Just a few weeks ago I would have told you that Josh Beckett was the Cy Young front-runner for the 2009 season. A few weeks before that, Roy Halladay would have been my pick. Prior to that, you couldn't have convinced me that anyone was more qualified that Zack Greinke to take home the award.
Now, with the season winding down I have finally allowed Justin Verlander to enter into the finalist category for me.
It's not that I didn't think he was having an outstanding season before this, but I tend to be tougher on Tiger's players. It's as if I hold them to a higher standard simply because they play for my favorite team. I don't ever want to be accused of holding a "fandom" bias when looking objectively at performance. But the numbers don't lie, he is as deserving as any other pitcher.
In my mind, the race has come down to this small group of pitchers: Verlander, CC Sabathia, Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. That's all. An argument could be made for Jeff Niemann, Scott Feldman, Edwin Jackson or Jered Weaver, but they honestly have no shot.
Currently, J.V. is first in wins, first in strikeouts, fourth in ERA, complete games and innings pitched and has been dominant of late. He shut down the Red Sox in a game that could have turned the entire season in the wrong direction had he not been. Without him, the Tigers are looking up at the Twins hoping to catch them.
I cannot stress enough how deserving of the award I believe Zack Greinke is. He leads the league in ERA and is second in strikeouts, while still managing to put up 13 wins for a last-place team. He has been the most impressive pitcher in the American League for much of the year, but he plays for the Royals. As much as this should not be a factor in the voting process, I will more than likely hurt his chances. Taking him out of equation, this leaves us with five pitchers.
Felix Hernandez suffers from lack of exposure. He will get his fair share of votes, but ultimately will be overshadowed by pitchers throwing for larger market teams. He too had been nothing less than spectacular. He will win one someday, just not this year.
Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay have been mysteries to me. At times they have been untouchable, and at times they have looked very pedestrian. Beckett seems to be tiring a bit. The lack of dependability in Boston has probably started to get to him, but his ERA has taken a huge hit, inflating all the way to 3.80. A strong September push could put him back in the conversation, but for now he has fallen to the level of "also-ran."
Halladay has JP Riccardi to thank for his struggles. How could he pitch in such a hostile and uncertain environment? Hell, how could Walter Johnson have pitched in such an environment. He was poised to make a run for his second trophy; sadly his time has passed.
This may be two-horse race down the stretch; Sabathia and Verlander. Isn't it fitting that it is between these two aces? They know a thing or two about battling down the stretch, being former rivals in the AL Central. Now they are going head to head for the most coveted trophy in pitching. CC throws tomorrow and Justin throws Friday.
I'll tell you one thing, I am sure either of them would give up their eligibility in order to guarantee a few more games in October.