MLB Awards: Top 10 Contenders for American League Cy Young Award
AL Cy Young: Top-10 Most Deserving Candidates
The American League saw plenty of quality seasons from its pitchers in 2013. So good that if it weren't for the hurler at the top of this list, any of the other top-five would have an equal chance at taking home the AL Cy Young Award.
It was an impressive year for pitchers throughout baseball as well. The league-wide earned run-average dropped from 4.01 in 2012 to 3.87 in 2013 — the lowest since 1992. That can most likely be attributed to the end of the steroid era in baseball, though the 2013 season saw one of the most controversial chapters to baseball's performance enhancing drugs issue in the Biogenesis scandal. The average runs per game were also down from last season: 4.32 in 2012, compared to 3.87 this year — also the lowest since 1992.
Most baseball fans and pundits know who the frontrunner is for this year's Cy Young Award. Last year's recipient, Justin Verlander, pitched through an array of struggles in 2013 and does not appear on this top-10. The reigning AL Most Valuable Player, however, has two fellow Detroit Tigers featured in this ranking.
There has never been a Cy Young winner of Japanese decent. In 2013, there were two countrymen from the Land of the Rising Sun that put together campaigns extremely worthy of the honor. Did either pitcher have what it takes to be the first? Find out where the best pitchers from the American League wound up in this list of the top-10 contenders for the 2013 Cy Young award.
10. Justin Masterson
W-L: 14-10 (T-eighth most wins)
Strikeouts: 195 (eighth)
Strikeouts Per 9IP: 9.093 (seventh)
Shutouts: 3 (T-first)
Home Runs Per nine IP: 0.606 (third)
Masterson led a Cleveland Indians pitching rotation that reached the postseason for the first time since 2007. He has impressive numbers, despite an ERA outside the top-10 and giving up the sixth-most walks of any pitcher in the American League.
9. Matt Moore
W-L: 17-4 (T-third most wins)
ERA: 3.29 (10th)
Shutouts: one (T-ninth)
With a record of 17-4, Moore has the second-best win percentage in the American League at .810. He didn't make the top-10 in many statistical categories, but he won ball games with solid run support, and rarely faltered to the point of losing. However, he is tied with No. 10 Cy Young Candidate Justin Masterson with 76 walks in 2013, and threw the most wild pitches in the AL.
8. James Shields
ERA: 3.15 (eigth)
IP: 228.2 (first)
Games Started: 34 (T-first)
Complete Games: two (T-ninth)
The Kansas City Royals finished above .500 for the first time since 2003, and James Shields was a big reason why. The former Tampa Bay Ray was dealt to the Royals for highly touted prospect Wil Myers, which attracted much negative feedback from Kansas City fans. Shields, however, looked the part of a worthy trade piece.
7. Felix Hernandez
ERA: 3.04 (sixth)
WAR: 5.2 (seventh among pitchers)
WHIP: 1.131 (seventh)
Strikeouts: 216 (fifth)
Strikeout / Walk Ratio: 4.696 (third)
The former Cy Young winner had another stellar season, though his win total doesn't suggest so. He lowered his ERA from a year ago and continued to be one of the best in American League at striking out opposing hitters while keeping his walk total low. He should keeping appearing in lists like this one for years to come.
6. Chris Sale
ERA: 3.07 (seventh)
WAR: 6.9 (second among pitchers)
WHIP: 1.037 (third)
Strikeouts: 226 (third)
Strikeouts / Walk Ratio: 4.913 (second)
Complete Games: four (T-first)
Poor Chris Sale. If it weren't for the lousy team he's on and his even more pitiful run support, he would have come out with a win percentage above .500 — and much high on this list. The highest total of run support he received all season was five runs in a Aug. 17 game against the Minnesota Twins. Win-loss record aside, Sale had a great 2013 season, which is evident by his second-place ranking in Wins Above Replacement among American League pitchers.
5. Bartolo Colon
W-L: 18-6 (second most wins)
ERA: 2.65 (second)
WAR: 5.1 (eighth among pitchers)
Walks Per nine IP: 1.371 (second)
Shutouts: three (T-first)
Bartolo Colon was the best pitcher all year long for the American League Western Division Champion Oakland Athletics. Despite his positive test for PEDs last season and link to the Biogenesis Clinic, I'm still giving him credit for what he did in 2013 — mainly because he has not tested positive on a second occasion. The 40-year-old was magical for the A's in their second consecutive division title and he will help the team get deep into the postseason.
4. Anibal Sanchez
ERA: 2.57 (first)
WAR: 6.3 (fourth among pitchers)
WHIP: 1.154 (ninth)
Strikeouts: 202 (sixth)
Strikeout / Walk Ratio: 3.741 (eighth)
Home Runs Per nine IP: 0.445 (first)
Anibal Sanchez was the second-best pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in 2013, and no the top hurler was surprisingly not reigning American League Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander. He had the best ERA in the league and ranked in the top-10 in many statistical categories. Plus he ranked first in a few sabermetic categories, including: Adjusted ERA+ (163), adjusted pitching runs (31) and adjusted pitching wins (3.4).
3. Yu Darvish
ERA: 2.83 (fourth)
WAR: 5.8 (fifth)
WHIP: 1.073 (fourth)
Hits Per nine IP: 6.224 (first)
Strikeouts: 277 (first)
If it weren't for a fellow Japanese countryman and another pitcher with the best season of his career, Yu Darvish would be the overwhelming favorite to win the Cy Young in 2013. He ranked in the top-five in many major statistical categories, but gave up the third-most walks in the AL (80), which brought his ranking down significantly. Darvish will definitely be in the running for this award at some other point in his career.
2. Hisashi Iwakuma
ERA: 2.66 (third)
WAR: 7.0 (first)
WHIP: 1.006 (second)
Hits Per nine IP: 7.334 (fourth)
BB Per nine IP: 1.721 (third)
IP: 219.2 (third)
Strikeout / Walk Ratio: 4.405 (fourth)
In his first full season as a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball, Hisashi Iwakuma was phenomenal. He led the American League in Wins Above Replacement for pitchers, and was in the top-five of almost every major statistical category — except for strikeouts. This year was just the second season playing American baseball for the 32-year-old, so he has limited time if he wants to become the first Japanese player to win the Cy Young Award.
1. Max Scherzer
W-L: 21-3 (Most wins in AL)
ERA: 2.90 (fifth)
WAR: 6.7 (third)
WHIP: 0.970 (first)
Hits Per nine IP: 6.383 (second)
Strikeouts: 240 (second)
Strikeout / Walk Ratio: 4.286 (fifth)
There's really debate that Max Scherzer is this year's American League Cy Young winner, the second consecutive Detroit Tiger to take home the honors. He had the highest win total by a margin of three, and was the only pitcher in baseball with a WHIP under 1.000. He was the favorite for this award at the All-Star break, and he continued to perform as the front runner through the rest of the season. Especially with a down year from Justin Verlander, Scherzer stepped up and led the Tiger to their third straight Central Division title.