Well, if the infatuation (see contest for AL MVP) with the sabermetric ‘Wins Above Replacement’ (WAR) remains consistent, Justin Verlander should be the 2012 American League Cy Young Award Winner. Among other things, Verlander is tops in the American League with a WAR of 7.5. Tampa Bay Rays’ ace David Price is a close second with 6.4. Last season when Verlander won the award, he lead all Major League starters in that department.
But for the more traditional baseball enthusiasts, Verlander is tops in a few other notable categories as well.
Verlander is the definition of a workhorse; three of the last four seasons, he has lead Major League Baseball in innings pitched. In 2012, he ranks first for complete games; totaling six on the season. On July 31st, in a rained- shortened game against the Boston Red Sox, he saw his streak of consecutive starts of at least six innings pitched end at 63 games. Good for the third longest streak all-time. When you hand the ball to Verlander, he goes deep into games. That is the kind of value you can’t put into dollars and cents for a club.
Being a prototypical high- velocity strikeout pitcher, Verlander lead the MLB with 239 whiffed batters. What is inevitably the case when racking up strike outs, is pitch counts will tend to run high in games. In all but one of his 33 starts this season, he eclipsed the century mark in pitches. Remarkably against the Kansas City Royals, he threw 100 mph on his 131st pitch. Some pitchers couldn’t throw that many pitches in a game, while others can’t even break the 100 mph mark. To do both? That’s crazy. Even New York Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia was impressed and stated:
“Obviously, you work hard in between starts so you have the stamina- so you can pitch late into the game and not lose velocity. But, I don’t think you teach anybody how to do that, You’ve got to work at it to be able to keep the stamina, but you’ve got to be blessed and God-given to be able do that. He continued, “I want to be steady and even and to be able to have a little extra late. Justin starts off 90, 91 and builds up to 100. That would be hard for me to do and keep my delivery.”
With 17 wins in 2012, he fell short of the 20-game mark set by Price and the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver. The unfortunate thing about the ‘win’ statistic is too much of it is decided on other factors beyond the capability of the pitcher. I’m not a fan of it. Whether it’s an error by a fielder or just a total lack of run support, a pitcher- at times- has almost no control on the final outcome of the game.
The Tigers ranked in the bottom five of the American League for average run support per start (3.82), for Verlander. Alternatively, Weaver benefited from ranking second with almost another 2 runs per start (5.80). If the runs batted in (RBI) statistic is overrated, then the ‘W’ stat is too; considering he and Price were tied with 25 quality starts.
All in all, Weaver, Price, and Verlander appear to be the top front runners in a thick AL Cy Young race; cases can be made for each of them. The new school sabermetric crowd appreciate the multi- dimensionality of Verlander’s game. The old guard traditionalists gotta’ love what JV brings to the Tigers for the duration of a game.
Whether or not Verlander brings home the hardware for a second year in a row, when you’re dating a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, you’re always a winner.