AL Cy Young Award Tracker: The Top Candidates with Two Months in the Books

It’s only the end of May.

But when you put it into perspective, two of the MLB regular season’s six months are already in the books, so it’s not too early to start to take a look at what players are in contention to bring in the game’s most prestigious hardware.

In this case, we’re going to delve in to the American League Cy Young Award and list all possible candidates based on the season’s first two months.

I’ve boiled it down to three separate categories, an A, B, and C class. Let’s get right down to ’em.

Justin Verlander has not disappointed after being named AL Cy Young and MVP of 2011. Photo courtesy SD Dirk via Wikimedia

Class A

In the top class, I’ve got the pitchers who would have been near the top of this list going into the season and who have not disappointed thus far. The group consists of:

  • Justin Verlander (5-2; 2.15)
  • CC Sabathia (6-2; 3.66)
  • Jered Weaver (6-1; 2.61)
  • David Price (6-3; 2.71)
  • Felix Hernandez (4-4; 3.17)

We’re likely to see all of the these guys keep up those impressive stat lines the rest of the way.

The biggest question marks would have to be if King Felix can post a good enough record and if CC can keep his ERA down. Besides that, I fully expect these guys to all be near the top of the AL Cy Young standings after 2012 is in the books.

My leaders from this class would have to be Verlander and Weaver. They’re the guys you want if you need a complete game shutout.

Photo courtesy Keith Allison via Wikimedia

There’s not a whole lot more to say about these guys, though. They’re just that good.

Class B

This next group consists of the guys that have either one of two things going for them: 1) They have been top-of-the-line pitchers in recent years and were expected to be one of the best this season; or 2) They’re surprising us with a breakout 2012 season to this point.

The pitchers I’ve got here are:

  • Yu Darvish (6-2; 3.05)
  • Jake Peavy (6-1; 3.07)
  • James Shields (6-2; 3.63)
  • Chris Sale (6-2; 2.34)
  • Josh Beckett (4-4; 4.15)
  • C.J. Wilson (6-4; 2.77)

Despite putting up great numbers in years past and getting off to solid starts this season, I don’t see James Shields or C.J. Wilson being able to bring home the award because they are their team’s number 2 pitchers, and I think their teammates, (respectively) Price and Weaver, will finish ahead of them in the ranks. Nonetheless, they’ll both probably have great campaigns from here on out.

Jake Peavy has been a great comeback story for the White Sox, but he’s no longer an overpowering pitcher. He’s now a guy that beats you by hitting his spots and changing speeds. I look for him to be very good overall the rest of the way, and he should be able to maintain an ERA in the mid 3’s. While that’s good, it’s not Cy Young material.

The same can be said for Josh Beckett, who really has been very good with the exception of two starts this year, one coming all the way back in early April. He was great last season, too, but had his season overshadowed by a poor September. Outside of that, he would’ve been in the race in 2011. I’m most concerned about him being able to put together a completely consistent season, but we all know he has great ability, so he’s worth mentioning.

Boston's Beckett and Youkilis with President Obama. Photo courtesy Pete Souza via Wikimedia

 

So that leaves Yu Darvish and Chris Sale, who I think have the best chance to win the Cy Young award from this class. It’s the first year starting in the big leagues for both of these youngsters, but they have dazzled throughout the first couple of months.

Even when Darvish pitches mediocre for the Rangers he can pick up a win because of his incredible stuff and Texas’ high-powered offense.

Chris Sale has 6 wins and the 2nd best ERA on this list, behind only Justin Verlander, so it’d be a crime to not give him the credit he deserves. And as a White Sox fan, I couldn’t be happier that after striking out 15 Rays on Monday, Sale is finally getting the national attention that he should.

I’ve felt this way about these two guys since before the season started, too. When talking about potential Cy Young winners on Twitter (@zach_groper & @Grab_Some_Bench), I said several times to keep an eye out for Sale, and actually had Darvish as my preseason prediction to win the award.

Class C

My final class of Cy Young candidates are guys that basically just deserve recognition. Either they’re not off to very good starts in 2012 but have shown us their ability in years past, or they’ve burst on to the scene and shocked the American League so far.

First, we’ll start off with Jon Lester (3-4; 4.72) of the Red Sox. This guy has great stuff, and as the Red Sox begin to look like the good team many of us expected them to be, I think his stats will start to take shape. While I don’t think he’ll win 19 games or post an ERA in the low 3’s like he did in 2010, I do think he’ll hold a solid line. Pairing that with his raw ability, he certainly is worth mentioning.

Next we’ve got someone in a very similar situation to Lester in Los Angeles’ Dan Haren. He has a record of just 2-5 but a solid 3.76 ERA. It’ll be tough to climb and get himself a good record on the year, but like Lester, he’ll probably get his stats back to respectability. But Haren is now the number 3 guy in the Angels rotation, so there’s really just a microscopic chance he could beat out Weaver and Wilson and be in strong contention for the award.

The Blue Jays have a very good 1-2 punch in their rotation, and neither guy gets nearly enough credit for what he is doing up there north of the border.

Ricky Romero (5-1; 3.86) has had a few good years in a row now for the Blue Jays, but most fans still don’t know who he is. Off to a solid start again in 2012, it’s time for all baseball fans to learn about him.

Brandon Morrow is 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 2012, as it seems he’s finally been able to tap in to his great potential and become a good starter in the big leagues.

Being honest, neither of these guys really have a shot at the award, but they deserve the attention. They could help get Toronto an AL East Division title sooner than most of us envisioned seeing them do so.

Toronto Blue Jays' ace Ricky Romero. Photo courtesy Keith Allison via Wikimedia

 

Rounding out the list are a couple more unlikely candidates who are off to superb starts.

The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson is 4-1 with a 2.83 ERA. While those are Cy Young numbers, we can’t forget that he has both Price and Shields in front of him. If the award goes to someone in Tampa Bay, it’ll likely be one of those guys before it’s the youngster Hellickson.

Last is Baltimore Orioles’ Jason Hammel, who has seemed to figure it out since coming to the American League from Colorado. Holding a 6-1 record and a 2.78 ERA, you may think he deserves to be in a higher class. But the fact of the matter is we’ve never seen any prolonged success from him in his career, and pitching in the AL East, specifically in the hitter-friendly Camden Yards is an extremely tough task. I’m sure he’ll have a very solid 2012 in whole, but I don’t think he’ll be anywhere near the top of the list. I expect him and his team to fall back in the very near future.

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Who are your top Cy Young candidates thus far in 2012? And who do you think will ultimately take home the prize when all is said and done? Go on record in the comment section below.

About the Author

Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb. Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year. He runs a White Sox blog at GrabSomeBench.com and also contributes and reports for AssemblyCall.com. Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show. He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.