Stop what you're doing and listen, I have something incredibly bold to say: I think Justin Verlander is going to win the AL Cy Young this year. If you're a Tigers fan, you're probably all, like, Duh!
Not all baseball pundits are in agreement here, though. Depending on the favored metrics, I guess it's open for intelligent debate. For instance, Jered Weaver has the best ERA in baseball by more than half a run and is the best in other respected stats, too. CC Sabathia has the greatest WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as calculated by FanGraphs, a sabermetric that is fine by me in unison with others, but not something I can condone using as a crutch (and, thus, doesn't give Sabathia's case much else to stand on).
Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan took some time away from obsessing over player DUIs and put together a very good article that delves deep into the objective measures of pitching, all so we can have a better understanding as to who should win this all out sprint for the most prestigious pitching award. If you look at Passan's post, I think you'll quickly realize 1) Sabathia probably shouldn't even be included, and 2) Verlander is superior in the majority of the areas that scream out to me, "best pitcher in AL." The Cy Young awards go to the best pitchers in baseball, right?
Verlander currently has the edge in strikeouts per nine innings (a stat I think is underrated because making hitters look silly is directly linked to a pitcher's greatness), batting average against with RISP, complete games (four vs. better competition than Weaver's four), and performance in outings after his team loses, which also gives him a leg up in his overall value to his team. Like Passan, I think if a voter really needs a tiebreaker, the way Verlander pitches following a Tigers loss should represent the sway. Here's what Passan had to say about it:
It is here, I think, where Justin Verlander is going to win the Cy Young. All three pitchers have been stupendous following their team losing, though Verlander has found himself in that position during more than two-thirds of his starts.
In this case, FIP stands for Forget It, Please. Because the most important number for Verlander is 133, his innings total in 17 starts following a Tigers loss – 7.82 innings per. Verlander averages nearly eight innings a start after a defeat, plenty of which necessitated wearing out Detroit’s bullpen and made Verlander’s lengthy outings even more imperative.
Over his 12 victories, Verlander stopped three losing streaks and prevented nine others. In the five games the Tigers did lose – three on his record, two no-decisions – Verlander’s ERA was 2.95.
This is just one number. If Sabathia or Weaver’s No. 5 starter was as bad as Verlander’s, perhaps they’d have those sorts of numbers as well. But they don’t. And it’s why if a voter needs a tiebreaker, this may well be it.
I can't tell you how many times I've read something along the lines of "Verlander needs to step up and be an ace tomorrow to help the Tigers avoid another sweep" this season, but I'm getting fairly accustomed to it. I know these pitchers have zero impact on whether or not their teams win the night before, but Verlander has SEVEN more extra-pressure starts than Sabathia and Weaver and he's picked up his team like a true ace in nearly all of them. Weaver is actually worse in such starts and Sabathia is right in line with how he pitches all the time. Verlander amps it up to 11.
Also, keep in mind that Verlander has a no-hitter to his name this year and has carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning or later in three different games, the first pitcher to do that in one season since Nolan Ryan (ironically, a year Ryan did not win the Cy Young).
Maybe I'm completely biased, sitting here in my 5-year-old Verlander shersey with Verlander highlights playing in the background and entirely incredible to give an impartial opinion on this at 4 a.m., but having watched nearly every one of Verlander's 2,904 pitches this season (that's A LOT of pitches, by the way), Verlander has risen to elite status--time and time again--when his team has needed him the most.
Now, each pitcher has about 10 starts left, which is - sheesh - about one third of their season's worth of starts, so a lot can change still. But if, while looking at it now, you try to claim Verlander is not the most deserving of the Cy Young, then you, my friend, are committing slander.