When the competition was as competitive as it was this past season, it’s would be tough for a pitcher like James Shields to garner the votes need to capture the Cy Young Award which is bestowed to the best pitcher in the league.
That’s why it came as no surprise that Detroit’s Justin Verlander was the unanimous choice to win the award after leading the American League in ERA (2.40), wins (24) and strikeouts (250) – the pitcher’s version of the Triple Crown.
Shields knew that Verlander was a lock – all he was hoping for was a top five finish and when he finished third came a sigh of relief and excitement.
“I was excited, just to be part of that kind of talented group of guys that were up there with me,” Shields said. “It’s definitely an honor. Obviously every pitcher wants to win the Cy Young, but with the kind of year Verlander had, it was a no-doubter.”
With Verlander earning top honors with 196 points (28 1st-place votes), Angels pitcher Jered Weaver was second with 97, followed by Shields (66 points), CC Sabathia of the Yankees (63) and Detroit’s closer Jose Valverde (28).
In any other year Shields would have probably won the award. The season was a career year for Shields as he was named to his first All-Star team and he not only had a major league leading 11 complete games, but turned in a career highs in wins (16), innings pitched (249.1), strikeouts (225), ERA (2.28) and shutouts (4, which also tied him for the AL lead).
Last month the Rays exercised a 2012 salary $7 million option that increased to $7.5 based on an incentive clause for innings pitched over the past three years – that option has increased again, with a $500,000 jump to $8 million for an incentive for having finished in the top five voting for the Cy Young.
Following a very disappointing 2010 season in which Shields lost a career high 15 games, had a career high 5.18 ERA, allowed a career high 34 home runs and was tabbed as one of the most likely pitchers to be traded during the off-season, Shields dedicated his off-season training to improve his mechanics, building strength in his legs and increase overall stamina.
The training never stopped, continuing from spring camp into the season where he worked endlessly with pitching Coach Jim Hickey in fine-tuning his mechanics and delivery. The dividends of his hard work paid off.
Shields joins teammate David Price as consecutive top five finishers in the Cy Young voting as Price was 2010’s second place recipient.
Price offering congratulations via Twitter: “Any other year his stats win it!!”
Schedule of MLB Awards/Winners
Monday, Nov. 14:AL/NL Rookie of the Year – Jeremy Hellickson (AL), Craig Kimbrel, AtlantaBraves (NL)
Tuesday, Nov. 15: AL Cy Young – Justin Verlander, DetroitTigers
Wednesday, Nov. 16: AL, NL Managers
Thursday, Nov. 17: NL Cy Young
Monday, Nov. 21: NL MVP
Tuesday, Nov. 22: AL MVP
For more info: Tampa Bay Rays, James Shields
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