Midseason Awards: American League Cy Young
Continuing with midseason awards, taking a look at the American League Cy Young race seems like a logical step to take next since I began with the National League counterpart to this same award. Unlike the NL, there doesn’t appear to be one dominant figure here that jumps right out as a likely choice. There have been numerous strong first half performances but nobody has truly separated themselves from the pack. However, there are five candidates that stood out – David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox, Phil Hughes of the New York Yankees, Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers, and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Price has likely been the most talked about candidate on this list, in part because of the hype that has followed him since the Rays drafted him first overall in 2007. This year things to finally be clicking for Tampa Bay’s ace as he’s stepped up to lead this staff and become one of the top pitchers in the league. With Matt Garza’s struggles and Wade Davis’ inconsistencies, Price has been vital in keeping the Rays in contention in the tough AL East.
Lester has been equally vital in keeping the Red Sox afloat with all of the injuries that have amounted thus far on the season. John Lackey has proven that the deal he signed this past offseason was highly overvalued and Josh Beckett has missed almost two months due to injury. Clay Buchholtz has stepped up to give Lester some backup, winning 10 games already himself, but he recently suffered an injury himself and had to be shut down. The continued performances of Lester and first baseman (and All Star snub) Kevin Youkilis will be important if Boston is going to stay in the race until some of these players return from the disabled list.
Hughes has proven thus far why members of the Yankee organization always knew that he could develop into a top starter. His first half performance has exceeded expectations and he’s showing why the team has been patient with his development. The one thing that will likely hurt Hughes this season is the fact that he’s on an innings limit after spending most of 2009 working out of the bullpen. With the top performances of Hughes and two of his rotation mates, C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte (who could both be in this same discussion), the Yankees are easily the best team in the American League.
Lee has dominated the AL West with an incredible strikeout/walk ratio. He’s only made one start thus far for Texas after last week’s big trade and he was hit hard by Baltimore, allowing 3 HRs in a loss. He certainly has the ability to pick things up once he settles into his new clubhouse. Weaver has also impressed, leading the league in strikeouts for an underachieving Angels team.
Weighing performance and the importance of that performance to his team, Lester stands out atop the pile from where I stand. He’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in the league over the past few seasons, has truly developed into the ace of the Boston staff, and he holds one of the top career winning percentages amongst active starters. Another strong first half, Lester has the ability to do some special things in the second half of the season but he’ll need some help for the Red Sox to stay in the thick of things in the AL East.