Wednesday, October 10, 2012

2012 AL Walter Johnson Award

Yesterday I announced Mike Trout as my pick for winner of the Baseball Blogger's Alliance Willie Mays award for Rookie of the Year in the American League.  That was an extremely easy pick.  Today I tackle the Walter Johnson award for top pitcher.  This one required some more thinking.  There were several deserving candidates, and no clear cut choice.

Among the front runners there was David Price who tied for the league lead in wins with a sparkling 20-5 record and also led with a 2.56 ERA, and Jered Weaver who had the same record with a 2.81 ERA and led the majors in WHIP at 1.02.  And let's not forget Felix Hernandez who only won 13 games due partially to an anemic offense, but had 5 shutouts, an ERA of 3.06 and 223 strikeouts.  Chris Sale and Yu Darvish (just realized I forgot to mention him in my Rookie of the Year post - wouldn't matter he wouldn't beat Trout anyways) had excellent campaigns as well, and I don't want to neglect CC Sabathia who had an average season for him... aka a great season for any other pitcher.  And there were also some relievers with out of this world numbers. Baltimore's Jim Johnson saved 51 games and meanwhile Tampa's Francisco Rodney didn't give up any runs all season.  Ok, he must have given up a couple while I blinked because he has a non-zero ERA, but just barely at an incredible 0.60.

With so many deserving candidates, whose name is this blog going to put for the 2012 American League Walter Johnson Award?
One name that I haven't mentioned yet is last year's winner, Justin Verlander. While being  the unanimous choice both by the BBA and the BBWAA for last year's Cy Young award, he had an absolutely unbelievably season in 2011.  He was 24-5 while striking out 250 in 251 innings and had a WAR (fangraphs) of 7.  And maybe I haven't mentioned him because this year he had a big dropoff.   He only had a 17-8 record, and it would be disingenuous to blame his offence for not getting more wins.

Leon Halip/Getty Images
But as you should know by now, pitching wins aren't a very telling stat.  And taking a closer look at his numbers, a different story emerges. In fact, Verlander had an almost identical season this year.  Although his ERA went up slightly from 2.40 to 2.64, his FIP actually decreased.  He struck out 239 in 238 innings, leading the league in both categories.   Price pitched 211 innings and Weaver 188.  The extra innings alone are worth a lot, as they need to be replaced by inferior pitchers.  Part of this is reflected in his WAR, where once again he led all pitchers in the majors, with a WAR of 6.8.  I'm convinced.  He is my winner once again.
My ballot:
#1: Justin Verlander
#2: Felix Hernandez
#3: David Price
#4: Jered Weaver
#5: Chris Sale

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