cracks Top 5

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterJune 12, 2012

AL Cy Young Award Rankings: Yankees Ace CC Sabathia Finally Cracks Top 5

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    The New York Yankees have some pretty bad contracts on their hands these days. Alex Rodriguez isn't coming close to earning his $30 million salary, Mark Teixeira isn't worth his $23 million fee and even Derek Jeter is overpaid at close to $16 million.

    Thank goodness for CC Sabathia. The Yankees are paying him over $24 million this season, but Sabathia is somehow managing to give them their money's worth.

    That's been the case ever since Sabathia first suited up in pinstripes in 2009. He's been everything the Yankees could have asked for, and he's shown no signs of slowing down despite the fact he has over a decade of big league experience under his belt and nearly 2,500 innings on his arm.

    Though he's had to battle more than he's used to, Sabathia is once again having a fine season for the Yankees. He's pitched well recently, to boot, and he now finds himself high in the running for the American League Cy Young award.

    Here are this week's rankings.

    Note: Feel free to check out last week's rankings.

Honorable Mentions

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    Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers

    He's very quietly won eight games, putting him on pace to win over 20 games. With the Rangers' loaded offense at his back, that's a realistic goal.

     

    Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

    He's only 25, and he's already one of the craftiest pitchers in the American League.

     

    Brandon Morrow, Toronto Blue Jays

    He's the only pitcher in baseball with three complete-game shutouts. It's too bad he's got a bad oblique at the moment.

     

    Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

    This is the first time he's been outside my top five all season. If this was a top 10 list, he'd be No. 6 for sure.

     

    Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

    If Weaver wasn't injured, he'd be in my top five. It won't be long before he's back.

5. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

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    Last Week: Unranked (honorable mention)

    At first glance, it's hard to notice how good CC Sabathia has been this season. His 3.69 ERA is good, but not great. The same goes for his 1.23 WHIP and his .246 opponents' batting average.

    However, the mark of a true ace is an ability to go deep into games while keeping crooked numbers off the board, and that's something Sabathia has done as well as anybody this season.

    Sabathia has made 12 starts this season, and he's lasted at least seven innings in nine of them. Keep in mind that he lasted only six innings in each of his first two starts, which means that he's gone at least seven innings in nine of his last 10 starts.

    The Yankees have won all but three of those.

    Like I noted in the intro, it hasn't been easy for Sabathia. He's put a lot of runners on base, and he's not stranding them at as high a rate as he usually does. Per FanGraphs, his LOB (left-on-base) percentage is a mere 73.4 percent.

    Nonetheless, Sabathia has done a fine job of limiting the damage. The strikeout pitch has helped, as Sabathia is one of just seven AL hurlers with a K/9 over 9.00.

    Basically, he's just doing his thing this season. It's admittedly kinda hard not to take it for granted.

4. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

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    Last Week: No. 5

    You can count me among the people who thought the Angels overpaid for C.J. Wilson just a little bit this offseason, but he's given them very good returns on their investment.

    Through 13 starts, Wilson has a record of 7-4 and an ERA of 2.39 that ranks second in the American League behind Chris Sale. His 1.09 WHIP ranks seventh in the AL.

    The one problem with Wilson is that he's walking a few too many guys this season, as his 3.76 BB/9 is higher than he and the Angels would prefer. It doesn't matter, however, because Wilson is limiting opponents to a .190 batting average. That's second in the AL behind (you guessed it) Sale.

    Wilson has gotten better as the season has moved along. The last time he allowed more than one earned run in a start was on May 12, when he allowed two earnies. Most recently, he fired eight shutout innings against the Rockies at Coors Field with nine strikeouts.

    It looks like the Angels knew what they were doing after all. 

    I would apologize for doubting them, but it's not like the Angels have a track record of making smart investments.

3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Last Week: No. 3

    It would be a pretty big stretch to say that David Price has been dominant this season, as he's had to deal with the same problem as Sabathia. He's put a lot of runners on base, as evidenced by his 1.22 WHIP.

    Nonetheless, Price has a 2.40 ERA that ranks third in the AL just behind Wilson's 2.39 ERA.

    As I've noted on a couple different occasions in the past couple weeks, Price's ERA is so low because of his uncanny ability to make runners stay where they are when he puts them on base. His LOB percentage is 83.5, second only to teammate Jeremy Hellickson in the American League.

    There are times when Price has to battle a little too hard, as was the case in his most recent start against the New York Yankees. He lasted only five innings, a short outing that was thanks largely to a very taxing fifth inning.

    However, that broke up a string of six straight starts in which Price had pitched at least seven innings. For a better part of the last six weeks, he's been an innings-eating machine.

    His 8-3 record looks good, but it really doesn't do him justice.

2. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Last Week: No. 1

    This is the first time Justin Verlander hasn't been No. 1 on this list in some time. He still has a strong case to be No. 1, but he just hasn't been pitching very well recently.

    In his last three starts against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds, Verlander has pitched just 18.1 innings, giving up 12 runs (10 earned), 25 hits and eight walks in the process. In the process, his ERA has risen from 2.15 to 2.69.

    Verlander hasn't been bad, mind you. He just hasn't been as great as he usually is. What we're seeing is him struggling. A strange sight, to be sure.

    The bright side is that Verlander's numbers for the season are still very impressive. His 2.69 ERA is nothing to laugh at, and he also boasts an even 1.00 WHIP. He leads the AL in both strikeouts and innings pitched.

    Once Verlander pulls out of his recent funk—and he will—he'll be back at No. 1 in no time.

    Then again, the new No. 1 in these rankings may have something to say about that.

1. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

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    Last Week: No. 2

    The most dominant pitcher in the American League right now is Chris Sale, and it's not close. His last four starts have been tremendous.

    In those four starts, Sale has pitched 31.1 innings and given up just three earned runs on 14 hits and six walks. He's struck out 36, including 15 in one game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Thanks in large part to this recent hot stretch, Sale's numbers for the season are pretty ridiculous. He has an 8-2 record, and he leads the league with a 2.05 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. His .188 opponents' batting average is tops in the league, and opponents are slugging just .280 off him.

    Because this is Sale's first full season as a starter, conventional wisdom suggests he won't be able to keep this up all year. Besides, he's not exactly the most strongly-built pitcher under the sun, and the White Sox have already raised concerns about his precious left elbow once this season.

    My gut tells me that Sale won't last as the man to beat in the AL Cy Young race. In fact, he probably won't even be top-five material come August and September.

    ...But I'll be damned if I haven't been enjoying his work recently.

Last Week's Rankings

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    5. C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

    Movin' on up.

     

    4. Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox

    His candidacy is still strong, but it's nowhere near as strong as it used to be.

     

    3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

    Steady as she goes.

     

    2. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

    Stud.

     

    1. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

    Also a stud, just not as studly a stud as we're used to.

     

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