November 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

Lynn Henning

No Justin Verlander for AL Cy Young Award? No problem

Seven weeks ago, ESPN.com writer Jerry Crasnick sent an email inquiring about Justin Verlander's season. He wondered what a guy from Detroit who sees the Tigers regularly thought about Verlander as the Cy Young Award was being debated.

In fact, I was more interested in Crasnick's thoughts.

I had one of the 28 votes in this year's American League Cy Young runoff and was waiting until the final days of the season to sort out a race that looked as if it would be as tight as Wednesday night's vote confirmed when David Price edged Justin Verlander to win.

Crasnick was leaning toward Verlander.

So was another national writer, Jayson Stark, who reasoned Verlander was statistically king in categories that had particular value: innings pitched, and pitches thrown, which are persuasive numbers when the Tigers ace led the big leagues in strikeouts, won 17 games and managed a 2.64 ERA.

I went with Verlander over Price, with Jered Weaver a more comfortable third pick. And yet Price's by-a-nose triumph Wednesday was fair, deserved, and a nice piece of Cy Young lore, thanks to that tight, four-point swing.

Wins the difference

Price was fabulous in 2012. He won 20 games. He led the league in ERA. He cut down hitters with one of the best-located fastballs in baseball. Price was a Cy Young runner-up in 2010 when Felix Hernandez won and was probably destined to win one, or more Cy Youngs, the first of which arrived Wednesday.

I had Verlander first, Price second, and Weaver third. Most ballots were split along the same lines, the difference being Price got one more first-place vote, and one fewer third-place nod, than Verlander.

There is your anatomy of a 2012 Cy Young victor. The respect for what Price and Verlander each accomplished in 2012 was immense and all but evenly acknowledged.

I suspect it came down to that one, compelling column: victories. Price had 20 of them, Verlander 17.

It doesn't matter that in baseball's enlightened era victories are viewed more as a product of a team's skills than a pitcher's (see: Hernandez, 2010, when he won 13 games).

When you have pitched for the Rays, against a battery of East Division heavyweights, and have rolled up a 20-5 record and 2.56 ERA, you have pitched some serious baseball.

Verlander, conversely, won 17 games. No matter how little weighting you offer won-loss records, victories count, just as Triple Crown numbers are bound to affect tonight's MVP results, with Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera probably favored.

Price also can be credited for beating a pitcher whose celebrity is as alluring as that 100-mph fastball he features.

Rays ace met challenge

Verlander won the Cy Young a year ago when he doubled up and also grabbed a MVP trophy. He has been a hot ticket for advertisers. He has thrown a couple of no-hitters and this year nearly threw a third.

He is regarded as the best pitcher in baseball. And so it required something exceptional, a season-long performance of depth and breadth, for Price to shake Verlander when the Tigers ace had so much reputation alongside those strikeouts, innings pitched, and highlights-happy 100-mph fastballs he regularly flung.

It was a tough call — for everyone. And the degree of contemplation that can be seen in Wednesday's ballot unveiling proves it.

Some critics will argue that writers who follow a particular team or player throughout a season are naturally disposed toward voting for him. It's a reasonable charge. But it gets contradicted so many times that the argument doesn't wash.

Cabrera, for example, was a narrow second-place choice to Josh Hamilton a couple of years ago. And that's where he finished on my ballot. Second.

This year, there was an early disposition toward voting (early) for Weaver and (late) for Price. But the more digging that was done, prompted by Crasnick's and Stark's legitimate points, the more it seemed to mandate a vote for Verlander, whose power and mastery and deep-into-the-game work shifts became a final slip of the scales in his favor.

But a good man and a great pitcher, Price, was Wednesday's winner. And for that, here's one voter who is at least content the process worked, and a noble Cy Young Award winner was crowned.

lynn.henning@detnews.com

twitter.com/Lynn_Henning

Tigers ace Justin Verlander finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting, and that's OK with Lynn Henning. / Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News
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