Thursday, October 13, 2011

Verlander, Kershaw ascend list of aces

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:

Walter Johnson Award for Top Pitcher
American League

1. Justin Verlander-RHP-Detroit Tigers
(24-5), 2.40 ERA, 251.0 IP, 250 K, 0.920 WHIP, fWAR 7.0
The narrative has played out very well for Mr. Verlander in 2011 and he could be a unanimous selection for this award. He was dominant during most of the season for the Tigers and saw himself finish the year with an outstanding 24 wins. While wins can be a fluky statistic, Verlander also lead the league in ERA, games started, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP, and H/9. As the season was coming to a close, there has been national attention thrust upon Verlander for the season he composed in '11. There is a chance for the powerful right handed pitcher to be considered for the Most Valuable Player in the American League but for now he will have to be satisfied with being the best pitcher in the league. 

2. Jered Weaver-RHP-Los Angeles Angels
(18-8), 2.41 ERA, 235.2 IP, 198 K, 1.010 WHIP, fWAR 5.6
It is hard to believe the Angles missed out on the postseason with the combined seasons of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. He finished second in the AL in ERA and WHIP behind Verlander. He also finished third in hits per nine innings pitched and wins. His strikeout numbers dipped a little since he lead the league in 2010 but he still pieced together a solid campaign in 2011.

3. CC Sabathia-LHP- New York Yankees
(19-8), 3.00 ERA, 237.1 IP, 230 K 1.226 WHIP, fWAR 7.1
Sabathia pitches in the toughest division in baseball and he makes half of his starts at Yankee Stadium, a known hitters park. Those obstacles would be hard for most pitchers to overcome but not for Sabathia. Since joining the Yankees in 2009, he has won 19 or more games in each season. He finished second in wins and strikeouts while pitching the fourth most innings in the American League.

4. James Shields-RHP-Tampa Bay Rays
(16-12), 2.82 ERA, 249.1 IP, 225 K, 1.043 WHIP, fWAR 4.9
Much like Sabathia, Shields was pitching in the very difficult American League East. That did not stop him from posting the third best ERA in American League. The standout statistic for Shields was his 11 complete games and his four shutouts. Both of these numbers were tops in the AL and his complete games were six more than his closest competitor.

5. CJ Wilson-LHP-Texas Rangers
(16-7), 2.94 ERA, 223.1 IP, 206 K, 1.187 WHIP, fWAR 5.9
Wilson knew he would be entering free agency and he put together a 2011 season to help his contract situation for the future. He was a rock at the top of the Rangers rotation and he helped the team to win 96 games in defense of their AL Pennant. His adjusted ERA+, adjusted pitching runs, and adjusted pitching wins were all in the top four in the American League.

National League
1. Clayton Kershaw-LHP-Los Angeles Dodgers
(21-5), 2.28 ERA, 233.1 IP, 248 K, 0.977 WHIP, fWAR 6.8
The starting rotation in Philadelphia was suppose to produce the top pitchers in the National League. While each of those men produced fine seasons, Kershaw stood out on a team struggling to stay near the .500 mark. By leading the National League in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, Kershaw was able to achieve the pitching version of the triple crown. Jake Peavy was the last National League pitcher to achieve this feat in 2007. All of the pitcher of the last 55 years to complete the pitching triple crown have gone on to be named the top pitcher in their respective league. Kershaw should do the same for the season he had in 2011. 

2. Roy Halladay-RHP-Philadelphia Phillies
(19-6), 2.35 ERA, 233.2 IP, 220 K, 1.040 WHIP, fWAR 8.2
In many other seasons, Halladay would be taking home the hardware for best pitcher in the National League. Both of the Baseball Reference and the FanGraphs versions of wins above replacement have Halladay as the top hurler in the National League. He pitched the most complete games and finished second to Kershaw in ERA. The only pitcher to throw more innings than Halladay was Chris Carpenter. A very good season but not quite enough to stack up against Kershaw.

3. Cliff Lee-LHP-Philadelphia Phillies
(17-8), 2.40 ERA, 238 K, 1.027 WHIP, fWAR 6.7
Lee put together some great stretches of baseball in 2011. He had two months this season in which he was unbeatable. For the month of June, he compiled a 5-0 record with an ERA of 0.21 to go along with three complete games. Two months later in August, he went 5-0 with an ERA of 0.45 with a 0.782 WHIP. If Lee could have put together another month like the ones described here, this would be his award for the taking.

4. Ian Kennedy-RHP-Arizona Diamondbacks
(21-4), 2.88 ERA, 198 K, 1.086 WHIP, fWAR 5.0
The biggest surprise name on this list has to be that of Mr. Ian Kennedy. Entering play at the start of the 2011 season, Kennedy had a grand total of 10 wins to his name as a MLB player. He more than doubled that output with 21 wins in the 2011 season. Besides the win total for Kennedy, many of the other statistical numbers were not there at season's end when compared to the names listed above. Arizona needed him and he produced at a superb level. 

5. Cole Hamels-LHP-Philadelphia Phillies
(14-9), 2.79 ERA, 194 K, 0.986 WHIP, fWAR 4.9
The sometimes forgotten member of the pitching triumvirate in Philadelphia could have been the ace of many other pitching staffs in the league. He finished in second place in WHIP and hits per nine IP in the National League. The additions around Hamels have taken some of the load off of his shoulders and this has helped him to continue to produce. 

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