To the surprise of nobody except Justin Verlander and his biggest fans, Wednesday the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced that Tampa Bay Rays left-hander David Price is the winner of the American League Cy Young Award.
It was incredibly close, though; aside from the American League tie in 1969, this was the closest Cy Young balloting in the award's history. Price got 13 first-place votes and 153 points, and Verlander got 12 first-place votes and 149 points. Price was listed first or second on 27 ballots, and third on the other; Verlander was listed first or second on 26 ballots, and third on the other two. Coincidentally (or bizarrely), both of the ballots listing Verlander third were submitted by writers covering the Angels, and both ballots were the same:
1. David Price
2. Jered Weaver
3. Justin Verlander
With due respect to No. 3 finisher Weaver, this was a two-man race.
Who did you like more? David Price's 20 wins in the tough American League East? Or Justin Verlander's modest edge in strikeout-to-walk ratio and big edge in innings pitched? Because their ERA's were virtually the same, and while Verlander pitched for a postseason team and Price didn't, the Rays actually won more games than the Tigers (which isn't going to help Mike Trout against Miguel Cabrera, but the "playoffs bonus" isn't nearly as large for Cy Young candidates as for MVP candidates).
Those are the easy arguments, boiled down about as far as we can boil them down.
Or rather, about as far as most of the Cy Young voters were likely to boil them down. At best.
As Dave Cameron points out, though, there were more reasons to prefer Verlander. Comerica Park is friendlier than Tropicana Field to hitters. Price had a significantly better defense behind him. Oh, and it's really hard to ignore the fact that Verlander finished with 27 more innings than Price; that's three complete games' worth of innings!
Weaver finished third in the balloting -- but without a single first-place vote -- because he went 20-5 and sported the third-best ERA in the league (behind Price and Verlander). We've known he was going to finish third since last week when the three Cy Young finalists were announced. And considering his strikeout-to-walk ratio, third is charitable.
Felix Hernandez finished fourth, which is impressive considering his 13-9 record. And fifth was Rays closer Fernando Rodney, whose 0.60 ERA was the lowest in major-league history among pitchers with at least 50 innings. If you want to dive in even deeper, here's the complete balloting.