Last season was highly regarded as the Year of the Pitcher around the majors. Mainly because of the large amount of no-hitters, perfect games, the Giants World Series win, and Armando Galarraga’s 1-hitter. Well, this season may arguably be better from a pitcher’s perspective. Why? Because while there may not be as many single dominant pitching performances, we currently have four pitchers tied for the ML lead with 10 wins, as well as nine pitchers tied with nine wins a piece. We also have the return of a few star pitchers bouncing back after a disappointing 2010.
First, let us remember how helpless Josh Beckett seemed on the rubber at times last season. He was a pitching tee at Yankee Stadium. In 127.2 innings pitched, Beckett allowed 82 earned runs. Through 92 innings thus far, Beckett has only given up 19 earned runs as he leads the league with a 1.86 ERA. Beckett has also only surrendered 55 hits this season giving him a .92 WHIP with opponents batting only .174 against him. His six win total from last season has already been matched by his 6-2 record and while he does not have the most wins in the AL, he should be the starter for the American League in the All Star Game as it stands today.
Then again, the case could be made for Jered Weaver who has been nothing short of spectacular for the Angels up to this point. Weaver has a slightly better record at 9-4 and only a slightly worse ERA than Beckett at 2.01. Weaver holds the edge in K’s at 102 and the Angels offense has been significantly worse than the Sox all season long. All four of Weaver’s losses came during a stretch between May 2 – May 18 and he did not record a decision until June 3. Because of this lack of consistency I do not think he is worthy of the ASG starting nod but he absolutely remains in the discussion for AL CY Young with the numbers he has already posted.
But Weaver and the rest of the ace’s of the American League are looking up at one pitcher in the CY Young race: Justin Verlander. Verlander picked up his 10th victory of the season over the weekend while striking out a career high 14 batters. Verlander is second in the majors with 124 strikeouts and is tied for the league lead with 10 wins. Over his last six starts, Verlander is 6-0 with a .72 ERA. To go along with all of these stats, he also threw his second career no hitter this season. Not only has Verlander been dominant as an individual, he has been at the helm as the Tigers have risen from early season struggles to first place in the AL Central. Max Scherzer has had an excellent bounce back season for the Tigers and has been an excellent number two, but Verlander has been untouchable over the last two months and has the inside track on claiming his first career CY Young award, supplanting…
The King, Felix Hernandez. Hernandez claimed the honor with a 13-12 record last season. Through 17 games this season, he is already 8-6 with 118 punch outs and a slightly inflated 3.19 ERA (up from 2.27 last season). Hernandez doesn’t get the respect or recognition as he should being tucked away up in Seattle. If he were on a larger market team with a competent lineup he would already have 10 wins and there wouldn’t be much of a discussion for best in the AL. Still, in his seventh season, the 25 year old continues to improve, dazzle, and dominate. Scary thing is…he is no longer alone.
Michael Pineda has been nothing short of dominant this season. Halfway through his rookie campaign he is already drawing comparisons to CC Sabathia. He is 7-4 with a 2.45 ERA, 94 K’s and a 1.00 WHIP. At 22, his maturity on the mound is beyond his years. He is only 3-3 over his last 10 starts but he has only yielded 19 runs over that time span. For an offense as anemic as Seattle, he is allowing his team to stay within reach every time he steps on the rubber. The Mariners just wasted seven innings of four hit, nine strikeout, shutout baseball by losing his last start 1-0 to the Nationals. Pineda got a no decision, but performances like these should be rewarded with wins. Even though Pineda’s and Hernandez’ records lack jaw dropping statistics, they have kept the Mariners relevant and within 1.5 games of first place in the AL West. If the Mariners can add a bat (I’m sure they’re still loving the Adam Jones-Erik Bedard trade) it would not surprise me at all if they made the playoffs behind the pitching of these two young, dominant arms.
While the CC Sabathia’s, Trevor Cahill’s, David Price’s, and Jon Lester’s of the American League continue to dominate as if nothing has changed, the American League has filled out from top to bottom and looks as talented as ever. As dominant as the crop of talent in the AL seems, come back Friday to see who is dominating in the National League. And do the Phillies even have the best rotation in the NL? I believe there are two teams who would argue against that claim.