He leads the American League in some of the same key categories he led it last year:

Innings pitched.

Strikeouts.

And his ERA of 2.72 is only a notch down in second.

But he's won only 16 games instead of the 24 he had at this point last year.

Even so, when Justin Verlander (16-8) makes his final regular-season start today against the Twins, with the Tigers in first place in the American League Central, he'll wrap up another outstanding year.

For that matter, another year that might end up with him winning the AL's Cy Young Award.

With one start remaining in 2011, Verlander had 24 victories, looking for his 25th. He didn't need it, though, to win the league's Most Valuable Player Award and Cy Young.

But the current question is whether he'll need his 17th victory today to win a second consecutive Cy Young.

Some voters will look at victories while filling out their ballot. There's no way Verlander will lead the AL again in wins this season — not with Tampa Bay's David Price and the Angels' Jered Weaver at 19 already.

But more than one prominent national writer has speculated Verlander could win again — and that they would vote for him if they had a vote this year.

Knowing he's valued as a pitcher for more than a victory total could make the Cy Young announcement day in November even more gratifying than it was last year.