With the season nearing its halfway point, a Detroit Tigers starting pitcher is one of the early favorites to collect some hardware this November. That's a familiar sight, but what isn't so familiar is that the pitcher in question isn't Justin Verlander, of the 41-13 record and 2.52 ERA over 2011 and 2012, but Max Scherzer.
Scherzer notched his 11th win on Saturday, holding the AL East-leading Red Sox to two runs over seven innings, his seventh straight quality start. Scherzer's ERA has dropped after each of those seven quality starts, and he has yet to draw his first loss in 2013. The Cy Young Award voters still value wins and team record significantly when it comes time to vote, so Scherzer's 11-0 record get an extra boost from the fact that the Detroit Tigers are the team in the AL most likely to finish the season in first place.
Bill James and Rob Neyer wrote a Cy Young predictor for the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, an estimator that takes into account what statistics Cy Young voters have tended to emphasize over the years. While the predictor is now a decade old and can't evaluate any inroads that WAR or FIP or other statistics have made in recent years, the predictor still works, correctly guessing 11 of the last 14 Cy Young winners. Only a single predicted winner fell out of the top five of the Neyer/James prediction, Felix Hernandez in 2010.
To get an idea what the odds are of the AL's top pitchers coming away with a Cy this fall, I used the Cy Young predictor, a Monte Carlo simulation with the ZiPS projection system and ran a million simulations and tallied the winners. Well, technically the PC did that part, as that's a lot of counting.