David Price has brought the Rays organization its first "big" individual player award, beating out reigning 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander by a single first-place vote. This award comes only two seasons removed from what was Price's best season in 2010, when he finished second to Felix Hernandez despite [Hernandez's] 13-12 record. While not as highly publicized a race as the AL MVP between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, this year's AL Cy Young race was essentially deadlocked between Verlander and Price, with strong cases made for each pitcher.
Verlander raised the expectations that the voters (writers) were looking to see from him this year due to his success from 2011, which could have been the difference-maker in the voting. Though he didn't win 24 games as he did in 2011, Verlander still managed to compile a 17-8 record while leading all AL pitchers in Innings Pitched (238.1) and Strikeouts (239). The fact that he led all AL pitchers in those last two categories coupled with his 2.64 ERA helped voters forget about the fact that he didn't win 20 games again.
Price was nothing less than dominant the entire season. What might have helped Price's case is the fact that he pitched for a team which routinely struggled to get runs on the board, making it even more crucial to minimize mistakes. The Rays scored 697 runs this past season which was only good enough for 11th out of the 14 teams in the AL, with the bottom three (Kansas City, Celeveland, Seattle) having never been playoff contenders. Pitching is what saved the Rays' season and kept them in the hunt even in the final week of the season, and David Price was the ace who led the pitching staff.
A 20-5 record was good enough to tie Angels' ace Jered Weaver for wins, but apart from that Price was ahead of him in every category: Price's 2.56 ERA was the best in the AL, and second in all of baseball only to Clayton Kershaw's 2.53 ERA. His .800 win percentage was the best in the AL, while he was in the top 10 in every other major pitching (statistical) category.
I was one of those people who would've been happy if either of the three finalists won since they were all deserving of it in their own rights. But to have your team's (and personal favorite) pitcher win it makes it that much more special, especially when you consider what the Rays weren't expected to do coming into last year's spring training: be in the hunt for the playoffs.
This is a tremendous achievement in what will likely be a highly decorated career for David Price, and it's also a huge win for the city of St. Petersburg that hasn't had anything more than a few Gold Gloves and two Rookie of the Year awards. Bringing home hardware like this helps fans believe that the team can go all the way next season, even if every analyst writes them off as pretenders.
Congratulations David, this was your year and this is your time to shine.