As we slowly head toward the finish line of the 2013 Major League Baseball season, there are quite a few pitchers in the American League building impressive resumes. Those resumes of course are for the Cy Young Award, handed out every November to the top pitcher in the AL and NL.
So this week, we’ll take a look at the top five AL candidates currently in the running:
Felix Hernandez: 11-4, 2.43 ERA, 21 starts, 144.2 innings pitched, 16 quality starts
As seems to be the case for King Felix each season, he leads the pack for AL pitchers. Pitching with the Seattle Mariners, who typically sit near last in offense, means a starter has to be on top of their game if they want the team to win along with picking up their own individual wins. Ever since his debut, Hernandez has been brilliant, winning the Cy Young in 2010 and pitching a perfect game last August. As his numbers indicate this season, Hernandez is at the top of his game once again, not to mention he’s fifth overall in the MLB in strikeouts (147) this year. Down the stretch, expect Hernandez to stay as a solid contender for the Cy Young, something that he seemingly does every season.
Bartolo Colon has been one of the MLB’s best surprises this season. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Bartolo Colon: 13-3, 2.52 ERA, 20 starts, 135.2 innings pitched, 17 quality starts
This season, the 40 year-old Colon has emerged out of the gate as one of baseball’s best pitchers. While he’s far from being the flamethrower that King Felix is, Colon has been able to set down batters at an impressive rate. He has seen a drop in his opponent’s batting average from last year (.263 to .252) and he’s tied with the Cleveland Indians’ Justin Masterson for three complete game shut-outs, the most this season. Whatever Colon is doing on the mound is working effectively for the right-hander as he clearly is showing no signs of slowing down with the Oakland A’s.
Hiroki Kuroda: 10-6, 2.51 ERA, 21 starts, 132.2 innings pitched, 14 quality starts
In New York, the title of the Yankees’ ace has shifted away from guys like C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte to Kuroda. Last season, Kuroda was brilliant in his transition year from the NL to the AL and 2013 has been a season of wonders for the 38 year-old. This season, Kuroda’s been stingy with base runners, having a career low WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 1.04 and in the month of July, has been dominant with an ERA of 0.69. As for the rest of the season, the Yankees hope Kuroda can keep up the consistency, and if he does, he’ll find himself further in the Cy Young race.
Chris Sale: 6-9, 2.81 ERA, 18 starts, 128 innings pitched, 15 quality starts
2013 is looking like another promising year for the young Sale. While many people will hold Sale to last year’s 17-win season, we’ve talked before about how many wins a pitcher has doesn’t necessarily correlate to their success. Yes, Sale sits at a .400 winning percentage in 2013, but the 24 year-old left-hander has also passed last year’s complete game total (two this season, one last year) and is on pace to break his strikeout total as well. With the rumors flying about that the Chicago White Sox might trade Jake Peavy, Sale is going to become the sole ace in the rotation.
Yu Darvish hasn’t let the transition from Japan to American affect his play at all. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Yu Darvish: 9-4, 2.86 ERA, 19 starts, 125.2 innings pitched12 quality starts
When the Texas Rangers signed Darvish before the 2012 season, they knew the quality they would get from one of Japan’s best pitchers. Now a year later after his great debut season, Darvish has destroyed radar guns and leads all of the MLB in strikeouts with 161. Darvish has easily become the number one in the Rangers’ starting rotation and his ability to be an innings eater, much like the other four candidates, solidifies his job as an ace. Heading into the latter months of the season, if Darvish can focus on not walking as many batters, he’s going to be a sure contender.
Clearly we still have a good two solid months until the season ends so anything can change in the blink of an eye. However, this is where the AL top five pitchers sit and it’s going to be an enjoyable ride to the finish. Pitchers like Anibal Sanchez, John Lackey and Hisashi Iwakuma also are on the brink of the top five for the AL. Next week, we’ll look at the top five NL pitchers who are in contention for the Cy Young Award.
Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.