Max Scherzer wasn't dominant on Friday night, but 12 runs of support from the Detroit Tigers was more than enough to secure his MLB-leading 20th win of the season as Detroit topped the Chicago White Sox 12-3. The right-hander failed in his four previous attempts at the milestone.
Although individual win-loss records won't seriously impact AL Cy Young Award voting, Scherzer's latest quality start—6.0 IP, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K—certainly bolsters his case.
The list of legitimate candidates for the award in the Amercan League is rather short in 2013.
Clay Buchholz and David Price—and to lesser extents, Bartolo Colon, Felix Hernandez, Anibal Sanchez and Jered Weaver—have had their seasons affected by injury. Their performances when healthy have been excellent, yet not quite enough to compensate for reduced workloads, or in the case of Hernandez, stats that have been hurt due to an injury down the stretch.
Genuine workhorses like Hiroki Kuroda and James Shields couldn't duplicate their exceptional first halves. Hisashi Iwakuma's case suffers from a lack of strikeouts and complete-game efforts.
That leaves us with a three-man race between Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers, Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox and Scherzer.
Here's how their season stats compare:
These numbers don't establish a clear front-runner, and neither do sabermetrics. FanGraphs values Scherzer at a significantly higher WAR than either Darvish or Sale, but Baseball-Reference.com's version of the stat likes Chicago's southpaw much better than the others.
Some of the sportswriters who will be voting on the award won't like the fact that Darvish spent a brief stint on the disabled list. On the other hand, those same dissenters may be wooed by his otherworldly ability to generate swings-and-misses.
Team success can affect voting patterns. In such cases, pitchers in competitive situations get more support.
The Tigers sit comfortably atop the AL Central, a few victories away from clinching a playoff berth, while the White Sox rot in the division's cellar and the Rangers gradually collapse. Advantage Scherzer.
Even so, all indications are that this debate will go down to the wire. Scherzer has one remaining start against the Minnesota Twins, and only an extraordinary effort can make him a lock for major award recognition.