The American League on the mound in 2011 was like a Japanese building next to Godzilla, only there were no Mothra’s or annoying little tanks to slow down Justin Verlander. He ran so thoroughly through the opposition that his Cy Young win looked small next to the eventual MVP he took on.
A year later, the class step up their ballgame to come up to his level, and even surpass it. The race to call name the best arm in the AL was as even and spread out of a race as was offered. The consistency the perennial threats such as the Yankees’ CC Sabathia was battled by the undeniable rise of Chris Sale and the White Sox along with him. Meanwhile out west, Jared Weaver joined the No-Hit bandwagon, while Felix Hernandez did a notch better tossing a Perfecto on the Rays. And Tampa Bay showcased the brilliance that is watching an amazing skill set come together every day, such as David Price’s 2012 endeavor showed.
However, all things considered, Mount Verlander still posed a considerable task peak to climb on its 2012 merits alone. While he faced an impossible encore performance, was even a return to Earth still finding him on a level of his own? Well…yes, it still did. Soon enough, could the Baseball Bloggers Alliance AL entry to the Walter Johnson Award be due for a renaming? If this keeps up, maybe.
2012 AL Walter Johnson Award—Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Nobody was in a more impossible position than Verlander was every time out in ’12. He was coming off one of the most decorated years any pitcher has ever authored, and was doing so for a team that had upgraded around him. But there had to be a happy medium; winning 20 games is a task to repeat, so winning 24 again? No, there was no way that he had as good of a year as he did a summer ago, but still the AL couldn’t keep up with the game’s ultimate Ace.
Verlander’s effort epitomized the Tigers season. He was gritty, leading the Majors once more in innings pitched (238.1), strikeouts (239) and complete games (6). The wins were down to 17, which was his lowest total in four years, however when the chips were down, he was never better. The Tigers, who won the AL Central by 15 games a year ago, had to fight until the season’s last week to overcome the Chicago White Sox. Over that stretch, Verlander went 5-1 in September, sporting a 1.93 ERA and 41 strikeouts.
Last season, his outright domination wowed an amazed to a point that the Tigers closed out business better than anybody in baseball. This year, he had to focus it late to pull the team into the playoffs. That versatility and dependency makes him the definition of an Ace. There’s a legit buzz of history and hopelessness around any appearance he makes on the mound. 2012 wasn’t 2011, and it proves that clutch grit is just as great as distance producing excellence. And it also makes him the best pitcher in the world, until somebody outdoes him.
Best of the Rest
2. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners: He once again defied the confines of his place as the top arm on a non-contending team. King Felix finished with 223 spread across 232 frames, and led the Majors with 5 shutouts. From mid-June to August, he struck out 100, while walking only 14 on a 1.40 ERA.
3. David Price, Tampa Bay Rays: In year four, Price became the complete package. His 2.56 ERA was the lowest in the AL, and he became the first Ray to ever top 20 wins in a season, also the top total in the league.
4. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox: Sale’s rise to prominence totaled 17 wins and 192 strikeouts, as well as grabbed the White Sox by the collar nearly drug them back into the playoffs. Not bad considering he made his first career start this past April.
5. Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels: Weaver was the rock of the Angels through a tough team start and injuries himself. He went undefeated in July, and only lost once in both May and September, racking up his first 20 win season, tying for the league lead.
Later today, the ballot for the Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year in both leagues will be revealed.
MLB Awards Season in the CHEAP SEATS, recap & preview
October 9—Connie Mack/Manager of the Year Award: Davey Johnson & Buck Showalter
October 10—Willie Mays/Rookie of the Year Award: Bryce Harper & Mike Trout
October 11—Walter Johnson/Pitcher of the Year Award: Clayton Kershaw & Justin Verlander
October 11—Goose Gossage Reliever of the Year Award:
October 12—Stan Musial Most Valuable Player Award
For more on the run through a crazy October, and tomorrow’s big MVP announcement in the CHEAP SEATS, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.