These Were the Best Pitchers of the 2011 MLB Season

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You have to wonder just how a baseball player, who plays every fifth day, can be named the best player in the league. You have to be awfully damned good on that fifth day when you actually work, or those everyday players had off years and sucked. Whatever the case the Detroit Tigers pitcher pulled off such a feat in 2011.Verlander became just one of only ten pitchers in history to win both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards since 1956 when the Cy Young was first awarded. He was truly dominant as the best pitcher and best player in baseball for 2011. He is the first pitcher since reliever Dennis Eckersley won it with the Oakland A’s in 1992. At least when Verlander pitched, he went at least six innings. A reliever!? They come in for one or two innings and get paid millions. Somewhere, people working 40 hours a week are shaking their heads.

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers took home the National League Cy Young Award, but finished 12th in MVP voting on a team that didn’t make the playoffs and finished third in the National League West. But in the Dodgers and Kershaw’s defense, they were going through some horrible legal troubles as the owner and his old lady were battling for ownership of the team, among other things. That didn’t seem to bother Kershaw too much as he had one of the more dominating seasons for the Dodgers and became the team’s first Cy Young Award winner since that steroid junkie Eric Gagne won it in 2003. Here are the Top 5 Pitchers of 2011.

5 Cliff Lee – Philadelphia Phillies

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17-8 Record, 2.40 ERA, 238 Strikeouts Lee led the majors in shutouts with six and was third in the majors in ERA, strikeouts and seventh in wins. Lee was part of a great 1-2 combination with Roy Halladay where the Phillies won 102 games and won the National League East by 13 games. But it still wasn’t good enough to get the Phillies out of the National League Divisional Series, as they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals three games to two.

4 Ian Kennedy – Arizona Diamondbacks

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21-4 Record, 2.88 ERA, 198 Strikeouts Just how many people outside of Arizona and his native Southern California have ever heard of Kennedy? They might be hearing from this former Yankee for a long time as he and Kershaw battled it out throughout the season and ended up tying for the National League lead for wins, and led the majors in winning percentage.

3 Jered Weaver – L.A. Angels

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18-8 Record, 2.41 ERA, 198 Strikeouts The other team in L.A. (even though they play about 25 miles away in a completely different county) had an ace of its own in Weaver.He was fifth in the majors in ERA, sixth in wins, and tied for fourth in complete games with four with two shutouts. The Angels showed why they are not the Dodgers when they locked Weaver in to a long term contract. By the time he’s finished with his career, he’ll lead the Angels and Dodgers and just about every pitching category.

2 Clayton Kershaw – L.A. Dodgers

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21-5 Record, 2.28 ERA, 248 Strikeouts Too bad Kershaw plays for the Dodgers. With his talent he could have won about 30 games with a better team. Kershaw led the majors in ERA and was tied for second with Ian Kennedy in the majors in wins, and second in strikeouts. Kershaw is only 24, so knowing the Dodgers, he’ll be a Yankee any day now.

1 Justin Verlander – Detroit Tigers

24-5 Record, 2.40 ERA, 250 Strikeouts Put a bat in Verlander’s hands and he’s Babe Ruth. Verlander led the majors in wins and the American League in ERA. He was also the major league strikeouts leader for the third time in four years.

Honorable Mention

C.C. Sabathia – N.Y. Yankees
19-9 Record, 3.00 ERA, 230 Strikeouts
Many probably think that Sabathia should be ranked in the Top 5. In any other year he is a Top 5 pitcher, but just not this year. He didn’t really have a C.C. kind of year,despite winning 19 games with three complete games, and was fourth in the majors in strikeouts. But a so-so C.C. year is a career year for anyone else.

Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
19-6 Record, 2.44 ERA, 231 Strikeouts
One of those rare pitchers these days who is not afraid to pitch more than five and two-thirds innings. For the past several seasons, Halladay has been at the top or near the top in complete games and innings pitched, and still manages to keep his ERA below three.

Jose Valverde – Detroit Tigers
49 Saves, 2.24 ERA, 69 Strikeouts
It’s nice every now and then to have a great reliever in the majors on a Top 5 list not named Mariano Rivera. Safe to say that Valverde got many of his major league-leading 49 saves cleaning up after Verlander.

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