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2011 AL Walter Johnson Award

October 7, 2011

It is that time, once again, to start taking a look at each of the major year end awards. As I did last year, I will be submitting a ballot here on the blog for each of the awards selected by the BBWAA. However, as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, we use a different selection of names for our awards – our own tribute to some of the game’s greats and because the BBWAA has actually asked us to do so (to avoid confusion, I presume). Over the past two seasons the BBA and BBWAA have chosen the same recipient for nearly every award.

We’ve already taken a look at the Connie Mack Award (given to the league’s top manager), the Willie Mays Award (top rookie), and the Goose Gossage Award (top reliever). Now we’ll turn our attention to the top starting pitchers. The 2011 American League Walter Johnson Award goes to …..

It is fairly safe to say that the winner of this year’s AL Cy Young Award, and subsequently my selection for the Walter Johnson Award, has been well known for the better part of the season. Detroit’s Justin Verlander hasn’t just been the best pitcher in the AL this season, but he’s dominated the competition.

Verlander pitched the season’s first no-hitter in early May against the Blue Jays. He then nearly pitched another his next time out against the Royals. On the season Verlander would post a 24-5 record, 2.40 ERA, and 250 strikeouts in 251.0 innings of work. He led the league in all three categories, winning the pitching Triple Crown.

Outside of Verlander, the league’s only 20+ game winner, there were pitching performances worth mentioning, and ultimately worth considering when trying to determine who falls in line behind the tall right-hander atop this list.

New York’s CC Sabathia had yet another stellar season for the Yankees. The lefty went 19-8 on the season with a 3.00 ERA and 230 strikeouts, leading a rotation that was an ongoing project for much of the year. Los Angeles’ Jered Weaver was equally important to his team and equally impressive on the mound. Weaver finished with an 18-8 record, 2.41 ERA, and 198 strikeouts. His WHIP and ERA were bested only by Verlander’s.

Six other players did finish the regular season with ERAs below 3.00: Tampa Bay’s James Shields (2.82) and Jeremy Hellickson (2.95), Detroit’s Doug Fister (2.83), Boston’s Josh Beckett (2.89), Toronto’s Ricky Romero (2.92), and Texas’ C.J. Wilson (2.94).

Shields (225), Seattle’s Felix Hernandez (222), Tampa Bay’s David Price (218), Wilson (206), and Toronto’s Brandon Morrow (203) were the only other pitchers with 200+ strikeouts on the year.

 

  2011 AL Walter Johnson Award
1st Justin Verlander
2nd C.C. Sabathia
3rd Jered Weaver
4th James Shields
5th C.J. Wilson

 

Sabathia will get the edge here over Weaver largely due to the extra 32 strikeouts in roughly the same number of innings (Sabathia pitched 2.1 more innings than Weaver). Outside of that I would rank the two pitchers’ seasons a near tie. Shields gets the nod next. His league leading 11 complete games (the next closest player had 5) are simply too much to ignore. Wilson had a strong overall season, placing him fifth on our list.

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