Hisashi Iwakuma was always considered somewhat of a longshot in the American League Cy Young Award race.
The Mariners starting pitcher didn’t make a serious push for the award until the final six weeks of the season, with the effort enough to land him on a shortlist of three finalists. But in the end, the award on Wednesday went to Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer, a pitcher many had considered the front-runner from early on in the season.
Scherzer garnered 28 of 30 first-place ballots to win in a landslide with 203 total points after going 21-3 with a 2.90 earned-run average and 240 strikeouts over 2141
3 innings for the playoff-bound Detroit Tigers. Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers was the runner-up with 19 second-place ballots and 93 total points while Iwakuma Iwakuma finished third with 73 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL Cy Young Award for the second time in three seasons, coming within one vote of a unanimous selection.
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“It is such an honor to be one of the finalists for the best award as a pitcher,’’ Iwakuma, who is in his native Japan, said earlier in the day, through interpreter Antony Suzuki. “I had never thought I would become a finalist here in the U.S. so this is very special to me and is a big surprise.’’
The two other first-place ballots went to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox and Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers, who finished fourth and fifth overall. Iwakuma received six second-place votes, 12 third-place, six fourth-place and one fifth-place ballot after going 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA over 2192
3 innings in his second season with the Mariners.
In the end, his relatively unknown status behind Felix Hernandez in his own starting rotation likely hindered his ability to garner votes. Though he made the all-star team, Iwakuma didn’t really vault into awards consideration until going 4-0 with a 1.62 ERA his final eight starts from mid-August on.
By then, Scherzer – and, to a lesser extent, Darvish – were already riding a seasonlong wave of publicity that had cast them as Cy Young front-runners.
Scherzer began the year 13-0 and wound up the league’s only 20-game winner. He also led the league in walks-plus-hits-to-innings-pitched (WHIP) ratio, was second in strikeouts and top-five in most notable categories.
Though not as proficient as either finalist in terms of strikeouts, Iwakuma had a better strikeouts-to-walks ratio than Scherzer and Darvish and was the only finalist to finish top-three in all three categories of ERA, innings pitched and opponents’ batting average against.
Iwakuma said he’s already working on his conditioning for next year and will soon start throwing.
“I am very proud and happy with what I have established here in 2 years,’’ he said. “I have learned a lot and it has been quite an experience. I started my career here in the big league as a reliever and worked my way up. There is more to learn down the road and more to prove as well, so I look forward to the future.’’