Gauging the 2011 AL Cy Young: Is Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver the Top Dog?
With about six weeks to go in the season, the AL Cy Young race is down to less than a handful of legitimate candidates.
Some guys are having seasons that may have garnered them an All-Star nod earlier this year, but they've already fallen out of the race for one reason or another.
Those players include:
Josh Beckett: The ERA is a ridiculous 2.17, and the WHIP is a sparkling .94, but Beckett's record is at 9-4. Sure Felix Hernandez won last year with a great ERA, but Beckett pitches on the best team in the AL and not the worst. Furthermore, Beckett has less wins than John Lackey this season.
Felix Hernandez: The aforementioned Hernandez is having a solid, but nowhere near spectacular season. He's 10-10, his ERA is 3.30 and he's striking out just shy of one batter an inning.
Dan Haren: Haren is putting together a season that could compete for a Cy Young in a down season, as he's 12-6 with a 2.96 ERA. The problem is he's playing second fiddle to rotation-mate Jered Weaver, who is besting him across the board.
And now that we've eliminated the fringe guys, onto the only three real candidates for this year's award.
PROS: Sabathia is 16-6 and should easily reach 20 with the support of the Bronx Bombers lineup. His ERA in under three in the AL East, and he's second in the AL in strike outs.
CONS: Simply put, he hasn't gotten it done on the Yankees biggest stage this year. It's not the MVP race, but Sabathia will lose significant votes because of his 0-4 mark against Boston. The Red Sox haven't just beaten him, they've beaten him up too as his ERA against the AL East rival is 7.20 this year.
PROS: Jered Weaver has led the MLB in ERA, currently at 1.78, all season, a direct result of allowing four runs or in every start this season. Perhaps more impressively, Weaver has only allowed his season four runs twice, and both starts were in the first half of May.
CONS: After Thursday's showing, Weaver is three wins behind Verlander. He also needs to get to 20 wins, so he's going to have pitch well down the stretch as he's sitting at 14. Also, he was out-dueled head-to-head with Verlander last week and even lost his cool and was ejected from that game.
PROS: He leads baseball in wins (17), strikeouts (196), innings pitched (IP) and WHIP (0.87).
CONS: His ERA (2.35) is nearly a half point higher than Weaver's league-leading 1.78, and he's allowed 16 homers this yeartwice as many as probable No. 1 contender Jered Weaver.
And the Winner Is: Justin Verlander
In the end, Verlander stands alone as the best pitcher in the AL. He's dominated one lineup after another all season, flirting with no-hitters seemingly every time out and actually no-hitting the Blue Jays earlier this year.
If Weaver falters at all, Verlander could wind up the winning the pitching triple crown. Even if Weaver doesn't, Verlander will wind up with the top pitching honor anyway as the winner of 2011 American League Cy Young.