Greinke's Cy Young competition

From a few days ago, George Bretherton on the AL's best pitchers:

    Who says it's a two-horse race for this season's American League Cy Young Award?

    Kansas City's Zack Greinke (8 wins, 1.72 E.R.A.) and Toronto's Roy Halladay (10 wins, 2.53 E.R.A.) deserve front-runner status, but indications are that the field for the A.L. award will be crowded.

    Three other starters -- Detroit's Edwin Jackson, Anaheim's Jered Weaver and Seattle's Erik Bedard -- have E.R.A.'s under 2.50, and could make a summer charge.

    From off the pace, Detroit's Justin Verlander (9.00 E.R.A. after four starts) and Boston's Josh Beckett (7.22 E.R.A. after five starts) are moving into contention. Verlander (7-0, 1.10 E.R.A. since April 27) was so good in Wednesday's 2-1 complete-game win over the White Sox that Chicago's John Danks raved about Verlander's "almost PlayStation stuff."

Remember when Zack Greinke was obviously the best pitcher in the universe? Players do have a tendency to regress to their mean, though. After Wednesday night's game, Greinke's ERA is 1.96 (and it would be 2.05 if not for an exceptionally questionable scoring decision). After allowing two or fewer runs in each of his first 10 starts, Greinke has given up four, seven, three and six runs in his last four starts.
Overall, Greinke's still got the best numbers in the American League. But if we consider recent trends (though not so much) and less-recent history (much), we have to figure that Verlander and Halladay -- assuming he comes back quickly from his injury -- will be in the mix, and I wouldn't discount the chances of Felix Hernandez or Beckett, either (not to mention dark horses like Kevin Slowey, who's got nine wins already).

Greinke hasn't pitched all that bad in his recent starts. He's just been a little less lucky and a little less sharp -- last night he somehow managed to walk Chris Young twice -- and he's gotten little support from his relatively untalented teammates. He is among the best pitchers in the league, but I now consider him a real underdog for the Cy Young, if only because he's not likely to get much run support the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, in the National League, Tim Lincecum's making a serious bid to win his second straight award, though he too will have to cope with lousy run support from his mates. If that doesn't work out, Chad Billingsley's a solid candidate. And then there's Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez, both enjoying brilliant seasons but with only nine wins between them.