The American League Cy Young award will give us a chance to once again engage in a debate that has thrived in recent seasons: should it matter if you pitch for a winning team or not?
Yu Darvish leads the race on a Texas Rangers team that should at least be in the American League playoff race. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander will both be in the conversation as the Detroit Tigers look poised for another AL Central title. And then there are the guys who will rack up nice numbers in all of the columns except for those darn wins and losses. Will their success be enough?
The Contenders: Felix Hernandez, Yu Darvish
If ever King Felix would be given the chance to pitch for a Seattle Mariners team that finished near the top of the division, he might have this award locked down each and every year. He has posted a sub-3.50 ERA and an 8+ K/9 every season since 2009. He was downright dirty in 2013, posting a 3.04 ERA and a 9.5 K/9. His win loss record? A frustratingly problematic 12-10.
In his second big league season, Darvish went 13-9. That was also a misleading win-loss mark, as he struck out 277 hitters and posted a 2.83 ERA over 209.2 innings. He has approximately 13 pitches with which to get hitters out, to the point that it sometimes looks like he just goofs around while recording strikeouts. Health pending (Darvish is currently on the DL), he is in line for a truly dominant season.
In the Conversation: Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer
For at least one more season Sale will be left to devastate hitters while pitching for a bad baseball team; the Chicago White Sox might be on track to be contenders in the future, it just surely will not be in 2014. Sale will have a great season, but King Felix is still ahead of him on the “aces for bad teams” list, something that will be reflected in the voting.
Verlander and Scherzer will lead the Tigers to the playoffs and they will both rack up a ton of strikeouts. But here’s betting that neither of them win 20 games this time, cracking the door open for a new champion.
The Winner: Yu Darvish
It is absolutely no knock on Hernandez or anybody else to point out the fact that Darvish’s 11.9 K/9 mark was just silly last season. He will have a no-hitter this season (at minimum) and he will be the AL Cy Young winner.