Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cy Young award anyone's race in the NL but AL is all but engraved

Baseball’s Cy Young races have become about as different as striking out the side and a bases loaded walk. On the national side the top dogs keep switching the top spot with a chance for any of four hurlers to take home the hardware. In the American League there is one arm that continues to separate himself, from the rest of the competition and the league in general.

Out of the contenders in the National League, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw plays for the worst team, that gives him the least amount of run support. But that didn’t stop him early in the season and it’s only made him stronger during the dog days of August. In his last 13 starts dating back to June, the Los Angeles ace has been simply awesome! How does a 10-2 record with a 1.65 era sound? He’s fanned 105 hitters in just 98 innings while walking just 19. He has averaged at least 7 and a third innings per start over that stretch, not allowing an earned run in six of those starts. But he hasn’t just come on since June. Prior to that, he posted a 6-3 record while only surrendering an era of 2.62. All this, on a Dodgers squad that only recently hit its hottest streak of the season, winning 11 of its last 15 games. Kershaw is the National League front-runner despite any debate.

Not far behind of course is Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. At 16-5 with an earned run average of 2.47 for the season, Kershaw can feel the right-handers breath on the back of his neck he’s so close. While the numbers are comparable one advantage the Phillies number one does have is the way he’s performed in that little league field known as Citizen’s Bank Park. Without a doubt Halladay pitches his home games in a hitter-friendly stadium but it hasn’t blown his numbers up. A disadvantage compared to Kershaw, he plays for the better team by far. They score more runs, play better defense and the Philadelphia bull-pin despite the injuries is far superior to the Dodgers. But neither of these guys has needed much help in 2011.

Getting himself back in the conversation is Philadelphia teammate Cliff Lee. He’s August has been the best in baseball in either league! The left-hander posted a record of 5-0 with an earned run average of 0.58! That is an amazing statistic. It’s similar to his June performance of 5-0, allowing just one run in 42 innings of work. So your asking, why isn’t he the front-runner? Well his July was rocky at best; as he lost three out of five and surrendered 39 runs in just 33 innings pitched. But is 15-7 mark continues to pick up steam.

The odd man out in the National League now is the San Francisco freak, Tim Lincecum. Despite his record of 12-11 which in the most part is the fault of his teammates lacking ability to score runs, he was right in the mix. Before his last start against the Chicago Cubs, the two-time defending National League Cy Young winner had given up just eight runs over his last nine starts. Now the Giants won six of those games, while scoring only 19 runs, that’s how good Lincecum was in that stretch. But on August 29th, the Cubbies roped him for six hits in six innings of work with four earned runs. Lincecum was also lit up for three homers in a game for the first time in his career. Add in the Giants fall to six games back in the West and his bid for a third straight award is all but over.
The American League leader hasn’t had any meltdowns, bad months or injuries for that matter. Detroit’s Justin Verlander has been on a mission since opening day. He sports a major league best 20-5 record, with a 2.38 era, just as smidge higher than the Angels Jered Weaver. Besides wins, he’s the American League leader in strikeouts with 218 and quality starts, 26 of 29 possible. Oh did I forget to mention he threw a no-hitter back in May and how about an 11-1 record against division opponents. He is the reason for the Tigers dominance in the American League Central, which now makes him a complete most valuable player candidate. With that talk surfacing in the American League, no way he doesn’t win the Cy Young unless he completely falls apart in September. Don’t hold you breathe, that’s for hitters in the American League stepping to the plate at Comerica Park when Verlander is on the mound.

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