The votes are in. The Cy Young awards have been announced. While few contest the NL winner, the AL results are more controversial. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers seemed poised to win his second consecutive Cy Young, but the coveted honor was instead awarded to David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Outrageous! We should storm Bud Selig's office! Demand a recount! Surely there's been some mistake. Verlander, compared by many to the great Sandy Koufax, has to win. He just has to.
Hold on, voters. Take away the media hype and accolades of greatness, and let the numbers inform the winner.
A statistical comparison:
Price: 20-5 record, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .266 BAA, 209 Ks
Verlander: 17-8 record, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .217 BAA, 239 Ks
Okay, these two guys are pretty evenly matched, at least numbers-wise.
But numbers don't tell the whole story. The reason Price's stats are more impressive than Verlander's is simple: Price pitched in the AL East, whereas Verlander pitched in the weaker AL Central.
Yes, Verlander manhandled the Yankees in the ALCS, but let's face it: The Tigers caught the Yankees in a cold streak, and he didn't have to face postseason hero Derek Jeter. This in no way undercuts the Tigers ALCS triumph. They were the better team, and they won fair and square. They deserved to represent the AL in the World Series.
Still, facing Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and even A-Rod time and time again all-season long and having success? That's impressive. Just look at Price's numbers against the Yankees in 2012:
3-1 record, 3.06 ERA, .231 BAA, 31 Ks in 5 games.
The AL East at large scored 3,663 runs in 2012. The AL Central? 2,851. Every single team in the AL East ranked in the top 15 offenses in 2012 EXCEPT Tampa Bay, ranked 18th. This illustrates how little support the starting pitchers on the Rays received all year. In the AL Central, only the Chicago White Sox finished in the top 15. In addition, the Tigers had the 11th ranked offense in the majors—their starting five were well supported.
Strength of schedule should not be the primary influence that sways Cy Young voters. However, when two pitchers post such even numbers in every category, what else is a voter to judge on?
Price deserved the nod. Verlander will have plenty of opportunities to add to his trophy case.