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Cy Young 2012: Breaking Down Contenders for AL Award

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Cy Young 2012: Breaking Down Contenders for AL Award
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Can Justin Verlander repeat as the AL Cy Young Award winner?

It's been a thrilling race in the American League to cap off the 2012 MLB season, but most of the top contenders for the 2012 Cy Young Award will not be seeing any more October action.

Three formidable contenders headline the bids for winning baseball's top pitching honor, including the reigning award winner. Here is a look at the dominant dealers from the American League that have a chance to take home the ultimate piece of regular-season pitching hardware.

 

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

The flame-throwing ace of Jim Leyland's staff has the best stuff in the game. What's most impressive is despite the physically demanding nature of his pitching, Verlander continues to pitch deep into games. He even shows the ability to still hover around 100 mph with his fastball in the eighth and ninth innings.

Verlander leads baseball with 238.1 innings pitched and 239 strikeouts, while ranking second in the AL with a 1.06 WHIP average.

Combine that with a 17-8 record and a stellar 2.64 ERA, and Verlander has a legitimate shot at repeating as the Cy Young Award winner this season, although he is unlikely to win the MVP award.

The 29-year-old is also the only one on this short list who will be pitching in the postseason, and other than Cincinnati Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto, Verlander got the least run support of all big-name pitchers in the game. Whether that fact has any effect on the outcome remains to be seen.

 

David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

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After a tough 2011 campaign, the former No. 1 overall pick bounced back with a monster season. Price compiled a 20-5 record with a WHIP of 1.10 and a league-best 2.54 ERA. He was the first 20-game winner in Rays franchise history.

As reported by Andrew Simon of MLB.com, Price narrowly lost out to Washington Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez on the Warren Spahn Award, which goes to baseball's top left-handed starting pitcher based on a combination of major statistics.

That may sting a little, but Price is arguably the front-runner to win the Cy Young for the first time in his career.

His fast-paced, hard-throwing style continued to keep hitters off balance, and any criticism of his command was largely laid to rest. This year was nearly a mirror image of Price's 2010 season, but he managed to improve his strikeout-walk ratio while still keeping hits down.

Price clearly took a big step, exceeding 200 strikeouts but proving he could still get putouts when the ball was in play. That is another sign that Price is growing into the dominant pitcher everyone has expected him to be.

 

Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Speaking of recording outs when the ball is in play, Weaver is the league's Exhibit A when it comes to that art.

That crazy delivery and unconventional arm angle has certainly worked wonders for Weaver, and he is unique to the other contenders in the sense that he doesn't overpower hitters with strikeouts. Rather he methodically attacks them with a massive arsenal of subtly different pitches.

The strongest case for Weaver's Cy Young campaign is that he matched Price by winning 20 games and led the MLB in WHIP (1.02). Most glaring on his resume, however, is that Weaver was spotted a whopping average of 5.8 runs of support per start.

Maybe the team rallied when its No. 1 guy took the hill, or maybe Weaver was just plain lucky and had some pressure taken off of him. Sorry, but with a 2.81 ERA and a .214 opponent batting average against him, there was nothing fraudulent about Weaver's season.

The most impressive part of Weaver's resume was highlighted back in early May, where he threw his first career no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins.

This race likely will be neck and neck between Price and Weaver, with Verlander having a case as the most valuable to his team among the trio.

With that, another exciting 2012 AL race will conclude off the field when the winner of this year's Cy Young is determined.

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