Handicapping the Awards – AL Cy Young Edition

Presently the AL and NL MVP’s have clear favorites however as will be discussed the CY Young awards seem to have a much different feel. In the American League there is one pitcher who has stood above the rest but his team may ultimately let him down in his chase for the honors. Zack Greinke was oddly passed over for the starting job in the All-Star game this past week and I fear that even with a great second half the results may be the same in the Cy Young vote at year’s end because the field combating Greinke for the award are having some excellent seasons in their own right.

*/ stats provided are in the order of ERA/Whip/FIP

** Stats up to date through play on 7/18/09

Pedro Junior a.k.a. The Favorite

Zack Greinke – SP – Kansas City Royals (6.1 WAR)

By now everyone in the baseball world has heard the story of Greinke overcoming personal issues to take his place among the elite pitchers of the game. What I find most intriguing is that most individuals don’t realize just how truly special his season has been. In a 134.1 innings Greinke has recorded 136 strikeouts and only walked 24 batters for a K-BB ratio of 5.67 good for 2nd best in the AL behind Roy Halladay. Couple this dominance with Greinke’s continued ability to keep the ball in the park (4 HR allowed) a line of 2.08/1.11/1.97 becomes possible. The 1.97 FIP would be the lowest mark since Martinez went 1.39 in the greatest pitching season ever in 1999.

It would be near impossible for Greinke to match his first half output but ZIPS projections have him ending the season at 2.59/1.15/2.44 and 16 wins. If the Royals can provide Greinke with the run support and bullpen help every starter needs this award could be his in a run away.

The Field

Roy Halladay – SP – Toronto Blue Jays (4.2 WAR)

Presently the main story surrounding Halladay are trade rumors and not the dominance he has once again shown. With a 10-3 mark in a 123.0 innings pitch, Halladay leads the AL in K-BB ration at 6.24 while sporting a line of 2.85/1.10/2.85. If the former CY Young winner keeps his home in the American League a 2nd Cy Young season could be in the makings. With a ZIPS rest of season projection of 3.40/1.16/3.17 leading to a final line of 3.10/1.13/2.97 and a league best 5.24 K-BB another Cy Young is certainly within reach.

Felix Hernandez – SP – Seattle Mariners (4.2 WAR)

The one they call King seems destined to finally put his name in the hat for best pitcher in the American League if not in baseball. The great season that Felix Hernandez is putting together seems to get lost in the shuffle at times but with a line of 2.51/1.12/2.84 in 132.2 innings it could soon be time for the whole country to recognize just how special this 23 year old could be. ZIPS projects only 6 more wins for Hernandez in 2009 which could lead to a lower then deserved spot on many voters’ ballots but with a projected final line of 2.98/1.20/2.92 and 213 strikeouts the King will deserve to have his name in the hat come the final day of the season.

Justin Verlander – SP – Detroit Tigers (4.5 WAR)

The 2009 league leader in strikeouts Verlander takes his spot on this ballot ahead of his teammate Edwin Jackson because of better projections, a much better K-BB ratio and a FIP over a half run better. Boasting a record of 10-5 in 129.1 innings Verlander unlike Halladay and Hernandez plays for a division leader who seem better equipped to give him the necessary support to pile up those precious wins (well in the voters eyes at least). Coming in with a line of 3.34/1.19/2.74 and a K/9 of 10.79, Verlander’s FIP actually suggests his numbers will improve in the 2nd half. ZIPS has a final line of 17-10 3.56/1.24/3.01 for Verlander and if he can perform to those levels, add a few wins and lead the league in strikeouts the CY Young coming to rest in Detroit is not so hard to imagine.

Josh Beckett – SP – Boston Red Sox (3.5 WAR)

Another starter with a teammate who could warrant discussion in this post, Beckett got off to a slow start in ’09 going 2-2 with a 7.22 ERA in April but since then he has been just as good as any pitcher in the American League. Boasting a league leading 11 wins and a line of 3.35/1.15/3.28 Beckett is back to his ’07 caliber when he finished second in the voting to C.C. Sabathia. With a ZIPS projected final line of 3.58/1.18/3.25 with 18-7 record strikeouts approaching 200, the Red Sox ace could find himself in line to take home his first award.

Do not sleep on this guy

Jered Weaver – SP – LAA Angels (2.6 WAR)

Weaver does not sport the FIP and WAR totals of the other candidates but in the eyes of the BBWAA he has a few things going for him. First he already has 10 wins and plays for a perennial contender that should aid him in pursuit of leading the AL in wins. Second he has 107 strikeouts in 124.0 IP, if he can maintain that strikeout rate and approach 210 IP his strikeout total will be large enough to attract voters’ attention. Regardless if Weaver will deserve the award with a ZIPS projected final line of 3.66/1.21/3.68 a strong second half in which he pushes close to 20 victories and out performs those projections just slightly will keep his name in the race as the Angels attempt to win another AL West crown.

Predictions

Zach Greinke will end up being the best pitcher in the American League in 2009. However because he plays in relative obscurity in Kansas City the baseball world as a whole will not realize just how good he has been. With that said one does not need to go out on much of a limb to select Roy Halladay as the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner, but that is what I must do here, of course with the caveat that he actually finishes the season in the American League.

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