Clayton Kershaw may join some amazing but odd company

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R.A. Dickey notched his 20th win of the season this afternoon, but in allowing three runs in 7.2 innings he fell from first to second among NL ERA leaders.

Clayton Kershaw now leads Dickey by the slimmest of margins, 2.68 to 2.69, which got me wondering if a reigning Cy Young winner had ever led the league in ERA and not won the award again.

Instead of trying to research that myself I lazily asked the question on Twitter and got a quick answer from none other than the official account for SABR (plus a more detailed reply from Dan “The Baseball Crank” McLaughlin).

Anyway, the answer is yes. Roger Clemens (twice), Sandy Koufax, and Tom Seaver all led leagues in ERA as reigning Cy Young winners and didn’t get the award. It’s worth noting that when Koufax failed to win in 1964 they only gave out one Cy Young award, rather than one per league.

So yeah … if Kershaw hangs onto the ERA lead he’ll join some pretty exclusive company because there’s seemingly no buzz for him as a top Cy Young candidate.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.