Justin Verlander delivers a pitch during Sunday's game against the Chicago White Sox. Verlander led the AL with 269 strikeouts and 240 innings pitched and also tied for the league lead in 19 wins. With his two strong starts in must-win games for the Tigers, he should be the AL Cy Young winner. (Associated Press photo)

Justin Verlander delivers a pitch during Sunday's game against the Chicago White Sox. Verlander led the AL with 269 strikeouts and 240 innings pitched and also tied for the league lead in 19 wins. With his two strong starts in must-win games for the Tigers, he should be the AL Cy Young winner. (Associated Press photo)

When it comes to determining the American League Cy Young award winner, much of the talk centers around Kansas City pitcher Zack Greinke – and appropriately so.

Greinke started the season as the best pitcher in the game and jumped off to a hot start for Kansas City. He ended the year with an AL best 2.16 ERA, was second in strikeouts, but only had 16 victories.

After watching how things unfold over the final week of the season, in my opinion, there is no question that Detroit’s Justin Verlander is a better candidate for the award than Greinke and the other contenders (C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez).

Verlander was a true ace and came up huge in the biggest games of the season for his team. Following an opening game of a doubleheader loss to Minnesota last Tuesday, Verlander came through in the nightcap and pitched the Tigers to a win. He pitched eight strong innings and struck out eight to help the Tigers to a 6-5 win over the Twins and maintain a two-game division lead.

Then on Sunday – with his team on the heels of three straight losses and in a first-place tie with the Twins – Verlander pitched seven scoreless innings against the White Sox. He ended up giving up a few runs in his final inning of work, but he saved the day and helped the Tigers live to see another day. With Minnesota winning, the Tigers now get to play in tonight’s tiebreaker for the AL Central crown.

A Cy Young candidate not only comes through in his team’s biggest games, but also has the numbers to back it up. Verlander led the American League in innings pitched (240), strikeouts (269) and was tied for the lead in victories (19). He also ranked among the leaders in ERA (3.45, 6th in AL), complete games (3, 5th in AL) and WHIP (1.18, 5th).

Meanwhile Greinke didn’t fare as well in his big start over the final week of the season. In his final start on Saturday against the Twins, he didn’t perform well in front of a national audience. In six innings, he gave up four runs and six hits and didn’t factor into the decision. Greinke did pitch five shutout innings before giving up the runs, but couldn’t come through in the big situations in what he labeled his biggest start of the season. Greinke did go 5-1 over his final 10 starts of the season and did beat the Twins five days before Saturday’s start against them.

Here is looking at the other top contenders numbers.

VERLANDER – 19-9, 269 strikeouts (leads AL), 3.45 ERA, 1,18 WHIP, 240 IP

GREINKE – 16-8, 242 strikeouts, 2.16 ERA (leads AL), 1.07 WHIP (leads AL), 229 1/3 IP

F. HERNANDEZ  – 19-5 (had top winning percentage in AL), 217 strikeouts, 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 238 2/3 IP

SABATHIA – 19-8 (tied for AL lead in wins w/ Verlander, Hernandez), 197 strikeouts, 3.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP,  230 IP

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