While the MVP race in the American League is down to a two-man race, the de facto MVP of pitching is filled with plenty of deserving candidates. With the Rays, Angels and Tigers all fighting for their playoff lives in the final week of the season, David Price, Jered Weaver and Justin Verlander all have one, maybe two starts left to solidify their Cy Young résumé — and more importantly, help their teams get into the postseason.
The big three in the American League have pulled away from their counterparts, but there is still one dark horse candidate out there who hasn't received much attention. But that will come at the end.
Since his debut for the Rays in the 2008, Price has become one of the game's most electrifying starters. The southpaw consistently throws in the mid-90's, and has offspeed stuff that can strike fear even the most threatening of hitters. And, in 2012, with the Rays battling until game 162 again, Price has all but single-handedly kept his team in the postseason conversation. He's now tied for the league lead with 18 wins, and he lowered his league-leading ERA to 2.56 with a 13-strikeout gem against the Red Sox on Tuesday. His 1.10 WHIP also puts him in a tie for third in the AL.
Out west, Weaver threw his name out early for Cy Young contention with his no-hitter against the Twins in May. Overall though, Weaver has proved to be the most consistent starter all year, tied for the league lead with 19 wins, as compared to only four losses. He's thrown fewer innings than either of the other two starting pitcher contenders for the award, and as a result, his strikeout numbers are down. However, those aren't necessarily as big of a factor as WHIP and ERA, where he ranks first and third, respectively.
How can the Cy Young debate not include the reigning MVP? Verlander is still as dominant of a pitcher as he was in 2011, but the stats don't stack up as nicely compared to the absurd numbers he posted a year ago (24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 K's, 251 IP). Instead, he's still orchestrated a solid season, further solidifying himself as the game's best pitcher. Verlander leads the AL in innings pitched, and has an ERA under 3.00. With how dominant Price and Weaver have been, though, it's unlikely the Detroit stud will be taking away the hardware this year.
Dark horse alert! Quick, name the pitcher who is second in the AL in saves with 44, has an ERA under one, and holds opposing hitters to a batting average of .165. That would be the Rays' Fernando Rodney, who is another viable Cy Young candidate who doesn't get noticed because of the market he plays in. But looking at it from a statistical perspective (which it should be) Rodney's numbers compare to almost nobody in the AL. His 0.68 ERA is absurd. He has converted 45 of 47 save opportunities, has a WHIP of 0.77 and a strikeouts per nine ratio of 8.83 — these numbers are mind boggling. While purists struggle thinking about giving the award to a closer — it's only been done seven times in the 56 year history of the Cy Young, and not since Eric Gagne won in 2003 — Rodney deserves some serious consideration.