Last week, I played around with National League Cy Young candidates, and concluded that there probably isn't a clear favorite at this point; just a bunch of really good pitchers -- none of them named Halladay or Lee -- enjoying really good seasons, and it's still wide open.
In the American League, though? There's one prime candidate, named Weaver: Jered Weaver.
Monday night, Jered Weaver pitched a four-hit shutout against the A's, which had the twin benefits of a) pushing Weaver's record to an eye-popping 15-1, and b) pushing Weaver's Angels past the A's in the Wild Card standings.
Weaver doesn't just have the best record; he's also got the best ERA (2.37). Which makes him the odds-on Cy Young favorite, right?
Right. Here's a different question, though ... Should he be the favorite? Would you vote for him? Has he actually been the best pitcher in the American League.*
* Yes, that's three questions. Stuff your mathematics in a sock, mister.
While Weaver's got the best record and the best ERA, he ranks just 20th in innings, 22nd in strikeouts, seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 10th in home-run ratio. It's those numbers that help explain this surprising fact: When it comes to Wins Above Replacement, Jered Weaver ranks just seventh in the American League, just a tick behind (and this will surprise you) Hiroki Kuroda.
Here's something else that helps explain it: Anaheim's Angel Stadium of Anaheim is one of the pitcher-friendliest ballparks in the American League. Which means the numbers for their pitchers have to come with a few grains of salt. Doesn't mean Jered Weaver's not a great pitcher. Just means his record and his ERA don't necessarily mean he's better than all the other pitchers in the league.
In fact, that's exactly what it means.
Last year, Justin Verlander was the league's best pitcher. And hey guess what: Verlander is the league's best pitcher this year, too. He leads the A.L. in both innings and strikeouts, his ERA is just few tenths higher than Weaver's ... and Comerica Park actually plays like a hitter's park, its Grand Canyon-like reputation notwithstanding.
Last year, Verlander won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards because he went 24-5. But he's been exactly the same pitcher this season, except he's not been as lucky in terms of wins and losses. Same strikeouts, same walks, same home runs, same ERA, same everything.
Maybe even the same Cy Young Award, if the voters look past Weaver's gaudy record.