Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Ballot - My Picks for the 2010 Walter Johnson Award for Top Pitcher in American League

Its Baseball Bloggers Alliance voting time again – this round is for the Walter Johnson Award for Top Pitcher in each league. As I am an American League Blogger, following the Tampa Bay Rays, I will be placing my votes for the American League’s best pitcher. I will rank my top 5 pitchers in the League, but will start with a few guys who were on the cusp, but didn’t quite make the cut this season.

2010 was the year of the pitcher, but more so it was the year of the YOUNG pitcher. I broke down my top-10 only one was over 30 years old, but the average age is just 26 years of age among my top 10 AL pitchers.

I am generally a fan of the “crafty vet”, but I couldn’t place a single pitcher of that variety in my ranking. Carl Pavano of the Twins came closest – at 17-11 with 7 complete games and a 3.75 Pavano used his craftiness to the max, but it just wasn’t enough to get him among the elite American League hurlers.

I also didn’t place any relievers on this list. Rafael Soriano was a huge difference maker for the Tampa Bay Rays this year and he was deservedly named the BBA’s Goose Gossage Award winner as top reliever in the AL, but I don’t think he, or any other closer, embodies the spirit and legacy of Walter Johnson.

That said these are my Top-10 American League pitchers in descending order. ALL of these guys have BRIGHT futures ahead of them.

Starting at number 10 is the youngest starter on this list, 22 year old Trevor Cahill from Oakland. Cahill put up really amazing numbers for the A’s this year. He and Gio Gonzalez gave Oakland a great 1-2 punch in 2010, but it was Cahill’s 18-8 mark with a 2.97 ERA that got my attention.

Ranking 9th is my hometown flavor choice. The Tampa Bay Rays 26 year old right hander Matt Garza. Garza’s ERA is gigantic compared to Cahill’s and others on this list, but recall that I am a homer AND Garza had a damn good year and was a key reason the Rays had the best record in the AL without the standard offensive output they are known for. Garza was 15-10 in 32 starts with a 3.91 ERA and 150 K’s over 204 innings. He had 3 complete games, one of them a shutout and oh yeah, that shutout was a no-hitter.

My number 8 is a 25 year old from Boston. I think that Clay Bucholz is on the brink of superstardom, but I don’t think he is quite there yet. He only made 28 starts this season for the Sox, but pitched like an Ace. His mark of 17-7 and crazy low 2.33 ERA is jaw dropping.

Moving on to number 7 on my list is the only ranked pitcher over 30, 31 year old Cliff Lee. Lee has been nothing short of awesome in the postseason, but this is a regular season award. He averaged over 7 innings in his 28 starts which is great and threw 7 complete games. His losing record with the Rangers and 12-9 overall record just doesn’t do enough for me which leaves him 7th on my list.

The best of those who didn’t crack the top 5 is Los Angeles Angels starter Jered Weaver. Weaver didn’t have the win loss mark that his teammate Ervin Santana did, but the tall righty was more dominant than his 13-12 record indicates. The competition was stiff this year and Weaver’s 3+ ERA was too high for my vote, but I have to say that his league leading 233 K’s over 224 innings is Walter Johnson-esque.

Okay, now onto the top-5…

Ranking 5th is Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander. The 2006 Rookie of the Year always ranks among the best, but hasn’t had that breakout year to make him THE BEST. His 18-9 mark and 219 strikeouts were great, but not enough to rank him any higher (or lower).

My 4th place vote goes to my hometown Ace, Mr. #1, the Rays 24 old year old lefty David Price. I had to detach myself and go by performance and once I did he dropped from 1st place to 4th. At 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA Price had an awesome, better than expected breakout year, but I think this is just the beginning of what he can do and I don’t think he was quite worthy of Walter Johnson’s name this season. I would like to see Price going deeper into games and making more batters look foolish and raise his K total a bit. Awesome season, but a few guys were dialed in a bit more…

The Rays weren’t the only team to have 2 pitchers crack my Top-10; the other is the Boston Red Sox and their 26 year old ace Jon Lester. Lester gave up 1 run more a game than his teammate Bucholz, but pitched more often and stuck out much more. Injuries rattled the Sox this season, but Bucholz and Lester kept Boston in the hunt all year. 19-9, 3.25 ERA and 225 strikeouts is good enough for my third place vote.

We are creeping up on the winners and are down to number 2. I went with the New York Yankees 6’7” left hander Carsten Charles Sabathia. CC won 20 games for the first time in his 10-year career going 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA. He was hot and cold towards the season’s end, but 34 starts, 237 innings and 197 Ks look good next to the 20 wins.

Okay, here we are, down to the best. My selection for the BBA’s Walter Johnson Award for top pitcher in the American League. I went with the Mariners 24 year old Ace “King” Felix Hernandez. I really can’t believe that the Mariners had as bad a record as they did considering they started the year with a 1-2 attack from King Felix and Cliff Lee. Hernandez finished 2nd in the Cy Young Award vote last season when he went 19-9 for Seattle. This year his record dropped to 13-12, but he was an even better pitcher this season. He had more complete games, more innings pitched, more strikeouts and a lower ERA in 2010. I think that Felix Hernandez most embodies the true workhorse, dominant ace that Walter Johnson was for 2010. I can’t believe this guy is only 24! 13-12 record, a 2.27 ERA, 249 innings and 232 strikeouts. Awesome. King Felix Hernandez is my 2010 Walter Johnson Award Winner.
Thanks for reading. Thanks to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance for organizing this and for giving me a vote! I love this game! Troll out.

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