First-third awards: 2011 AL Cy Young

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On to the AL Cy Young Award race.  First, the league’s ERA leaders:

1. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 4-2, 1.80 ERA, 63/25 K/BB in 70 IP
2. Jered Weaver (Angels): 6-4, 2.10 ERA, 77/20 K/BB in 85 2/3 IP
3. James Shields (Rays): 5-3, 2.15 ERA, 81/18 K/BB in 83 2/3 IP
4. Gio Gonzalez (Athletics): 5-2, 2.17 ERA, 63/28 K/BB in 62 1/3 IP
5. Dan Haren (Angels): 5-3, 2.29 ERA, 74/14 K/BB in 86 1/3 IP
6. Trevor Cahill (Athletics): 6-4, 2.31 ERA, 58/30 K/BB in 78 IP
7. Alexi Ogando (Rangers): 5-0, 2.33 ERA, 47/15 K/BB in 65 2/3 IP
8. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 6-2, 2.42 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 63 1/3 IP
9. Josh Tomlin (Indians): 6-2, 2.74 ERA, 34/10 K/BB in 65 2/3 IP
10. Jeremy Hellickson (Rays): 6-3, 2.80 ERA, 46/27 K/BB in 64 1/3 IP

Notice the presence of two rookies and two sophomores who don’t miss rookie eligibility by much.

Next up is WAR, the Baseball-Reference version:

1. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 3.2
2. Jered Weaver (Angels): 2.9
3. Trevor Cahill (Athletics): 2.7
4. Dan Haren (Angels): 2.5
5. Alexi Ogando (Rangers): 2.4
6. James Shields (Rays): 2.4
7. Zach Britton (Orioles): 2.3
8. Brett Anderson (Athletics): 2.2
9. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 2.2
10. Justin Verlander (Tigers): 2.2

There’s one more rookie.

And the Fangraphs version of WAR, which is based much more on FIP than ERA:

1. Jered Weaver (Angels): 2.7
2. Dan Haren (Angels): 2.7
3. CC Sabathia (Yankees): 2.2
4. Felix Hernandez (Mariners): 2.2
5. James Shields (Rays): 2.0
6. Brandon McCarthy (Athletics): 2.0
7. Josh Beckett (Red Sox): 2.0
8. Justin Verlander (Tigers): 1.8
9. David Price (Rays): 1.8
10. Michael Pineda (Mariners): 1.8

By trying to take luck out of the equation, Fangraphs generates a very different list. Cahill comes in at 1.0 in their WAR, ranking him behind four White Sox starters, including Edwin Jackson (4.63 ERA) at 1.6.

With Sabathia and King Felix in the top five, the Fangraphs list does look like something we might see at the end of the season. Still, I’m not a fan of basing pitching awards on FIP. I like it better as a predictive tool.

So, those are our candidates. I don’t see any relievers worth adding to the mix. Sergio Santos comes closest with his 1.40 ERA and eight saves in 25 2/3 innings.

Right now, I think the Cy comes down to Beckett and Weaver. Beckett has the nice ERA edge, while Weaver has pitched an extra 16 innings. Normally, I’d say the innings outweigh the modest quality gap. However, here’s one more set of numbers:

Opposing hitters OPS

Beckett: .756
Verlander: .735
Shields: .730
Weaver: .724
Gonzalez: .722
Pineda: .721
Cahill: .719
Haren: .716

Having made two starts against the Yankees and two against the Indians, Beckett has faced far-and-away the most difficult schedule of the top candidates to date. I think that rates him an edge in the competition.

As for the other spot, I’m favoring Shields. Verlander leads the AL in innings and has pitched better than his 3.12 ERA suggests, but Shields is just three innings behind him and has allowed 11 fewer runs.

AL Cy Young
1. Beckett
2. Weaver
3. Shields

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.