22 October 2010
Along with my controversial Willie Mays Award ballot of last week, I have the opportunity to vote for the pitchers who I believe have enjoyed the best seasons in 2010.
This time around, there will be no factoring in of future potential or ceiling, as the Walter Johnson Award goes simply to the pitcher with the best season in either league. Here is my ballot:
5. Francisco Liriano, SP, Minnesota Twins
Liriano did exactly what was hoped of him this season, and so much more. The south paw struck out batters, limited his walks, and induced ground balls for one of the league's best defensive infields. The only thing Liriano didn't do as well as others was last long in games, as he failed to even crack the 200 innings pitched mark.
4. Jon Lester, SP, Boston Red Sox
Considering the grandiose stage he plays on, Lester had a relatively quiet 2010 season. He led the league in strikeouts per nine innings, had the fourth-lowest xFIP in the league, and was also among the leaders in WAR. Lester's biggest drawback was his deficiency in the innings pitched department.
3. Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels
Weaver enjoyed the best season of his career this year, but did so in relative obscurity. The 27-year old led the league in strikeouts and games started, but also compiled a mediocre win/loss record. The national media will likely pay less attention to Weaver than Hernandez, though, because the Northridge native had a respectable offense – though still below average – scoring runs.
Even so, Weaver's season was excellent (he led the league in SIERA) and deserves to be ranked among the best in the league.
2. Cliff Lee, SP, Texas Rangers
Few pitchers combine strikeout ability and walk avoidance like Lee did season. In fact, Lee came extremely close to breaking the strikeout/walk record with a figure of 10.28 this year, coming within 0.72 of Brett Saberhagen's record of 11. Even though it wasn't the best ever, Lee doubled the next highest figure in the league.
The only negative that can be found to count against Lee's record is that he missed the first month of the season due to an abdomen strain. Lee's xFIP is the second-highest in the league, and his WHIP – an even 1.00 – is the lowest mark in baseball.
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners
With one of the worst offenses in baseball history providing run support, Hernandez is the best player on a horrible team since Maurice Jones-Drew. Hernandez, who just signed a five-year extension, led the league in innings pitched and was one whiff away from leading the league in strikeouts. Hernandez can also be found in the top five in the league in WAR, xFIP, and WHIP.
There's no doubting Hernandez's worthiness of this award. Skeptics may point to his mediocre win/loss record, but that he managed to win 13 games with an average run support of just 3.17 should only further contribute to his candidacy.
Close cuts: CC Sabathia, David Price, Justin Verlander, James Shields
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