October 5th, 2009

Verlander and the Cy Young award

verlander100409.jpgBefore anyone asks what Verlander’s outing Sunday did for his chances to win the AL Cy Young Award, let’s just answer it now: Probably not much. Votes from BBWAA members are due at the end of the regular season, and it’s a pretty safe bet a lot of voters had either turned in their ballots already or had made up their minds.

That said, for those who held off on their ballots until the last minute, Verlander gave quite a show.

Aside from Zack Greinke earlier in the season, I don’t know how many other pitchers lift their team when they take the mound like Verlander with the Tigers. Sunday was a must-win game, and Verlander absolutely commanded it for seven innings. The Tigers, frankly, felt like a club spiraling out of the playoff race before Sunday. Their hopes rode on Verlander, and he took over.

For whatever reason, the Tigers seem to score runs when he’s on the mound lately, then struggle for much of the rest of the rotation. Verlander, in turn, prides himself on the shutdown inning when his team gives him runs, and paces his game to get his defense off the field and back to the plate.

If that’s a major factor in voting, Verlander has it. But Sunday’s outing also rounded out a statistical resume that no Tigers pitcher since Jack Morris had put together:

  • Verlander’s 19th win of the year tied him for the Major League lead with Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia. He missed out on becoming the first Tiger since Bill Gullickson to win 20, but he owns the highest single-season total for a Tiger since then.
  • He already had the Major League strikeout title wrapped up, but he finished out his total at 269, eight more than Tim Lincecum and 27 more than his next-closest AL competitor, Greinke. He fell just short of he fourth-highest single-season total for a Tiger, but he still cracked the top 5 with the highest since 1971. He also captured the Tigers’ first strikeout title since Morris in 1983.
  • With the wins title shared, Verlander and Greinke split the triple-crown categories. Verlander beat out Greinke in strikeouts, while Greinke won the ERA title.

Verlander probably won’t win the Cy Young this year. What Greinke did for much of the year was that good. But Sunday made the case that Verlander deserves to be considered in the same sentence, if not even. We’ll see how the votes come down in November.