HBT First-Half Awards: American League Cy Young

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: American League Cy Young Award.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
2. Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s
3. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

This is a dang close race, folks, with arguments for all three of these guys, in terms of stats, in terms of narratives or in terms of whatever combination of those two things you prefer to let lead you in your analysis of such things.

Chris Sale, of course, has been striking out the world, leading the league in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings and leading the AL in WHIP and in Fielding Independent Pitching. Sonny Gray leads the American League in adjusted ERA+, ERA, and has given up fewer hits and fewer home runs per nine innings than any starter. Dallas Keuchel, for his part, is tied for the lead league in wins and WAR among pitchers. As far as narrative stuff goes, Keuchel is leading a surprisingly good Astros team, Sale tied the record for most consecutive games with ten strikeouts or more and Gray, well, he’s at least a reason to watch the A’s every fifth day.

If you ask me who should win this award ten times in the next few days I’d probably go back and forth between Sale and Gray a handful of times and may, when I’m feeling narrative-y, throw it Keuchel’s way on occasion. And I’d probably clear my throat and mention Felix Hernandez and Chris Archer a couple of times too because they’re having fantastic seasons. But if you put a gun to my head and make me choose one, I’ll choose Sale, because strikeouts are fun, even if they’re somewhat fascist.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros
2. Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox
3. Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s

I agree with basically everything Calcaterra said above, especially the stuff about this being an extremely close race so far. Chris Sale has been the most dominant starter, but in looking over all the relevant numbers I kept coming back to Dallas Keuchel as being every bit as deserving. He leads the league in innings pitched and batters faced–which is huge for an Astros rotation that otherwise hasn’t been particularly good–and Keuchel ranks second in ERA at 2.23, just 0.18 behind Sonny Gray and 0.49 better than Sale.

I give Keuchel the slight edge based mostly on a higher workload–he’s thrown 14 more innings than Gray and 18 more innings than Sale–while also having zero problem with anyone thinking Sale or Gray should be in the top spot. It’s also worth giving a little nod to reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, whose secondary numbers remain Cy Young-caliber even if poor lineup, bullpen, and defensive support from the Indians have burdened him with an ugly win-loss record and too many runs allowed.

Pete Alonso sets new NL rookie record with 40th home run

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With a ninth-inning solo home run off of Royals pitcher Jacob Barnes on Sunday, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso set a new National League rookie record for home runs in a single season. He now has 40 with 36 games left in the regular season.

Cody Bellinger, currently the home run leader with 42, hit 39 home runs in his rookie season in 2017, holding the record until today. The major league record is 52, set by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge also in 2017. Judge had broken Mark McGwire’s record of 49 hit in 1987.

Alonso went 3-for-4 with a walk, an RBI double, and three runs scored along with the homer. He’s now batting .271 with a .979 OPS with 40 homers and 95 RBI on the season.

With their 11-5 win over the Royals, the Mets improved to 64-60. They have the same exact record as the Phillies and Brewers, sitting 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card.