Justin Verlander was a unanimous choice for the American League’s Cy Young award in 2011. The Tiger ACE won the "pitching triple crown" by leading the league in wins with 24, earned run average at 2.40, and strikeouts with 250. Verlander also led the league in innings pitched, WHIP, and threw a no hitter for good measure. For his efforts, he was given the Cy Young award as the league’s best pitcher, and voted the Most Valuable player in the American League.
This year’s Cy Young award is not likely to be unanimous, and won’t be voted the league MVP, but Verlander finds himself right in the mix and should be one of the favorites to win the award once again. With just one start left in the regular season, Verlander is currently second in the league in ERA behind the Rays’ David Price, and second only to Seattle’s former Cy winner, Felix Hernandez in fielding independent pitching.
Verlander leads the league once again in strikeouts and innings pitched, finds himself second to last year’s runner up, Jered Weaver, in WHIP at 1.06, he and trails only team mate Max Scherzer and Texas rookie Yu Darvish in strikeouts per nine innings. The defending MVP also leads the league in pitching WAR handily. I don't believe WAR should be used as the exclusive measure of a pitcher's value, although I believe the metric is somewhat more accurate for pitchers than it is for position players, since defense is not a factor in the calculation.
In some less prominent categories, Verlander leads the league in quality starts, pitches per start, innings per start, and complete games. These numbers show that the Tiger pitcher shoulders a greater load than any other starting pitcher.
While Verlander is not nearly as dominant this season, a strong case can be made that he has been as consistently excellent across all statistical pitching categories as any other pitcher in the league.
There was a time when the Cy Young award was almost automatically given to the pitcher with the most wins in the season. Fortunately, this practice has ended and we’ve seen the Royals’ Zack Greinke get the award with just 16 wins, and Felix Hernandez get the trophy with just 13 wins.
Wins are a function of run support and are heavily dependent on an entire team, including some run support from the lineup and a strong bullpen. Far too much is outside of a pitcher’s control to credit pitchers with team wins, or to blame them for team losses. Wins are still one factor, and Cy voters have not necessarily ditched all pitching "triple crown" statistics, though. ERA and strikeouts still figure prominently on the resumes of every recent winner of the award.
Cee Angi wrote an article for BYB that gives a very good description of BABIP as it applies to pitchers. There is no question that the Tigers' poor defense has hurt the numbers of their pitchers, and not just Verlander. Fangraphs shows that the Tigers' rotation leads the league in FIP, xFIP, and WAR, but they're third in rotation ERA, behind the Rays and the Oakland A's.
Fielding independent pitching (FIP) attempts to measure a pitcher's effectiveness independent of defense to even out any advantages that a pitcher may have by playing on a certain team.
Following are the American League rankings in some of the notable pitching categories for 2012. The data is taken from Baseball_Reference, with the exception of FIP which is taken from Fangraphs.com
Earned Run Average
Fielding Independent Pitching
Strikeouts per 9 Innings
|Rank||Pitcher (Team)||K/ 9|
Strikeout/ BB Ratio
|Rank||Pitcher (Team)||K/ BB|
|Rank||Pitcher (Team)||I P|
|Rank||Pitcher (Team)||C G|
|8||Ten pitchers tied||2|
Pitching Wins Above Replacement
Walks + Hits per inning