Monday, August 31, 2009

Verlander, Cy Young could soon be mentioned in same sentence

        Justin Verlander has history on his side in his quest for the Cy Young Award.
        Verlander continues to lead the American League in strikeouts with 215. He is tied with New York’s CC Sabathia for the lead in wins 15.
        Not since Mickey Lolich was beaten out by Oakland’s Vida Blue 1971 has any pitcher topped the league in those two critical categories and failed to win the Cy Young Award as the premier pitcher in the AL.
        Since then, only three pitchers -- Roger Clemens in 1997 and ‘98, Pedro Martinez in ‘99, and Johan Santana in ‘06 -- have led the league in wins and strikeouts. Each, in turn, received the Cy Young Award.
        Of course, each also posted the lowest ERA in the league that year. Verlander currently ranks seventh in that regard at 3.38.
        However, Verlander insists Cy Young is the farthest thing from his mind right now.
        “After the season ends, maybe it’ll cross my mind,” he said.
        “But when it does come time to start thinking about it, hopefully, I’ll still be pitching.”
        Balloting for the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards by the Baseball Writers Association of American is conducted immediately after the end of the regular season -- before the playoffs begin.  
        “He’s gone leaps and bounds in improving and trying to improve,” Jim Leyland said Monday, remember Verlander’s struggles last summer. “The progress he has made has been tremendous.”
        Leyland has even been impressed by Verlander’s occasional displays of temper, such as the one that occurred during his dugout confrontation with catcher Gerald Laird last week in Anaheim.
        “I like people who have some spunk, who have some fire,” the Tigers’ manager said.
        “It shows you’ve got a pulse. I don’t want some dead pan.”
        The last Tigers pitcher to win the Cy Young Award was Willie Hernandez in 1984.


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