With the World Series wrapped up and the MLB hot stove still cold to the touch, there is only one thing left to talk about: awards.
Yes, the MLB offseason is truly upon us. And we’ve got one of the tightest Cy Young races in recent memory—in both leagues.
I’m not going to run down every single pitcher that has a chance at taking home the plaque this year, as I’ll devote this article to the major contenders. But, just to cover all my bases, I have to tip a cap to the following; Chris Sale, Louis Severino, Blake Treinen, Edwin Diaz, Gerrit Cole, Kyle Freeland, Jon Lester, Mike Foltynewicz, and Mike Mikalos. All of these guys had tremendous seasons. However, they came up just short of getting true recognition from me, and likely from the BBWAA as well.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the heavy hitters from each league and build a case for each pitcher.
This was the year that Blake Snell announced himself to the baseball world.
The 25–year–old showed why he was the Rays former top prospect by leading the league in wins with 21 and ERA, with a stellar, 1.89. He also was second in the AL in WHIP, sporting an impressive 0.97. Snell also led all major league pitchers with an ERA+ of 219 (keep in mind that the league average is 100). Aside from the statistics, Snell was the driving force behind the Rays super surprising 90–win season, in what was widely considered a rebuilding year for the team. The only thing that could hamper Snell‘s Cy Young hopes is his inning totals, as he failed to crack 200 despite making 31 starts. Although, in the 180.2 innings that Snell did pitch in, he struck out 221 batters, good enough for an even 11 strikeouts per 9.
Is Justin Verlander ageless or what?
Even at 35 years old, Verlander still cranked out 214 innings and, even more remarkably, lead the league in strikeouts with a whopping 290. That’s good enough for a 12.2 strikeouts per 9, the highest of Verlander’s 15–year career. He’s aging like fine wine. Verlander also led the league in WHIP with a mark of 0.902, and had the best strikeout–to–walk ratio in the bigs at 7.84. Verlander and teammate Gerrit Cole made up one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball this season, and Verlander was definitely one of the main reasons for the Astros‘ terrifying rotation.
Wait, Corey Kluber is up for another Cy Young?
In other news, the pope is Catholic. Since Kluber broke out in 2014 and earned his first Cy Young award, he has seemed to be in the hunt each season. Kluber took a step back from his incredible season last year, which saw him take home his second award, though he was still as rock solid as ever. Kluber, being the workhorse that he is, led the AL in innings pitched, all the while striking out 222 batters, good enough for a 9.3 K-per-9 rate. Though, Kluber’s most impressive statistic may be his walk rate, which he led the American League in, with an infinitesimal 1.4 walks per 9. He also had a WHIP below 1.000 and an ERA of 2.89. Oh, and he had a 20–win campaign, too. Kluber is currently being shopped by the Indians, which could potentially make him only the 4th man in MLB history to be traded after winning a Cy Young, along with David Cone, Pedro Martinez, and Roger Clemens.
Max Scherzer continued to build his resume as one of the best pitchers of this generation with another typical Scherzer season.
Mad Max lead the league in innings pitched with 220.2, and struck out a career– and league–high 300 batters. Scherzer also led the National League in WHIP (0.911), strikeouts per 9 (12.2), strikeouts per walk (5.88), and wins (18). There’s not much else to say about Scherzer other than he’s absolutely remarkable. He’s in pursuit of his third consecutive Cy Young, with would align him with elite company of Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux as the only men who have ever won in three straight seasons.
The unluckiest man in all of baseball, Jacob deGrom, was absolutely stellar this season on the mound.
The only problem for deGrom was that he was on the lowly Mets, which greatly impacted his win-loss record, going a poultry 10-9. However, any baseball fan with a brain knows that his record is not an accurate representation of his performance. Upon further examination, deGrom pitched out of his mind this year. He led the majors with an ERA of 1.70, as well as FIP with a 1.98. He also had an ERA+ of 216, good enough for second in the MLB among starters. DeGrom was also second in the National League in strikeouts with 269 in 217 innings, and is now looking to become the first Met since RA Dickey to win the Cy Young.
Lost in the shuffle of Degrom vs. Scherzer is the 25–year–old righty for the Phillies by the name of Aaron Nola.
Nola quietly put together a Cy Young–caliber thrower while pitching in the same division as the aforementioned deGrom and Scherzer. Nola pitched to a 2.37 ERA, good enough for the second–best mark in the National League only to deGrom. He also had a very good 0.97 WHIP and struck out 224 batters in 212.1 innings pitched. Oh, and he was a 17–game winner. Oh, and he was also the ace of the Phillies staff over former Cy Young award–winner Jake Arrieta.
In each league, you could flip a coin to decide who the winner should be and any answer would make sense. The winners of the will be announced for this year on Wednesday, November 14th. Like I said earlier, it’s MLB Award season. Hell yes.
(Photo: Huy Mach/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)