AL Cy: Another big finish for best finisher?

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Staring down a pitch from Justin Verlander is never easy.Will Justin Verlander win his second straight Cy Young Award?

Verlander is one of three finalists for the award, the winner of which will be announced Wednesday night.

Should Verlander win, he would be the first repeat Cy Young Award winner from the American League since Pedro Martinez in 2000 and the second to repeat for the Detroit Tigers, joining Denny McLain, who won in 1968 and 1969. Verlander and McLain would share a common bond of also having won an MVP award.

Justin Verlander Last 2 Seasons

You could make the argument that Verlander’s 2012 was a duplicate of his 2011.

As the chart on the right shows, though Verlander’s win-loss record didn’t quite match up to the previous season, he was just as good in a number of other statistical categories.

Verlander may also get a spike for finishing with a flourish. He went 4-0 with an 0.64 ERA in his final four regular-season starts (remember that Cy Young ballots are turned in before the postseason begins).

Verlander has always been about the strong finish. His fastball this season averaged 93 mph in the first three innings, but 96 in the last three. Opponents slugged .436 against the pitch in those first three innings, but just .343 in the last three.

The right Price

Verlander’s chief rival for the award, Tampa Bay Rays starter David Price, also finished the season strong, and his flourish was of a longer length than Verlander.

Price went 12-1 with a 2.26 ERA over his final 18 starts, allowing three runs or fewer in 17 of those games. That included a stretch in which Price went 4-0 with a 1.06 ERA over seven starts spanning July 19 to August 21.

Price was deprived wins in two of those contests due to lack of run support. He allowed no runs in eight innings in each, but got no-decisions in 1-0 losses to the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.

Breaking Ball Effectiveness
David Price, 2012 Season

What changed for Price in the latter part of the season was the effectiveness of his breaking pitches. The chart on the right shows the difference in the success that Price had in finishing hitters with breaking balls.

Price’s impeccable control with all of his pitches was evident in his strikeout-to-walk numbers. In his first 13 starts, he struck out 78 and walked 30. In his last 18 starts, he had almost the same number of walks (29), but had 127 strikeouts.

Weaver limited damage

The other finalist, Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver, didn’t have quite the dominating numbers of Price and Verlander, though he did make a credible case as an alternative choice.

Lowest WHIP AL Starters This Season

Weaver tied Price for the AL wins lead and led the league in WHIP (1.02). He, too, finished the season on a high note, going 4-1 with a 2.20 ERA over a five-start stretch in the final month of the season.

Weaver might not have had quite the overpowering stuff of Price or Verlander, as his strikeout total was considerably lower than both. But he was able to do what any pitcher who wants to win the Cy Young hopes to do- limit hard contact.

Inside Edge, which does video tracking for major league teams and media, calculates the rate that pitchers allow hard-hit balls. Weaver’s 16.6 percent “hard-hit rate” is almost identical to that of both Verlander (16.4) and Price (16.7).