Starting Five: A Look at the Contenders for the AL Cy Young Award

Later today the Baseball Writers Association of America will announce who they’ve voted as this year’s American League Cy Young Award winner.

Although some believe there’s an obvious front-runner for the award, the field is still “technically” wide-open after a number of memorable performances last season.

A compelling argument could be made for a number of different AL hurlers, but in the end only one will walk away with the hardware.

Here’s a quick look at the top candidates for the Cy Young and why each of them does, or does not, deserve to take home the coveted award.


Roy Halladay – RHP – Toronto Blue Jays

Starts: 32
Innings Pitched: 239.0
Wins: 17
ERA: 2.79
WHIP: 1.13
Strikeouts: 208
Run Support: 6.18

Why He Deserves It: Doc Halladay was his usual workhorse self in 2009, going over 200 innings yet again and anchoring an otherwise lackluster Toronto staff. He once again led the league with nine complete games, four of them for shutouts.

Why He Doesn’t Deserve It: In the first-half, Halladay looked primed to run away with the award after going 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP.

Trade rumors swirled all through July and when he wasn’t moved, his August numbers took a hit. He went 2-3 with a 4.71 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.

Not getting moved may have been the worst thing that happened to Halladay as his August numbers most-likely will cost him the hardware.


CC Sabathia – LHP – New York Yankees

Starts: 34
Innings Pitched: 230.0
Wins: 19
ERA: 3.37
WHIP: 1.15
Strikeouts: 197
Run Support: 7.90

Why He Deserves It: Sabathia did everything that was expected of him in New York this season. He ate up innings, he won games, and he gave the rotation a reliable stopper.

Sabathia went 11-2 in the second-half with a 2.74 ERA, paving the way for the Yankees to run away with the division.

He could very easily walk away with another trophy for his mantle. In fact, he nearly replicated his numbers from 2007, when he won his first Cy Young award.

Why He Doesn’t Deserve It: With nearly eight runs of support per game, Sabathia had an easier path to his victories, but his other numbers are plenty impressive, Yankees’ offense notwithstanding.

One could get nitpicky and mention that he walked the most batters in a season (67) than he has since 2004 and his strikeout numbers tumbled by more than 50 from last season, but again, that’s just getting nitpicky.


Justin Verlander – RHP – Detroit Tigers

Starts: 35
Innings Pitched: 240.0
Wins: 19
ERA: 3.45
WHIP: 1.18
Strikeouts: 269
Run Support: 6.15

Why He Deserves It: After leading the league in losses a year ago, Verlander turned things around in a big way and went from 17 game loser to 19 game winner.

All the while, Verlander carried the Detroit staff on his back for most of the season, doing everything in his power to keep the team in contention when the rest of the staff faltered.

Why He Doesn’t Deserve It: Verlander had a great year, no doubt, and could easily walk away with the award. He did, however, struggle in games against Detroit’s biggest rival, Minnesota.

Verlander went 1-2 against the Twins in four starts posting a 5.20 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP. His inability to finish off the Twins cost the Tigers late in the season and may cost Verlander in the Cy voting.


Felix Hernandez – RHP – Seattle Mariners

Starts: 34
Innings Pitched: 238.2
Wins: 19
ERA: 2.49
WHIP: 1.14
Strikeouts: 217
Run Support: 5.66

Why He Deserves It: King Felix finally had the breakout season everyone has been waiting for. After going 9-11 in 2008 and leading many to wonder if he’d ever live up to the hype he silenced the critics by winning more than doubling his win total and shaving nearly a run off his ERA from a year ago.

He reached career bests in wins, ERA, strikeouts, games started, and innings pitched and earned his first trip to the All-Star game in July. The award could very easily go home with Hernandez and few people outside of Kansas City would bat an eyelash.

Why He Doesn’t Deserve It: Honestly, on paper, there is almost no reason that he doesn’t deserve the award. He tied for the most wins in the league, was second in games started and earned run average, and finished third in WHIP, innings pitched, and strikeouts.

What will hurt his odds the most is the amazing season put together by our final Cy Young candidate.


Zack Greinke – RHP – Kansas City Royals

Starts: 33
Innings Pitched: 229.1
Wins: 15
ERA: 2.16
WHIP: 1.07
Strikeouts: 242
Run Support: 4.83

Why He Deserves It: Greinke was simply the most dominating pitcher in the entire American League in 2009, period.

He led the league in ERA and WHIP and was second in strikeouts, complete games and shutouts. All the while he toiled away in obscurity in Kansas City.

His club’s lackluster offense hurt his win total, but his season was hands down the best of the pack in the American League.

Making his story even more impressive is that Greinke—a former first round pick—had nearly given up on his big league career after suffering from depression and social anxiety disorder.

Why He Doesn’t Deserve It: Let’s be honest here, there is absolutely no reason why Greinke shouldn’t be taking home the hardware.

Here’s to hoping the BWAA feels the same way.

About Jeremiah Graves

I am a professional library dude, a cheeseburger enthusiast, a wannabe writer, a slow-pitch softball center fielder, an avid hunter (of churros), a cat-person, and — hopefully — one of your two or three favorite Iowans.
This entry was posted in Awards, Baseball, CC Sabathia, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Cy Young, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, MLB, Roy Halladay, Zack Greinke. Bookmark the permalink.

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