Around here, award season continues as a pair of Angels finished in the top five in Fansided’s voting for American League Pitcher of the Year. Tiger stud Justin Verlander ran away with the title, but LA’s one-two punch of Jered Weaver and Dan Haren were the highest ranking teammates in the annual award, finishing second and fifth respectively. Clayton Kershaw’s Triple Crown performance earned him the award in the National League. Jose Valverde and Craig Kimbrel took home the hardware for relievers.
Justin Verlander was the clear, unanimous winner and rightly so. He’s the current definition of a horse leading the league in innings, wins, ERA and strikeouts. Opposing hitters often had no chance to connect as he struck out nearly 9 batters a game and even when hitters made contact Verlander’s BABIP, a league-leading .223, suggests that the could not connect solidly. He allowed less than a runner per inning to reach base (the only starter in the AL to do so), and nearly swept every relevant AL category, finishing second only to C.C. Sabathia in xFIP 3.12 to 3.02. Verlander finished with every one of the possible 231 points in the AL Pitcher of the Year voting.
What the Detroit ace was to the AL, Clayton Kershaw nearly was in the NL. Like his Tiger counterpart, Kershaw led the league in wins, WHIP, ERA and K’s. The rest of his rate states fall behind other aces, but the Dodger lefty finished near the top in all of them. Perhaps what separated Kershaw from the the rest of the pitching pack is the fact that he was a port in the storm stopping many Dodger losing streaks and, along with probable MVP Matt Kemp, kept the Dodgers afloat while the team’s front office and fanbase crumbled.
Verlander’s flamboyant teammate Jose Valverde rode his perfect save streak to the AL Reliever of the Year award. Saving 49 games in row without blowing a single game this seasons was enough in the voters’ mind to trump his otherwise mediocre rate stats. His BABIP was decent (.243) but his 8.9 strikeout rate is middle of the pack and his 2 to 1 K/BB ratio is not close to being among the elite relievers. Valverde 4.01 xFIP doesn’t even appear on FanGraph’s first page in AL xFIP leaders, and that list is 30 names long. These predictors of success show signs of dropoff for next year. It’s safe to assume Valverde will not be repeating this award.
Speaking of repeating awards, Atlanta rookie Craig Kimbrel became the first two-time winner this year, taking home Fansided’s NL Rookie of the Year honor earlier in the week. The rookie (!) led all NL relievers in xFIP (the only one to go below 2.00), tied for the lead in Saves with Milwaukee’s John Axford at 46, and his 14.84 K/9 has Braves fans already forgetting about the retired Billy Wagner.
On the LAA front Jered Weaver finished second in the AL balloting with 100 points (or 131 pts behind Verlander), and Dan Haren‘s excellent K/BB and WHIP were enough to for voters to overcome his double-digit loses and put him in the top five with 28 points. Angel closer Jordan Walden did not receive a single reliever vote and finished tied with you and me for last in the balloting with zero points.