In our latest check of the Cy Young races, National League hurlers are showing just how fleeting success can be while in the American League one pitcher is putting up some historic numbers.
"Quality start" doesn't do Wainwright's positive outings justice. In his last 11 turns, Wainwright has had two disaster outings (more runs allowed than innings pitched), and nine quality starts in which he allowed a
Halladay is the National League's version of
Hudson has had the best post-A's career of any of
It's a striking lesson about the fragile art of pitching that a slight and common mechanical flaw, collapsing his back leg too much too soon and thus causing his front shoulder to fly open, derailed Jimenez's historically dominant season (13-1, 1.15 ERA after 14 starts) to such a degree that he became, in fact, one of the
Johnson allowed as many as two runs just once in a 13-start stretch from May 13 to July 22, but since then he has allowed as
Price went 9-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his first dozen starts this season, and has gone 6-3 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 starts since, but he has actually pitched better in the later sample than in the former. Over those first dozen starts, Price struck out just 6.4 men per nine innings, 1.78 men per every walk, and got just eight percent of his strikes on swings and misses. In his last 10 starts, he has struck out 10.5 men per nine innings, 2.81 men for every walk, and 11 percent of his strikes have come on swings and misses. The balancing factor has been his opponents' batting average on balls in play (BABIP). In the first sample, his BABIP was a well-below-average .245. In the more recent sample, it has actually been above average at .329. That difference is the impact of luck and team defense. Price's ability to survive that correction in his BABIP signals the 24-year-old lefty's arrival an ace. This award could make it official.
In his last two starts, Lester held the first place Yankees and Rangers scoreless for a combined 14 1/3 innings. The Yankees and Rangers have two of the top four offenses in baseball, and in five starts against them Lester has a 2.36 ERA. He also threw six shutout innings in his last outing against the Rays (the third-best offense and the second-best team in the majors by record). That's an ace. Since opening the season with three weak outings, Lester has gone 13-5 with a 2.17 ERA and more than a strike out per inning in his last 21 starts. No other pitcher in the American League has been as good for as long this season.
Lee's Cy Young candidacy was supposed to get a big boost from his trade to the first-place Rangers, but in his first seven starts for Texas, he has received surprisingly poor run support. After getting 4.85 runs of support per game from the weak-hitting Mariners, Lee has received an average of just two runs per game in his first five starts for Texas and just three runs per game overall from his new teammates in seven starts. Still, despite that poor support, Lee has only twice failed to pick up a win in a game in which he pitched well enough to do so. On both occasions, he allowed less than three runs in nine innings for the Rangers in games that were decided in extra innings.
Despite his poor run support and the abdominal injury that cost him most of April, Lee is having a historic season. In the first inning of his next start, Lee will surpass 162 innings pitched for the season, the minimum to qualify for the ERA title, and his rate of 0.50 walks per nine innings on the season is higher than only
Since June 3, Sabathia has gone 11-2 with a 2.44 ERA while averaging 7 1/3 innings per start. Over those 14 outings -- all of which were quality starts -- Sabathia has failed to complete seven innings just twice, has never pitched fewer than 6 1/3 innings, and has not allowed more than three earned runs. He hasn't been as dominant as Lester or Lee, but that sort of high-level consistency and bullpen-saving workload is what makes Sabathia an ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. Also significant: After allowing 12 home runs over a nine-start stretch from late April to early June, Sabathia has allowed just one more home run in his last 13 starts covering 96 1/3 innings.
Buchholz went 7-1 with a 1.62 ERA in eight starts before landing on the disabled list after pulling a hamstring while running the bases in the second inning of his June 26 start. His first start after being activated in late July was a dud in which he allowed five earned runs in six innings of a loss to Oakland, but he has snapped right back into his-pre-injury shape in his four outings since then. Even with that one misstep mixed in, Buchholz has gone 10-2 with a 1.98 ERA in his last 14 starts.