King Felix appears poised to lose beauty contest for AL Cy Young
Over his last 18 starts this season, Yankees' CC Sabathia has won 16 games
Felix Hernandez's outstanding stats may be overshadowed by lackluster record
No one has won the Triple Crown since 1967 and not in the NL since 1937
The last week didn't affect any meaningful changes in my top-three rankings for the three major awards in each league, but several of the races have tightened up significantly in the past week. In fact, only two of the six races below seem to be close to being decided, and one of those involves a second-place candidate who might actually be more deserving than the presumed winner.
NOTE: All stats are through Sunday, Sept. 5. League leaders are in bold, major league leaders in bold italics. The number in parentheses after each player's name reflects his rank on the previous list. Rookies are players who, before the current season, have had fewer than 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors or have spent fewer than 45 days on the active roster before rosters expanded on Sept. 1.
1) CC Sabathia, LHP, Yankees (1)
Season stats: 19-5, 3.02 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 2.54 K/BB, 2 CG
Sabathia continued his march to the Cy Young with eight-innings of one-hit ball against the A's on Thursday. That earned him his sixth-straight win, tying his career-high of 19. Over his last 18 starts, he is 16-2 with a 2.40 ERA. If he can get his ERA below 3.00, King Felix doesn't stand a chance.
2) Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners (2)
Season stats: 11-10, 2.30 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 3.48 K/BB, 5 CG, 209 K
Cover up the win-loss records of the top two men on this list and see if you can make an argument for Sabathia over Hernandez. Go ahead, dig deeper into the stats. There's no doubt that Hernandez has been the best pitcher in the American League this season, but though he finally got his record over .500 with eight strong innings against the Indians on Sunday (including nine strikeouts against juts one walk), I find it difficult to believe that enough of the voters will look past his eight-win deficit to Sabathia to give the award to Hernandez.
3) Clay Buchholz, RHP, Red Sox (3)
Season stats: 15-6, 2.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 1.84 K/BB
Buccholz's league-leading ERA (which trails Matt Latos' major league-best mark by a ten-thousandth of a run) is impressive, but this is now a two-horse race.
1) Roy Halladay, RHP, Phillies (1)
Season stats: 17-10, 2.36 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 7.00 K/BB, 8 CG, 3 SHO
Halladay made two starts since my last column, winning one and losing one while inflating his ERA by .14. That put him behind Adam Wainwright in ERA, but tied him for the league lead in wins. Given Halladay's advantage in innings, complete games, shutouts, and K/BB, with all else being roughly equal and the Phillies on the verge of reclaiming fist place the NL East, Halladay remains the favorite in this race.
2) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals (2)
Season stats: 17-10, 2.34 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 3.61 K/BB, 5 CG, 2 SHO
Wainwright has lost his last four starts, but while his ERA has swelled by .28 runs over that span, the losses have had as much to do with poor run support as anything else. The nose-diving Cardinals have averaged just two runs scored in each of Wainwright's last four starts, while Wainwright hasn't allowed more than four earned runs in any one of them.
3) Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Rockies (3)
Season stats: 17-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 2.36 K/BB, 4 CG, 2 SHO
Jimenez hasn't won a game since Aug. 4, but in five starts since, all of them quality, he has posted a 3.00 ERA, struck out 35 men in 36 innings (with a 2.92 K/BB), allowed just one home run, and averaged just shy of 7 1/3 innings per start. Given his fine late-season pitching (2.52 ERA over his last seven starts), Jimenez seems likely to pick up a lot of third place votes out of appreciation for his remarkable early-season run, though Tim Hudson, Josh Johnson and Latos would be equally legitimate third-place selections.
1) Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (1)
Season stats: .361/.414/.635, 31 HR, 97 RBI, 8 SB
Knee, back and ribs injuries have limited Hamilton to four games over the past week, two of which he left early. He still went 6-for-14 (.429), but the bruised ribs, which he suffered when hitting the outfield wall on Saturday, could have him out for the next week if not more (said Hamilton, "all signs point to not good."). Hamilton was on the verge of wrapping this award up, but after missing significant time due to injury in two of his first three major league seasons, he could have the injury bug to blame for losing out on an MVP.
2) Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (2)
Season stats: .336/.430/.630, 33 HR, 110 RBI
Speaking of injury, biceps attendants limited Cabrera to five games and a 3-for-19 (.158) performance over the last week, but he's back in action and has a chance to open up a significant gap over Hamilton in the primary counting statistics. He already leads by 13 RBIs and a couple of home runs while also boasting a superior on-base percentage. The Tigers' tumble in the standings has hurt Cabrera's chances significantly, as ridiculous as that might be, but if he opens up a 30-RBI lead, he's going to make this choice a lot more difficult on a significant portion of the electorate.
3) Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (3)
Season stats: .319/.383/.549, 26 HR, 93 RBI
Cano has cooled off in the second half, hitting .270/.360/.443 since Aug. 1 and leaving room for argument for a number of rivals to hold this spot (Paul Konerko, Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer). Not that it matters all that much. With just four weeks left in the season, I'd be shocked if this award goes to anyone other than Hamilton or Cabrera.
1) Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (1)
Season stats: .321/.420/.594, 32 HR, 98 RBI, 12 SB
2) Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (2)
Season stats: .309/.402/.584, 35 HR, 96 RBI, 12 SB
I've been saying for weeks that this award and the NL Central race were going to tilt the same way in the end, and with the Reds opening up a convincing lead in the division, Votto has started to creep ahead of Pujols. In both cases, it has been poor performance by the second-place competitor that has made the difference. The Cardinals have gone 6-14 over their last 20 games and Pujols has just one hit in his last 20 at-bats. That has largely taken Pujols out of the Triple-Crown race as he now trails Carlos Gonzalez by 28 points in batting average.
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