2011 MLB Predictions: Felix Hernandez and the Top 20 AL Cy Young Candidates

Adam MacDonald@adammacdoAnalyst IIMarch 14, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions: Felix Hernandez and the Top 20 AL Cy Young Candidates

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    PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 15:  Pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners throws during a MLB spring training practice at Peoria Stadium on February 15, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The decision to award the 2010 Cy Young to Felix Hernandez was a historical aberration. His 13-12 record was by far the worst of any starting pitcher to win the award; his 12 losses were the most for any pitcher who failed to win 20 games.

    That did not matter in the eyes of the voters, however. Had he worn a jersey reading "New York" rather than "Seattle," he could have won close to 25 games, so good were his statistics other than his win-loss record.

    Now, with Opening Day just over two weeks away, our attention turns to the 2011 award, and whether or not someone can dethrone King Felix.

Clay Buchholz

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 15:  Starting pitcher Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 15, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Sixth

    2010 was the season when Buchholz finally arrived. Yes, he threw a no-hitter in his second career start in September 2007, but in the following two seasons, he failed to live up to the lofty promise he had shown.

    Last year was a different matter. He finished third in the AL in ERA. He missed three weeks on the DL but if he is able to stay healthy in 2011, he should make a stronger run at the award.

Trevor Cahill

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 03:  Starting pitcher Trevor Cahill #53 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park on March 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Ninth

    There were no sophomore struggles for Cahill, as he led Athletics starters in wins, ERA and WHIP.

    Of course, at only 23, it is difficult to predict whether he can repeat his sub-3 earned run average, 18-win season. If he can, he could make a stronger run at the award.

Dan Haren

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02:  Starting pitcher Dan Haren #24 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Prior to his midseason trade to the Angels, 2010 was not Dan Haren’s best season. A losing record and 4.60 ERA in 21 starts was not the best return on the D-Backs' $9 million investment. Post-trade, however, he was a different pitcher.

    Haren made 14 starts in Anaheim. His record was a meager 5-4, but that is in large part due to the Angels’ weak offense. He shaved almost two runs off his ERA; it fell to 2.87 and his WHIP was below 1.2.

    It may have been a temporary improvement, brought on by his new surroundings. Whether he can keep it going into this season is another matter.

Felix Hernandez

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    TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 23:   Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners points to a fly ball during the game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 23, 2010 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Blue Jays defeated the Mariners 1-0. (Photo by
    Brad White/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Winner

    The decision to award the 2010 Cy Young to Felix Hernandez was a historical aberration. His 13-12 record was by far the worst of any starting pitcher to win the award; his 12 losses were the most for any pitcher who failed to win 20 games.

    That did not matter in the eyes of the voters, however. Had he worn a jersey reading "New York" or "Boston," he could have won close to 25 games, so good were all his statistics other than his win-loss record.

    He will likely go into the season as a favorite to retain his crown, but he will not receive any more run support than he did in 2010.

Phil Hughes

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 16:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Texas Rangers in Game Two of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 16, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Ima
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Hughes had a brilliant first half of the season, and was in the top three candidates for the Cy at the All-Star break.

    He collapsed in August and was mediocre in September, but he showed that the potential for a future award was there.

Jon Lester

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 13:  Starter Jon Lester #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 13, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Fourth

    It seems that every March, Jon Lester’s name is mentioned in Cy Young predictions. 2010, however, marked the first time he had finished in the top 10 in voting.

    He led the Red Sox with 19 wins and the league with a 9.7 K/9, posting a 3.25 ERA and 1.202 WHIP. There is no reason to think he will suffer any kind of drop-off in 2011, and he could finally win the award people have predicted he would for the past four years.

Francisco Liriano

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 6: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during game one of the ALDS against the New York Yankees on October 6, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: 11th

    2010 marked the first time Liriano had managed to pitch more than 140 innings. With the exception of his rookie season, in which he finished third in the Rookie of the Year race, it was the best campaign of his career.

    The Twins will be looking to make another run to the postseason, and Liriano will be a big part of their challenge.

Jake Peavy

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    CHICAGO - JUNE 25: Starting pitcher Jake Peavy #44 of the Chicago White Sox delivers the ball against the Chicago Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field on June 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Image
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    2007 NL Cy Young winner

    Peavy had a very disappointing season last year, limited to only 17 starts, and struggling when he did take the mound. However, this is a pitcher who has managed a sub-3.00 ERA four times.

David Price

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    ST.  PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 13:  David Price #14 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 13, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Second

    Price is one of the best young pitchers in the game, and one of the few bright spots on the horizon for Rays fans.

    2009 was disappointing after a stellar debut the year before, but in 2010 he showed everyone what he could do, winning 19 games with a 2.72 ERA.

Mariano Rivera

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    ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Mariano Rivera #42 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers in Game Six of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers won
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Rivera might be the MVP and Cy Young of the last 25 years, yet he has never won either award.

    Even at 41 years old, the greatest closer of all time is showing no signs of slowing down, and he can never be counted out.

Ricky Romero

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    LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 01: Ricky Romero #24 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 1, 2011 in Lakeland, Florida. The Tigers defeated the Blue Jays 6-2.(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Hopes are high for the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of this season. Even the most wildly optimistic prediction does not have them challenging the Red Sox and Yankees, of course, but they could be the most-improved team in 2011. Much of that will be on their young ace.

    The young left-hander went 14-9 with a 3.73 mark in 2010. So keen to keep him were the Blue Jays, they tied him up until 2015, with an option for 2016.

CC Sabathia

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait on Photo Day at George M. Steinbrenner Field on February 23, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Third

    2007 Cy Young winner

    Of all active pitchers, CC probably has the best chance to reach the fabled 300-win plateau. One reason is that he wears pinstripes. The other is that he is a horse on the mound.

    He has pitched at least 180 innings every year, including his rookie season, and has had an ERA+ over 130 each of the last five seasons. He will post an ERA around 3.00 again in 2011, and the Yankees lineup will give him enough run support to make a run at winning 20 games again.

Ervin Santana

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Ervin Santana #54 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers on September 21, 2010 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Los Angeles struggled last year, but Santana still managed to collect 17 wins, finishing with a 3.92 ERA. He is a bit of an erratic pitcher in terms of year-to-year performance.

    He finished sixth in the Cy Young race in 2008, and has the talent and durability to be a contender, if he can break out of his hot-and-cold pattern.

Max Scherzer

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    NEW YORK - AUGUST 16:  Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees on August 16, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    There has been a lot of talk about Scherzer as a potential Cy winner this season, in spite of the fact that he has not accomplished anything thus far in his short career.

    He is yet to receive a vote for the award, or make an All-Star team. He is generating a lot of interest, though, so he cannot really be left off this list.

James Shields

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    ST PETERSBURG, FL - OCTOBER 07:  Pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Texas Rangers during Game 2 of the ALDS at Tropicana Field on October 7, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Shields had a terrible 2010, leading the American League in hits, earned runs and home runs. He did lead the AL in shutouts a few years ago, and had back-to-back seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA.

    Shields will get his starts again, and could be due for a bounce-back season.

Joakim Soria

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 13:  Pitcher Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals pumps his fist  after the Royals defeated the New York Yankees 4-3 to win the game on August 13, 2010 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Ge
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: 10th

    Soria had yet another brilliant season in 2010, with a 1.78 ERA and 43 saves. Twice in his career he has had an earned run average below 2.00, and even his worst was just 2.48.

    Soria has only pitched in the majors for four seasons, but is already 15th amongst active pitchers in saves.

Rafael Soriano

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    NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 19:  Rafael Soriano of the New York Yankees speaks during his introduction press conference on January 19, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees signed Soriano to a three year contract.  (Photo by
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Eighth

    Not only did Soriano finish eighth in the Cy Young, he also came 12th in the MVP race, higher than any other pitcher.

    Soriano was a revelation in his first season in Tampa. His 45 saves were best in the American League, his ERA was just 1.73 and his WHIP, 0.802. His brilliant performance led to his signing a three-year, $35 million deal with the Yankees.

Justin Verlander

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    LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers poses for a portrait during Photo Day on February 21, 2011 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: 11th

    Verlander never really seems to receive the recognition he deserves. The 2006 Rookie of the Year has finished in the top 11 in Cy Young voting four times in his five years in the majors.

    A retooled Tigers team should make a bigger push for a playoff berth this season, and the better the team does, the more likely a player is to receive votes for the major awards. This could hold true again in 2011, which would be a good thing for Verlander.

Jered Weaver

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    ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Pitcher Jered Weaver #36 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lies on the ground after grabbing a line drive that would have hit him in the head off the bat of Juan Pierre of the Chicago White Sox in the third inning on Septem
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 Cy Young voting: Fifth

    Weaver struck out an AL-best 233 batters, whilst pitching to a 3.01 ERA, the best of his career.

    Much like Hernandez, Weaver suffered from poor run support, which affected his record, which was just above .500.

    As we saw with last year’s eventual winner, though, wins are not the deciding factor in the voting.

CJ Wilson

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: C.J. Wilson #36 of the Texas Rangers pitches during a spring training game against the Kansas City Royals at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    With Cliff Lee back in Philadelphia, the Rangers will need to look to CJ Wilson as their ace this upcoming season.

    2010 was the first time he had been used as a full-time starter and he performed admirably, racking up 15 wins. He will need to improve if he is to lead Texas anywhere, or make a run at the Cy Young, however.

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