By the slimmest of margins, David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays was named the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner over the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander, with Jered Weaver of the LA Angels of Anaheim finishing a distant third. It was the closest finish since 1969, when another Tiger pitcher, Denny McLain, tied for the honors with Baltimore’s Mike Cuellar.
Most people had in fact considered this to be a two-horse race. While Weaver had a strong year (20-5, 2.81 ERA, 142 Ks in 188 IP), a back injury that kept him out nearly an entire month cost him some consideration. But both Price (20-5, 2.56 ERA, 205 Ks in 211 IP) and Verlander (17-8, 2.64 ERA, 239 Ks in 238 IP) posted consistently strong seasons and had fans and media alike debating their merits until the end.
Just how close was it? Out of 28 ballots, Price received 14 first-place votes with 13 going to Verlander (Price’s teammate, Rays closer Fernando Rodney, received the remaining vote). Both received 13 second-place votes, but Price received only one third-place vote to Verlander’s two. Final totals were: Price, 153 points; Verlander, 149 points; Weaver, 70 points. (Other pitchers receiving votes were: Rodney; Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners; Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox; Jim Johnson, Baltimore Orioles; Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers).
For David Price, winning the Cy Young was just a matter of time. Originally drafted right out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers, he turned them down to play baseball at Vanderbilt University. His award-studded collegiate career ended with Price leading the United States to the World University Baseball Championship. The decision to bypass the Dodgers paid off when the Rays made him the number 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, which came with a $5.6 million signing bonus, second at the time only to Justin Upton’s $6.1 million two years earlier.
A three-time All-Star, Price came tantalizingly close to the Cy Young in 2010, finishing as runner-up to Felix Hernandez.
But in 2012, Price just could not be denied.
Price tied with Weaver for most wins in the AL with 20, becoming the first Rays pitcher to hit that landmark, and led the league in ERA. Price also proved himself to be durable, posting 31 starts and going 7+ innings in 23 of those, resulting in a league-leading (tied with Verlander) 25 quality starts. A factor that weighed in his favor is Tampa Bay’s place in the AL East, the strongest division in baseball which 10 of Price’s wins coming against those teams.
2012 was Price’s year to shine. With a Cy Young on his resume, he’s cemented his place as one of the AL’s top-tier pitchers. Don’t be surprised to see him in the running to repeat in the years to come.