Since the last time we checked the American League Cy Young leaderboard, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander squared off twice in Tigers-White Sox matchups.
Their results accurately reflected the award race as a whole — good-to-great pitching that offered little in the way of meaningful separation. Verlander held the edge in combined game scores by a couple points, but Sale pitched an inning longer each time. Neither pitcher received a decision.
As a result, they remain tied at the hip in their ascent up the leaderboard. Unfortunately for the White Sox, their ascent was partially aided by Jose Quintana, who didn’t throw a quality start in either of his two outings since we last looked. He’s still posting a great season, but he blends into the crowd far more easily when he doesn’t have a top-three ERA.
Here’s the just-about-fortnightly updated leaderboard. I’ve removed Chris Tillman (missed starts from injury) and Steven Wright (injury, reduced effectiveness after), while adding David Price. I don’t think Price has a realistic shot at the Cy Young, but he leads the league in innings and fills up the leaderboard in other areas, so he provides additional context for the sturdier cases.
A handful of notes:
*Sale has thrown at least eight innings in four consecutive starts. He’s the only pitcher to string together a streak that long this season, and it puts him within one start’s reach of league-leader Price despite taking the mound three fewer times (damn you, throwback jerseys).
*Kluber has been the favorite in my mind, and the Baseball-Reference.com WAR leaderboard finally reflects that. However, he did pick up his first loss in two months on Tuesday against Houston, which also snapped a streak of 10 consecutive quality starts.
*Regarding Price, I’m still getting a handle on Baseball Prospectus’ revamped win valuation, but it has loved Price and Chris Archer most of the season despite their slow starts. Its order:
- Kluber, 6.04
- Sale, 5.88
- Archer, 5.63
- Price, 5.55
- Verlander, 4.93
But all this is ignoring the elephant in the room.
*Porcello can’t be overlooked anymore, because his other starts are starting to line up with his record. He wasn’t all that compelling when 10-2 with a 3.82 ERA, but he’s 9-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his 11 starts since, making him much more than a run-support mirage. If he wins 20something games with a top-five workload and an ERA a few tenths off the lead, that will probably be enough to win it. The Neyer/James Cy Young predictor has him in first, and it usually gets this right (Sale is fifth there).
*With Porcello now leading the league in wins, Happ loses his best asset. Likewise, three consecutive pedestrian starts from Duffy stalls his momentum, as his case hinged on a league-best ERA. Fulmer still is a few innings short of qualifying, and now that he’s 60 innings behind the league lead, his otherwise-excellent body of work probably isn’t substantial enough to hang.