Jul. 24, 2015
Top 3 AL Cy Young Contenders
The Cy Young awards are scheduled to be awarded on November 16th, 2016. This year there are a few names in the running that most would not expect to hear. Pitchers like Rick Porcello, Zach Britton, Sam Dyson and Aaron Sanchez – names many would not associate with the prestigious award – are all considered to be contenders this season. I wanted to take the time to lay out my own top three candidates for the award. In no particular order, my top three are J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander.
Let’s start with J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 13 year veteran came into the 2016 season as the Blue Jays No. 4 starter on the depth chart, and has now elevated himself to the role of Ace on the Blue Jays staff for their post season run. Happ, who had never won more than 12 games in a single season, finished the 2016 season with a 20-4 record. Over the course of 195.0 innings pitched, Happ posted a 3.18 ERA to go along with 7.5 K/9, a .230 opponent BA and a WAR of 3.2. From June 11 til August 17 the veteran starter won 11 consecutive decisions, helping boost the Blue Jays to their playoff berth. Over the entire season, Happ made 32 starts, lasting 5.0 innings or more 30 times. The Blue Jays pitcher also surrendered three earned runs or less in 26 of 32 starts. Happ finds himself in the Top 10 in ERA (3.18; good for 6th), WHIP (1.17; good for 10th) and BAA (.230; good for 7th) amongst all AL pitchers. According to ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor, Happ is predicted to finish 4th in the Cy Young Vote. However, Toronto’s playoff berth does help to elevate Happ’s stock in the process.
One of the most surprising contenders, who also happens to be the predicted winner of the Cy Young according to ESPN, is Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Rick Porcello. I feel confident in saying that no one would have thought that Porcello would have been signed to a 4 year $82.5 million deal when he was traded to the Red Sox from the Detroit Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes in 2014. During his 6 years in Detroit, the righty posted a respectable 76-63 record with a slightly elevated 4.30 ERA. During his rookie season, he did finish 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting, but he was a pitcher that never really blew my mind and I never imagined him becoming a $20 million a year pitcher. Porcello had a rough 2015 for the Red Sox, but bounced back tremendously in 2016 posting a 22-4 record. The 27 year old set career highs in innings pitched (223.0) and wins (22) to go along with an impressive 3.15 ERA. Porcello allowed three earned runs or less in 27 of 33 starts while collecting 189 strikeouts, also a career high. Once again, Porcello’s Cy Young stock is elevated due to Boston’s playoff status in 2016.
Finally, we have Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tiger. The Ace had a rough start to the season, posting a 2-4 record over the course of his first eight starts in 2016 to go along with a ballooned ERA of 4.71. However, the tough righty came back and finished the season 16-9 for a Tigers team that was sniffing a playoff berth. Verlander’s final 18 starts of the season were overly impressive; in each of those starts he allowed 3 earned runs or less. The veteran found himself leading the American League in WHIP (1.00) and strikeouts (254) as well as second in ERA (3.04) and third in K/9 (10.04) this season. The power righty collected eight games with 10 or more strikeouts. However, despite the ability to blow hitters away, Verlander surrendered a career high, and the 6th most in the AL in 2016, 30 home runs. Verlander made 16 starts in the second half, going 8-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 110.1 innings pitched, collecting 134 strikeouts. If it were not for Verlander, the Motown Kitties would not have been in the wild card hunt at the end of the season. After a lackluster 2015 in which Verlander posted a 5-8 record, the former Rookie of the Year, Cy Young award winner and MVP will garner serious attention in the Cy Young race and could quite possibly be the comeback player of the year as well.
Like I stated before, these are the three players that I believe are the most likely to win the 2016 AL Cy Young award. While I would love to see the award come back to Detroit with Justin Verlander, I do not believe he will win. It is my belief that Rick Porcello will win in 2016. Porcello put up career numbers while playing for a World Series favorite in the Boston Red Sox. While Happ is also playing for a World Series contender, I don’t think he did quite enough to inch out Porcello or even Verlander for that matter. We will have to wait until November 16th to find out.