Sabathia: AL Cy Young Winner

It’s official: C.C. Sabathia is your American League Cy Young Award winner. Sabathia edged out Josh Beckett in what was expected to be a close race, but proved anything but.

Sabathia received 19 out of possible 28 first-place votes from members of Baseball Writers’ Association of America, with two votes coming from each American League city. By contrast, Josh Beckett received just eight first-place votes. Also receiving one first-place vote was Angels starter Josh Lackey. The final totals were: Sabathia with 119 points, Josh Beckett with 86 points, and John Lackey with 36 points. Fellow Indians starter Fausto Carmona finished fourth with seven points, one second-place vote and four for third place. He and Sabathia combined to become the first Cleveland teammates ever to finish in the top four in voting.

With that, Sabathia became only the second Indians pitcher to win the award in its 52-year history, joining Gaylord Perry, who won in 1972. He also became the first African-American to win the AL award since then-Oakland Athletic Vida Blue in 1971.

“It means a lot,” Sabathia said. “I hadn’t really had a chance to sit down and think about it yet. You guys know how I am about numbers and thinking about individual awards. It feels good right now. I can’t really put it into words, but I’m sure later on tonight when I have a chance to sit down with my family and think about it, I’ll have some words for it. But right now, I’m just happy that it happened this year.”

This coming from a guy who wasn’t talking about individual awards but only team success. He didn’t mention his Cy Young chances during the regular season or the playoffs. “We weren’t worried about individual stuff at that point,” Sabathia said Tuesday. “We were worried about a championship.”

Sabathia finished the season with 19 wins, while Beckett was MLB’s sole pitcher with 20 wins this year. However, Sabathia’s 241 innings pitched were five more than anyone else in MLB and 11 more than the next-highest total in the American League. Only Roy Halladay had more complete games than Sabathia’s four, while Sabathia’s 3.21 ERA and 209 strikeouts ranked fifth in their respective categories.

However, what probably gave Sabathia the edge over Beckett is Sabathia’s control. Nobody else in the AL’s top five for strikeouts also palced in the top five for fewest walks per nine innings pitched.

Said Sabathia of the walks: “The walks, I think, were probably the biggest part. I didn’t really expect to go out and strike out that many guys, but the little slider-cutter that I’ve been throwing over the last year and a half really helped that. But I think just keeping down the walks, going out and getting the ball in the zone and trying to make people put the ball in play early and being able to go deep into the games, I think, was the biggest deal that helped me win this.”

Sabathia finished the season with a 5.65 strikeout to walk ratio, which was by leaps and bounds ahead of his next closest competitor.

Mark Shapiro, GM of the Cleveland Indians, noted that “C.C. took ownership of what he could control and let go of the things he couldn’t control. And that allowed him to really focus pitch to pitch, stay in his delivery and turn into a pitcher instead of just a guy with great potential and a great arm.”

During one point in the season (from July 24 to August 24), Sabathia pitched more than seven innings on average, while giving up only 12 earned runs in a span of 50 2/3 innings, leading to a 2.13 ERA.

Part of the reason Josh Beckett had so many wins was because of the incredible run support that he received from the Boston sluggers: David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, pretty much everyone from one to eight in the lineup (the Boston Red Sox averaged 6.4 runs per game in Beckett’s starts). However, Sabathia struggled to get run support at times. During the mentioned 50 2/3 inning stretch, Sabathia’s teammates scattered only 16 runs, with five of them coming in his only win. He had three losses during that stretch, which occurred on losses with scores 1-0, 2-1, and 4-1.

“Maybe the most influential leadership he demonstrated this year,” Shapiro said. “He never pointed fingers, never felt sorry for himself, stayed a positive, team-oriented guy and continued to contribute and pull for our team’s victories, not worry about his own individual performance.”

In the last stretch of the season, Cleveland’s offense was rocking, so Sabathia went 5-0 over his last six starts. He outpitched last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, in back-to-back starts, much like he outpitched 2006 AL Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander back in May.

“For me, against Johan, you just have to go out and keep it close,” Sabathia said. “That’s all you can do. Verlander, too. You just try to keep putting up zeroes. I think they kind of feel the same way when we’re both out there. If you do get in trouble, just try to keep it at a minimum. I was pretty confident that the guys would score some runs, and fortunately they did.”

Beckett and the Red Sox offense beat Sabathia in two head-to-head matchups during the ALCS. However, postseason performance doesn’t count in awards consideration, since votes are due by the end of the regular season. Instead, Beckett earned ALCS Most Valuable Player honors.

The regular-season stats were close enough, intriguing enough, that even Sabathia took a peek at the statistics near the end of the season.

“Probably the last week or so, just to see if I had a chance,” Sabathia admitted. “Some other people were talking that I had a chance to win. I did look at a few numbers. I felt that it could’ve gone either way. I’m just happy and thankful that it went my way.”

C.C. Sabathia is awesome to watch, and he certainly deserves this award.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 15, 2007.

One Response to “Sabathia: AL Cy Young Winner”

  1. […] Sabathia, this year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, received one 7th place vote, one 8th place vote, and two 9th place votes, finishing 14th […]

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