The Twins have been no help at all.
I received my official BBWAA ballot for the American League Cy Young Award recently, a personal invitation to become a target for passionate fans in a race that may turn into one of the most difficult choices I’ve ever faced. There are still three weeks to go, and perhaps someone will separate himself in that time the way Clayton Kershaw seems to have managed to do already in the National League.
But in trying to choose among (in alphabetical order, so no e-mails about my bias yet, please) Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer, with David Price, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez and James Shields a few steps behind, the Twins have remained remarkably unbiased. They have been dominated by each of them.
I understand the “eye test” shouldn’t count for much when considering a season’s worth of work, and I realize that one commanding performance, particularly against an offensively challenged team like these late-season Twins, doesn’t accurately reflect how that pitcher fared the other 30-plus times he pitched. Still, there’s no denying that it’s human nature to welcome confirmation of your opinions by evidence in front of you. And I watch the Twins for a living.
So when Hernandez allowed only three measly singles in eight innings against the Twins on July 26, I remember thinking “That was a Cy Young performance,” even after he gave up a ninth-inning run to send the game to extra innings.
It happened again last week. Darvish took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, and looked simply unhittable. Well, until Chris Herrmann and Justin Morneau spoiled his perfection with back-to-back homers. Strangely, the Twins have been shut down by both Hernandez and Darvish, and won both games.
Scherzer hasn’t faced the Twins since May, odd given how frequently they meet, but he may well get one more shot when the Tigers visit Target Field in the season’s final week. But two of his 19 wins have come at the Twins’ expense, and he has posted a 2.70 ERA in those games.
Yeah, the Twins seem to be neutral in this race. So who deserves to win it?
Scherzer, of course, is a runaway leader in victories, but that statistic has little meaning, particularly considering Scherzer has received the most offensive support, nearly six runs per game, of anyone in the game. But his case is strong regardless — his ERA of 2.88 is second in the league behind Sanchez, and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which measures overall value toward winning, ranks behind only Sale (as calculated by baseball-reference.com) or Hernandez (as calculated by FanGraphs). He also leads the league in fewest baserunners (walks and hits per inning) and is second in strikeouts and strikeout rate.
Darvish, however, is the runaway leader in those strikeout categories. With an ERA of 2.91 and an average of 12 strikeouts per nine innings, he’s turning into a latter-day Nolan Ryan in Texas. He appeared primed to move into the favorite’s role in the race, but suddenly, Texas has lost his past four starts.
Hernandez is better than he was when he won the award in 2010, striking out more hitters per inning and walking fewer. He leads FanGraphs’ WAR calculation, though he may be hurt by being out of the pennant race.
With three weeks left, this ballot remains a mystery. But September makes a wonderful tiebreaker.
Strong in September
Josmil Pinto is off to a great start in his first September in the major leagues. But he’s not the first Twin to do so. Here are the best Septembers by Twins rookies, as measured by OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging).
Player OPS Year
Chris Parmelee 1.035 2011
Steve Lombardozzi .958 1985
Willie Norwood .954 1977