Some baseball fans love high-scoring games, but the old-school fanatics prefer a fast-paced, well-pitched masterpiece.
Plus, defense often wins championships, right?
This season’s six Cy Young Award finalists — three per league — all have credible reasons for being voted the best pitcher of 2013, which will be announced Wednesday night. Here’s a case for each along with FOXSports.com’s winner.
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
In his second major league season, the Japanese right-hander led the majors with 277 strikeouts and an 11.32 K’s per nine innings. Darvish was the hardest AL starter to face, holding opponents to a league-low .194 batting average. He lost a perfect game with one out to go in his first start of the season and lost a no-hit bid in the eighth inning of an August victory — both wins vs. the Astros. He started 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA in April, but was inconsistent down the stretch and finished 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA. Darvish posted 12 games of 10 strikeouts or more, including a 15-K outing and four 14-K performances. Nobody comes close to that.
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners
Another finalist from The Land of the Rising Sun — and also in his second campaign in the majors — the 32-year-old right-hander went 14-6 with 185 strikeouts and a 2.66 ERA, ranking third in the AL. He came on strong in the second half of the season, going 6-2 with a 2.14 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break. In September, Iwakuma was 2-0 with a 0.76 ERA in five starts. Imagine how many more wins — and more exposure — he would have had if he pitched for a better team … and one that didn’t play in the Pacific Time Zone.
Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers
The Tigers right-hander opened 13-0 before losing his first decision just before the All-Star Game, which he started for the AL on July 16 at Citi Field. The 29-year-old would close the regular season with back-to-back wins, finishing 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, as the Tigers claimed the AL Central crown. The victories and ERA were a career best as were his 240 strikeouts and 0.97 WHIP. In 20 of his 32 starts, he allowed two or fewer runs.
FOXSports.com winner: Scherzer
Twenty-one wins vs. three losses = getting the job done. Along with the fifth best ERA in the AL, he held opposing batters to a .198 batting average, ranking only behind Miami’s Jose Fernandez (.182), Darvish (.194) and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (.195). Did we mention Scherzer was 21-3?
Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins
On Monday, the 21-year-old right-hander became the first Cuban-born player to claim the NL award and the third to capture an ROY, joining AL winners Tony Oliva (1964) and Jose Canseco (1986). Fernandez, who made the All-Star team as a 20-year-old — he turned 21 on July 31 — finished 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, an 0.98 WHIP and 187 strikeouts for a last-place team that posted 100 losses. He led the majors by holding opponents to a .182 batting average and despite being shut down after reaching 172 2/3 innings on Sept. 11, he went 7-1 with a majors-best 1.32 ERA in 10 starts after the break.
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 25-year-old lefty led the majors with a 1.83 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP for the NL West champions. Kershaw’s ERA is the best by a starter since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 for Boston in 2000 — and it’s the best in the NL since Greg Maddux’s 1.63 for Atlanta in ’95. Kershaw, who won the NL Cy Young in 2011, struck out an NL-best 232 this season. Kershaw yielded two earned runs or less in 26 of his 33 starts. That’s just ridiculous. He also struck out at least seven batters 19 times.
Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals
In his second year back after Tommy John surgery, the right-hander returned to his old dominating form, leading the NL with 19 wins vs. nine losses, while posting a 2.94 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP and a career-best 223 strikeouts. The Cardinals ace also led the majors with five complete games. Wainwright had a better first half (12-5, 2.45 ERA) compared to a second half (7-4, 3.69), but he still closed September with a 4-1 record and 2.85 ERA as St. Louis wrapped up the NL Central Division.
FOXSports.com winner: Kershaw
Fernandez is definitely deserving, but to post the majors’ lowest ERA since 2005 — and the NL’s lowest since ’95 — and to only allow three earned runs or more in just six of his 33 starts is why Kershaw takes home his second Cy Young Award. And get this: Throw out a five-run, five-inning outing in Colorado on Sept. 2, and Kershaw’s second-half ERA would have been 1.16 in 12 starts.