Crowded AL Cy Young Race Could Be Won By Anyone

patrick bohnCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 14: American League All-Star Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)

With only six weeks to go in the baseball season, the American League Cy Young race is a picture so muddled, I don't even know where to begin.

ESPN's Cy Predictor, which assigns point values to statistics to predict the winner, has six pitchers within 10 points of each other. The interesting thing about the mathematical formula is that it uses past results to determine value.

This is important to remember, because for example while a lot of analysts now see wins and losses as overrated, a lot of voters disagree.

In a sense, the predictor's saying: "This is who we think the voters will like," not "This is who we think the best pitcher is."

But remember, I definitely hate your team. It doesn't matter what team you root for. I hate them and that's why the articles not titled: "Why [insert your team's guy here] is the Cy Young Winner."

Josh Beckett comes in first at 127.3 points. Beckett's sporting a 14-4 record, best in the AL right now. On the other hand, his ERA (3.38) ranks eighth in the league, and is the worst among other highly ranked contenders, as is his strikeout and innings total.

The Red Sox are in the playoff hunt, and the predictor does assign a "victory bonus" to pitchers on contending teams.

Roy Halladay checks in at second, with 126.1 points. His ERA (2.78) tops Beckett's, but only comes in third in the AL. He's fifth in strikeouts with 151. Halladay's biggest issue may be his record. He's gone 3-5 in his last 11 starts (After starting 10-1), which probably won't impress the voters, because again, the voters love win-loss records.

Felix Hernandez currently takes home the bronze with 122.1 points. His strikeout total ranks third among major contenders and his ERA of 2.66 comes in second. He's 12-4, which puts him right in line with other starters, and he's pitched well recently, although like Halladay, he's not on a contender.

Justin Verlander is in 4th with 119 points. He's 13-7, but leads the league with 204 strikeouts. His ERA of 3.29 falls well behind that of the other contenders (except for Beckett).

Verlander tends to alternate dominant starts (seven starts allowing zero runs) with struggles (six starts allowing five runs or more) but many of those bad starts came in April. Since May, his ERA is 2.63. He's pitching for Detroit, which has a narrow AL central lead, but no hope of the playoffs without the division title.

Zack Greinke is in fifth with 117.9 points, but is fading fast. He's won only three times since May and his 11-8 record pales in comparison to the other contenders.

While he's second in strikeouts and first in ERA, his ERA is 3.66 over his last 15 starts, and soon could climb above other contenders if he keeps struggling. Playing for the Royals sure isn't helping.

Mariano Rivera checks in at sixth with 117.2 points. I can't really compare him to the other starters, but I can say this:  I do not hate the Minnesota Twins. I am not a biased New Yorker, and this is not my formula.

Yes, Joe Nathan has a better ERA and more strikeouts, but Rivera's five additional saves and "victory bonus" are the difference right now. (Nathan is currently in 9th and is behind David Aardsma of Seattle)

The dropoff to 7th is a rather steep 10 points, so we'll stop there. In summation, I've got no clue how this thing will play out. There is simply no clear cut favorite.

Note: I did not include WHIP, Complete Games, or other numbers in my analysis because ESPN's Cy Predictor makes no mention of them. You may love Sabremetric stats, but a lot of voters don't use them.

As I stated, this is more a column of who WILL win based on historical voting, not who SHOULD win.

I think Beckett's reputation as a big-game pitcher will help him in the voting, and he'd probably be my pick to win it, but I'll also say this: If a closer won it, I would not be surprised. This season is a perfect example of how closers can take this award home.

Dennis Eckersley should know. As great a closer as he was, he didn't win it in a year in which his ERA was 0.61, but instead 1.91. Why? Because the year it was 0.61, Bob Welch went 27-6. The year he won it, Jack McDowell went 20-11.

If nobody wins 20 games this year, I think you're going to see Rivera and Nathan move up the list higher than you might expect.

Once you start spreading out votes, it's not even a matter of how many first place votes you get. It's the second, third, and fourth place votes that can make the difference.