Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young Award on Tuesday, beating out Felix Hernandez after a spectacular season short on wins but long on pitching domination.
Greinke went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA for the Kansas City Royals. Hernandez went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA for the Seattle Mariners.
Greinke received 25 first-place votes and three seconds for 134 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Hernandez drew two firsts, 23 seconds and one third for 80 points.
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Detroit’s Justin Verlander was third with the remaining first-place vote and nine thirds for 14 points. He was followed by the New York Yankees‘ CC Sabathia with 13 points and Toronto’s Roy Halladay with 11 points.
The National League winner will be announced on Thursday.
Greinke’s ERA was the lowest in the AL since Pedro Martinez‘s 1.74 ERA in 2000 and his 242 strikeouts were second in the league behind Verlander.
It was quite a turnaround for the 26-year-old right-hander, who led the AL in losses in 2005 when he went 5-17.
He left spring training in February 2006 and went home to Florida with what later was diagnosed as a social anxiety disorder. He started working out in the minors about six weeks later and returned to the majors in late September.
Greinke was 7-7 the following year and 13-10 in 2008 before his breakout season.
His victory total matched that of Arizona’s Brandon Webb three years ago for the fewest by a starting pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in a non-shortened season and was the fewest by an AL starter to win in a full-length season.
Kansas City, which tied for last place in the AL Central division with a record of 65-97, scored just 13 runs in his eight losses and 21 runs in his nine no-decisions. He failed to get a victory in six starts in which he allowed one run or none.
He was particularly sharp at the start and finish, going 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA in April and 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight starts. He didn’t allow any runs in his first three starts and any earned runs in his first four, and his 0.84 ERA through 10 starts was the first below 1.00 in the major leagues since Juan Marichal’s 0.55 in 1966.
He struck out 15 over eight innings against Cleveland on Aug. 25, then followed five days later by pitching a one-hitter at Seattle. After Kenji Johjima‘s soft second-inning single, Greinke retired his final 22 batters.
Greinke, who agreed to a $38 million, four-year contract last winter, receives a $100,000 bonus for winning.