As the week draws to a close, we are left with the two biggest awards of the offseason. Today we will be looking at the pitchers who are candidates for the Cy Young Award.
In my view, the top three pitchers in the National League were Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies. All three candidates are worthy, but unfortunately, in the end, only one can win.
Starting with Lee, the ace of the Phillies staff finished his season with a 14-8 record and 222 strikeouts to go with a 2.87 ERA over 222.2 innings of work. Pitchers will have some bad starts over the season, but Lee never failed to give his team at least five innings in every outing.
Of Lee’s 31 starts, he pitched seven innings of more in 24 of them, including one complete game. In the other six starts, Lee lasted five innings three times and six innings four times.
Against playoff teams, Lee finished with a 4-4 record and he did beat the eventual World Series champion Red Sox. He did take a combined four no decisions against the Reds (twice), Pirates, and Dodgers. In those four games he allowed three runs twice and two runs twice while throwing seven innings against the Reds (twice) and Pirates while throwing four against the Dodgers
Wainwright led the National League in innings pitched (241.2), complete games (5) and tied for the league lead in wins (19) and shutouts (2) while striking out a career-high 219 batters.
Like Lee, Wainwright went deep into games. The Cardinals’ ace pitched seven or more innings in 26 of his 34 starts. However, unlike Lee, Wainwright had one start where he lasted just two innings. Twice Wainwright lasted only five innings while the other four outings he threw six innings.
Against playoff teams, Wainwright was 4-6 with two no decisions. Of course, with an unbalanced schedule and two playoff teams besides Wainwright’s Cardinals in the NL Central, the right-hander had more opportunities to face the top teams.
Then we have Kershaw. Like Wainwright and Lee, Kershaw’s ERA was also below 3.00. But, unlike Wainwright and Lee and the rest of the NL, Kershaw’s ERA was below 2.00. In fact, the Dodgers’ ace had an ERA of 1.83. It was the lowest ERA by a starting pitcher since Greg Maddux finished the 1995 season with a 1.63 ERA. It was also Kershaw’s third straight ERA crown with Maddux again being the last to accomplish the feat in the NL (1993-1995).
But that’s not all. Kershaw (16-9) threw 236 innings and gave up only 163 hits. He also led the NL in punch outs with 232. Kershaw started 33 games over the season and 25 times he lasted seven innings or more. Four times he came out after six innings and four other times he lasted only five.
Against the top teams in the league, Kershaw was just 2-2 with a pair of no-decisions.
But, after looking at it all, Kershaw is my vote for the National League Cy Young Award winner.
Moving into the American League, my top three choices would be Max Scherzer of the Tigers, Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers and Bartolo Colon of the Oakland A’s.
Darvish finished his second season in the majors with a 13-9 record. He came one out away from becoming the first pitcher to throw a perfect game on opening day. In August, Darvish flirted with a no-hitter, but lost it in the eighth inning.
The Japanese import led the American League in strikeouts with 277. Darvish recorded those punch outs while throwing 209.2 innings of work. He started 32 games and finished with an ERA of 2.83, fourth lowest in the American League.
Darvish went seven or more innings only 16 times out of his 32 starts. Six times Darvish made it only through the fifth inning and 10 times he made it through the six. Against the top teams, Darvish was just 3-6 with one no-decision. In fact, he was 0-3 against the team that beat his club for the AL West championship - Oakland.
Twelve times Darvish had 10 or more strikeouts, including four times with 14 and one with 15.
Speaking of the Oakland A’s, who foresaw the season Colon had? The overweight right-hander had his best season since winning the Cy Young Award in 2005 with the Angels.
In his second year with the A’s, Colon finished the year second in ERA (2.65) behind Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (2.57). Colon was also second in the American League in wins with 18, trailing only 21-game winner Scherzer, and was second in complete games with three. He tied for the league lead with three shutouts.
But, Colon has become a finesse pitcher in his later years. He went seven or more innings just 13 times. Eleven times he was done after six innings of work and three times he came out after five. There was even three times when he did not last to the fifth inning.
Against the top teams, Colon was 5-4 with four no-decisions. He did beat both World Series teams though. Colon threw a complete game (rain shortened) shutout against the Red Sox in April and then beat the Cardinals in late June.
That brings us to Scherzer, who won the most games of all pitchers in both leagues with 21. Scherzer was second in strikeouts with 240 and fourth in ERA with a 2.90 mark while throwing 214.1 innings.
Scherzer started the year 13-0 with five no decisions mixed in there. Scherzer didn’t record his first loss until dropping a 7-1 decision against the Texas Rangers in July.
He was 5-1 against playoff teams with three no decisions. His one loss came against Boston in early September.
The Tigers’ ace threw seven or more innings 19 times in his 32 starts. Nine times he went six innings and three times he was done after five. Only once this past season did Scherzer fail to make it past the fourth and that came in an early September loss to the White Sox.
Eight times he recorded double figure strikeouts in a game, twice reaching a season high of 12 punch outs.
Some people don’t like the win/loss record, but winning 21 games is tough. No other pitcher in the majors won 20 games this season. So, to finish with a record of 21-3 means that pitcher had a darn good season. For me, Scherzer is the American League Cy Young Award winner.