One of my responsibilities (privileges) as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is to vote on the year-end awards (MVP, Cy Young, ROY, and Manager of the Year). As an Orioles blog, I’ll be voting only for the American League awards (but I may do NL anyway at some point). First up is the AL Cy Young award, starting with the #3 guy and working down to the winner. Several pitchers had great seasons, but one of them stood well above the rest.
Honorable mentions: Felix Hernandez (6.8 Wins Above Replacement), Jon Lester (6.3 WAR), CC Sabathia (6.1 WAR)
3. Roy Halladay (SP, TOR)
2.79 ERA, 239 IP, 208 K, 35 BB, 22 HR, 3.05 FIP, 3.45 tERA, 7.5 WAR
He was 3rd in ERA, FIP, and WAR; 1st in K:BB ratio (5.94), complete games (9) and shutouts (4); and 1st in player who his general manager should have traded which might have then saved his job. He was also first in expected FIP, so one could say that he was the best pitcher in the league irrespective of results.
Halladay had almost exactly the same great season he had last year, and often that level of work would result in some hardware. 2009 had a lot of amazing pitching seasons though, so Doc will have to try again next year.
2. Justin Verlander (SP, DET)
3.45 ERA, 240 IP, 269 K, 63 BB, 20 HR, 2.80 FIP, 3.13 tERA, 8.2 WAR
He tied King Felix and CC for the league lead in wins with 19; was 1st in IP, K’s, strike-out rate with a 10.09 K/9; and 2nd in FIP and WAR.
Verlander did a nice job improving his control to a career best 2.36 BB/9, and picked up a couple of ticks on his fastball (from 93.6 mph in 2008 to 95.6 mph in ’09) which likely helped him pile up the K’s. For a guy that always threw pretty hard and had three good pitches, it was confusing to me that he never struck out even a batter an inning. This year he seems to have put it all together and become one of the best pitchers in the league.
1. Zack Greinke (SP, KCR)
2.16 ERA, 229.1 IP, 242 K, 51 BB, 11 HR, 2.33 FIP, 2.53 tERA, 9.3 WAR*
* Amusingly, the Royals position players – all of them combined – only totaled 8.6 WAR for the year. All non-Greinke Royal pitchers totaled 9.2 WAR. No wonder they still finished 65-97, even with the best starter in baseball on their team.
Greinke was 1st in ERA, FIP, and WAR (by a lot); and 2nd in K’s, K:BB ratio (4.75), complete games (6), and shutouts (3). His 11 HR allowed were the fewest amongst qualified starters.
The number of pitchers in MLB history (since 1901) to pitch 220 innings with a 200 ERA+, 200 K’s, and a 4.75 K:BB ratio: 2.
One is Walter Johnson’s 1913 season, where he went 36-7 with 346 innings of 1.14 ERA (259 ERA+) ball, 243 K’s, and a 6.39 K:BB ratio.
The other is Greinke’s 2009 season. I know that things like this always look a little better than they are because we set the qualifications for where the player is, but that is still some pretty exclusive company.
Zach Greinke is your AL Cy Young winner, and it isn’t even close. Luckily he got his record up to 16-8, so the BBWAA voters shouldn’t have too many issues with it themselves.