Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia or David Price. Any one of those three pitchers could hear their name called Thursday when the American League Cy Young Award winner is announced by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
All three make strong cases. Hernandez won only 13 games for the 101-loss Seattle Mariners, but dominated in every other category. Sabathia won a league-best 21 games, but pitched for the star-studded New York Yankees. Price is the best mix of the two, but he pitched nowhere near the amount of innings as Hernandez, and like Sabathia, had one of the best teams in baseball behind him.
This will be an interesting choice for the BBWAA, a group that traditionally rewards pitchers for wins. However, the new breed of writer, who relies heavily on stats, will argue that wins is a dated way to gauge pitchers.
Last season the voters did not rely strictly on wins as 16-game winner Zack Greinke took home the award over Sabathia, who won 19 games. Then again, that was only a three-win differential -- not the eight that separates Hernandez and Sabathia this season.
Judging by the way the NL Cy Young voting went, people still love wins. The top four pitchers in the balloting were also the top four among NL wins leaders.
Putting aside his win total, Hernandez was dynamite, pitching to a major league-best 2.27 ERA in a major league-high 249 2/3 innings. The most telling stat? In his 12 losses, the Mariners produced only seven runs.
The righty also finished the year strong, as he allowed eight total runs over his last 10 trips to the hill while receiving zero runs of support (while he was in the game pitching) in seven of his last 14 outings.
If Hernandez takes home the Cy Young he would be the first Mariner to do so since Randy Johnson won the team's only award in 1995.
Sabathia also makes a strong case. He was the best pitcher on the best team in baseball for the better part of the year. Whereas Hernandez didn't pitch a big game from May on, every time Sabathia took the ball it was a pressure-packed situation. In the end the big lefty led the AL in wins, was second in innings pitched (237 2/3), albeit with a ton of offensive support.
I wouldn't be surprised if Price slid in and snatched the award. He put forth the best pitching season in Rays history, as he went 19-6 with a 2.72 ERA and 188 strikeouts in just 208 2/3 innings.
However, he only pitched to a 3.64 ERA away from spacious Tropicana Field.
Other pitchers who will get some consideration include Boston's Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, as well as Oakland's Trevor Cahill.