The day has finally come. Tonight we will find out whether Rays lefty David Price will take home the 2o12 American League Cy Young Award. Price is coming off an incredible season, going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA and 205 strikeouts versus just 59 walks in 31 starts and 211 innings pitched. He led the AL in wins, ERA, and winning percentage (.800). But does Price deserve to win? Justin Verlander, who was the AL MVP in 2011 in addition to winning the Cy Young, went 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 238.1 innings pitched in another fabulous season. Jered Weaver matched Price at 20-5 to go along with a 2.81 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 188.1 IP. Weaver did have an excellent season, but it appears that Price and Verlander have lapped the field. What distinguishes Price from Verlander? Mark Topkin and Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times and Matthew Leach of the Rays’ official site had all the stats.
- Price was 10-2, 2.51 in 16 starts against AL East teams, representing four of the league’s top eight offensive teams by on-base plus slugging percentage, or OPS.
- Price was 13-3, 2.27 in 19 games (and 62 percent of his innings) against teams that finished .500 or better, matching Weaver for the most such wins. (Verlander was 8-4, 2.63.)
- In 23 of Price’s 31 starts (74.2 percent), he went seven or more innings, most in the majors. (Verlander did so in only 21 of 33, 64 percent; Weaver 16 of 30, 53 percent.)
- In 23 starts, Price allowed two earned runs or fewer, most in the AL. (Weaver and Verlander each had 22.)
- He started 15 games against teams that made the playoffs, and was 9-3 in them. He was 10-2 in the AL East.
- In his final 18 starts, as the Rays were scrambling toward the payoffs, Price finished 12-1.
- Measured by opponents’ OPS, Price faced the fifth-toughest slate of hitters of any AL starter this year (according to Baseball Prospectus). The aggregate OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of the hitters who faced Price was .763, more than four percent better than the overall AL average of 731. Verlander ran the 15th-toughest gauntlet among qualifying starters, Jered Weaver 29th of the 36 pitchers who tossed 162 innings in the Junior Circuit.
A main argument for Verlander is that not only did he throw more innings and have more strikeouts than Price, leading the league in both categories, but he also led the league in ERA+, ERA compared to the league average adjusted to ballpark, 160 to 149, meaning that Verlander was 11% better than the league average in ERA than Price was. Considering Verlander was better than Price was better in ERA adjusted to ballpark, strikeouts, and innings pitched, how could he not win the Cy Young? Here are two simple but interesting stats that give Price a clear edge over Verlander.
- Although Verlander edges Price in FIP (3.o2 to 3.12), Price was better in xFIP (3.12 to 3.31) and SIERA (3.16 to 3.26). Verlander actually needed more help from luck and his defense to put up his numbers than Price did- Price actually gets a boost from the Rays’ inconsistent defense in 2012 in this regard.
- Tropicana Field is more of a pitcher’s ballpark that Comerica Park in Detroit, but the difference between home and road splits for Verlander were much more significant than Price. Verlander went 9-2 with a 1.65 ERA at home compared to just an 8-6 record and a 3.57 ERA on the road while Price went 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA at home compared to a 13-3 record and a 3.16 ERA on the road. In terms of OPS+ against, Verlander held hitters to just a 53 sOPS+ at home compared to 77 on the road, while Price was even better at home, coming in at a 46 sOPS+, although he was at an 82 OPS+ on the road. Averaging the ERAs and OPS against, Price beats Verlander 2.49 to 2.61, and he edges him in OPS+ 64 to 65. Verlander’s edge in ERA+ is misleading- he actually got more of a boost from his home ballpark than Price.
How does Price feel about being in the running for the Cy Young? Leach had the details.
“I’m definitely excited about the possibility of winning it,” Price said. “My teammates played well behind me all year and put me in the position I’m in right now, and I’m very appreciative of their efforts. … We played very well on my day, I feel like [considering] the competition and the schedule we had, that I threw the ball extremely well.”
But what about Fernando Rodney? Rodney is coming off arguably the greatest season ever by a relief pitcher, saving 48 games while posting an unbelievable 0.60 ERA, the best in history for a reliever minimum 50 innings. Why isn’t he getting more Cy Young support? Paul Hagen of the Rays’ official site talked to Braves special advisor Jim Fegrosi and Rays Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, and both of them thought they he wasn’t getting his fair share of respect.
“He had the greatest year that any relief pitcher could ever possibly have,” Braves special assistant Jim Fregosi said bluntly.
“I’m not one generally to think that a reliever should be considered for the Cy Young,” admitted Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. “But when you set the record for the lowest ERA in the history of baseball, I don’t know how you’re not in the top three.
Rodney could very well finish fourth in the Cy Young voting, but it’s disappointing that he wasn’t even a finalist for the award. Friedman, predictably, thought Rodney should have been right behind Price.
“I’m biased, but I feel like our guys should be 1-2. Both David and Fernando were tremendous.”