Justin Verlander has been named the American League’s Cy Young award winner, according to an announcement from the Baseball Writers Association of America. He received all 30 first-place votes.
Like Sandy Alcantara in the National League, Verlander took the award in a clean sweep. The respective dominance of each player has look since taken away much of the intrigue as to who would actually claim the honors, and the unanimous finishes paint a picture of their excellence. Verlander’s elbow blew out during his first start of 2020, eventually leading to a Tommy John surgery that kept him out of action until this year. He returned to the Astros on a $25MM guarantee last winter and, despite being 39 years old, showed no ill effects of such a major procedure.
Verlander returned to make 28 starts, staying healthy until a late-season injured list stint with a calf strain. He tossed 175 innings with an AL-best 1.75 ERA, a mark nearly a half-run lower than that of the next-best finisher. Even with the late-season IL stay, the former MVP placed 16th in the Junior Circuit in innings. He finished seventh among those with 100+ frames in strikeout rate (27.8%) and walk percentage (4.4%) alike.
It’s the third career Cy Young nod for the future Hall of Famer. Verlander becomes the 11th pitcher in big league history to claim the award three times, joining former teammate Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw as the only active players to do so. He earned his ninth All-Star nod midseason and led his league in ERA for the second time.
Verlander’s Cy Young adds to an already illustrious resume, while his stellar season positions him for a fascinating trip to free agency. He’s presently on the open market after declining a player option with Houston for the 2023 campaign. There’s essentially no precedent for a pitcher performing this well hitting free agency heading into his age-40 season. Verlander’s sure to secure one of the loftiest per-year salaries in MLB history, and Houston owner Jim Crane said last night he’s looking to top Scherzer’s three-year, $130MM deal with the Mets from last winter.
The other finalists in the American League were Chicago’s Dylan Cease and Toronto’s Alek Manoah. Cease received 14 second-place votes to earn the runner-up finish after placing second with a 2.20 ERA in 184 innings. Manoah finished just behind him with a 2.24 ERA across 196 2/3 frames, securing seven second-place votes in his own right. Cease and Manoah joined Verlander in appearing on all 30 ballots in some capacity.
Shohei Ohtani finished in fourth place and actually secured more second-place votes (nine) than did Manoah after leading the league in strikeout rate. Innings leader Framber Valdez ended up in fifth. Others who earned at least one vote are Shane McClanahan, Shane Bieber, Nestor Cortes Jr., Gerrit Cole and Kevin Gausman.
Full voting breakdown available here.