2012 midseason awards: AL Cy Young

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The AL Cy Young balloting turned into a rout last year, as Justin Verlander lapped the field on his way to taking league MVP honors. At the midway point, this year’s Cy is still very much in doubt.

Here’s the league top 10 in ERA:

Jered Weaver (LAA): 9-1, 2.13 ERA, 68/21 K/BB in 88 2/3 IP
Chris Sale (CWS): 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98/25 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
C.J. Wilson (LAA): 9-4, 2.33 ERA, 84/46 K/BB in 104 1/3 IP
Justin Verlander (Det): 9-5, 2.58 ERA, 128/30 K/BB in 132 2/3 IP
David Price (TB): 11-4, 2.82 ERA, 105/37 K/BB in 111 2/3 IP
Jake Peavy (CWS): 6-5, 2.96 ERA, 101/24 K/BB in 112 2/3 IP
Matt Harrison (Tex): 11-3, 3.16 ERA, 65/25 K/BB in 105 1/3 IP
Hiroki Kuroda (NYY): 8-7, 3.17 ERA, 80/31 K/BB in 102 1/3 IP
Felix Hernandez (Sea): 6-5, 3.26 ERA, 122/32 K/BB in 116 IP
Jason Hammel (Bal): 8-4, 3.43 ERA, 97/34 K/BB in 99 2/3 IP

Oakland’s Jarrod Parker, at 2.46 in 80 1/3 IP, and Brandon McCarthy, at 2.54 in 78 innings, just miss the cut for qualifying.

Here’s the WAR top 10 from Baseball-reference:

Sale: 4.4
Verlander: 4.4
Peavy: 3.9
Harrison: 3.3
Kuroda: 2.9
Price: 2.7
Parker: 2.6
Weaver: 2.6
Hammel: 2.4
Wilson: 2.4

That’s nine of the top 10 from the ERA list, plus Parker. The lone omission is King Felix, who comes in at 1.5.

WAR’s top reliever is Jim Johnson at 2.3, followed by Pedro Strop at 1.9 and rookie Ryan Cook and Robbie Ross at 1.7.

I don’t think any of the relievers belong in the mix at this point. Ernesto Frieri might if one included his Padres numbers as well, but he’s thrown just 24 1/3 innings for the Angels.

I want to look at the ERA leaders again, this time at their strength of schedule. Here’s their opponents overall OPS to date:

Weaver: .731
Sale: .727
Wilson: .750
Verlander: .763
Price: .775
Peavy: .757
Harrison: .729
Kuroda: .749
Hernandez: .744
Hammel: .762

I probably weigh this more than most, but there are some big differences there. Price has faced 451 batters this year, and on average, they’ve had about 50 points of OPS on the guys Sale has faced. Price has already made four starts against the Yankees, two against Toronto, two against Boston and one against Texas. Sale, on the other hand, has made a total of two starts against teams in the top 10 in the majors in runs scored (Texas and Milwaukee).

My feeling is that the three spots on the ballot come down to the guys ranked second through sixth in ERA. Here they are again:

Chris Sale (CWS): 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98/25 K/BB in 102 2/3 IP
C.J. Wilson (LAA): 9-4, 2.33 ERA, 84/46 K/BB in 104 1/3 IP
Justin Verlander (Det): 9-5, 2.58 ERA, 128/30 K/BB in 132 2/3 IP
David Price (TB): 11-4, 2.82 ERA, 105/37 K/BB in 111 2/3 IP
Jake Peavy (CWS): 6-5, 2.96 ERA, 101/24 K/BB in 112 2/3 IP

Weaver’s 15-20 innings behind the pack here, so that takes him out of the running for me. WAR puts both Harrison and Kuroda in the top five, but I don’t see it. They’re a bit behind in ERA, their K/BB ratios and WHIPs don’t stand out and they don’t get bonus points for their schedules.

I think Verlander has to get the edge, thanks in large part to that inning total. I don’t know that he’s been the AL’s best pitcher this year, but I believe he’s been the most valuable because of those extra innings he’s thrown. And it’s not like anyone else really stands out as the best. Sale has the ERA, but he’s faced the weakest competition of the group. Wilson’s stats apart from his ERA are less than stellar, and he’s given up seven unearned runs. I like the fact that Price has faced so many top offenses, but he does have a 1.20 WHIP, compared to the 0.95 marks for both Verlander and Sale. Also, he works in a friendlier ballpark for pitchers.

Peavy can’t be dismissed. He’s faced five top-10 offenses, and the White Sox have scored a total of two runs in his five losses. He’s a strong No. 4 here, but I’m going elsewhere with the top three.

My ballot
1. Verlander
2. Sale
3. Price

Mike Leake loses perfect game bid on leadoff single in the ninth

Mike Leake
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Just one week after Taylor Cole and Felix Peña tossed a combined no-hitter against Seattle, Mariners right-hander Mike Leake worked on his own perfect game through eight innings against the Angels.

It was an ambitious form of revenge, and one that Leake served up perfectly as he held the Angels scoreless in frame after frame. He sprinkled a handful of strikeouts throughout the first eight innings, catching Matt Thaiss on a called strike three in the third and getting two whiffs — called strikeouts against both Brian Goodwin and Shohei Ohtani — in the fourth.

The Mariners, meanwhile, put up a good fight against the Angels, backing Leake’s attempt with 10 runs — their first double-digit total since a 13-3 rout of the Orioles on June 23. Daniel Vogelbach led things off in the fourth with a three-run homer off of reliever Jaime Barria, then repeated the feat with another three-run shot off Barria in the fifth. Tom Murphy and J.P. Crawford helped pad the lead as well with a two-RBI single and two-RBI double, respectively.

In the ninth, with just three outs remaining, the Angels finally managed to break through. Luis Rengifo worked a 1-1 count against Leake, then returned an 85.3-m.p.h. changeup to right field for a base hit, dismantling the perfecto and the no-hitter in one fell swoop. Leake lost control of the ball following the hit, issuing four straight balls to Kevan Smith in the next at-bat and giving the Angels their first runner in scoring position. Still at a pitch count of just 90, however, he induced the next two outs in quick fashion and polished off the win with a triumphant eight-pitch strikeout against Mike Trout for the first one-hitter (and Maddux) of his career.

Had Leake successfully closed out the perfecto, it would’ve been the first of his decade-long career in the majors and the first the Mariners had seen since Félix Hernández’s perfect game against the Rays in August 2012. For their part, the Angels have yet to be on the losing end of a perfecto. The last time they were shut out in a no-hitter was 1999, at the hands of then-Twins pitcher Eric Milton.