The All-Star Break is upon us, and until game action starts up again on Friday, we're going to do a brief season in review of the 2012 MLB season thusfar. Our staff has voted on a variety of awards, and we're going to roll them out over the next four days.
It's been a very interesting year for AL pitchers. There hasn't been a dominant force like last year, when Justin Verlander ruled the world. Verlander is still at the top of the heap for AL pitchers, but he's got some company with him this season. Voting was done in the same way as the Rookie of the Year awards, on a 3-2-1 basis.
AL Cy Young Award
1) Chris Sale (17 points, three first place votes)
2) Justin Verlander (16 points, four first place votes)
3) Jered Weaver (five points)
4) Jake Peavy (two points)
5) Felix Hernandez (two points)
We have a Keith Law situation here! "Verlander would have won the award, if the two Angels fans on staff didn't vote him third!" Deal with it. Chris Sale wins our midseason Cy Young award despite having fewer first place votes than Verlander. Sale is having a fantastic year after spending his first two years in Chicago's bullpen. His transition to the rotation has been very smooth, and the White Sox star has a fantastic 2.19 ERA and his striking out nearly a batter per inning, while walking a hair over two. He has a strikeout to walk rate of nearly 4, and is also allowing a batting average of just .197 for the season. In his 15 starts this year (excluding a one inning relief appearances), Sale is averaging a hair under seven innings per start this year. Not bad at all.
Justin Verlander is still awesome, and no one is arguing that at all. His 2012 season is shockingly similar to his 2011 season, down to an identical walk rate, strikeout and homer rates right around where they were last year, and an ERA in the same neighborhood as last year. Verlander is also averaging the same 7 1/3 innings per start. So what went wrong? Well…his Tigers are struggling, and Verlander is being punished for that, perhaps unfairly. Despite his stellar stats so far, Verlander is just 9-5, tallying the same amount of losses as he did last year. If the Tigers overtake the White Sox in the AL Central, Verlander will probably easily overtake Sale for the award.
Despite missing a couple of starts, Jered Weaver of the Angels is having another good year. He's 10-1 and has an ERA under 2.00 for the wild card leading Angels in 15 starts, but everything else is a little disappointing. His 6.80 strikeout rate is the lowest since his rookie year of 2007, but his walk and homer rates are also career bests. While Weaver is dominating, his stats indicate more of a 3.00 ERA pitcher this year…which is fantastic, but I don't think it'll be enough to give him the Cy Young.
Jake Peavy of the White Sox has been almost as big of a surprise as Sale. Peavy hasn't made 20 starts in a year since 2008 (his last full season as a Padre), and considering his contract, he's been a massive disappointment for the Sox thusfar in his career on the south side. Of course, this is a contract year for Peavy (with the White Sox holding a huge $22 million option for 2013), and he's dominating. Peavy has transformed himself, with his strikeout rate falling to 8.10 (well below his career norm of 8.79), but also dropping his walk rate to a career best 1.95. As a result, Peavy is having his best season in years, posting a 2.85 ERA and looking like the guy the White Sox thought they were acquiring back in 2009. Peavy is only 31, so it's not as if this is some sort of fluky, late-career renaissance.
Finally, Felix Hernandez, the 2010 Cy Young winner. There was actually talk last month about "what's wrong with Felix?!?!" Well, I think we can safely say right now that nothing is wrong with him. Despite a 3.13 ERA, Hernandez has a career best 2.96 FIP this year. He's striking out a batter per inning for the first time in his career, and his walk rate is actualy down by a hair. If Hernandez was playing in a big market for a great team, he'd be heralded as a future Hall of Famer. But in Seattle, he falls in anonymity. Hernandez is just 26 years-old, and he's thrown 1500 career innings with 1392 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA, tallying 91 wins for a pathetic Mariners team. This guy is just unreal.