Who Should Win the Cy Young Awards? Who Will?

Getty Images
20 Comments

With the regular season ending on Sunday and most of the playoff spots locked up, there’s really only one big thing left to argue about: postseason awards. So let’s spend some time looking at who should win each of the four major awards and who will win them. Which are often totally different things. Next up: The Cy Young Awards. 

The Cy Young races are easily the least clear-cut of them all. Neither league has a perfect candidate. Or for that matter, imperfect candidates who nonetheless look like Cy Young winners past of present. As such, the Cy Young Awards will likely be the least predictable honor handed out in November. Not that we won’t guess now.

Who should win the AL Cy Young Award?

There were so few overwhelmingly obvious candidates during the bulk of the season that people started entertaining the notion of giving the award to a closer, Zach Britton. Maybe even giving him the MVP Award. The world wouldn’t end if that happened, but that’s all a bit too much for us. Since that discussion peaked, three starting pitchers have emerged as favorites, at least to the extent there is anything close to a favorite in this race: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber and Justin Verlander.

Porcello’s basic line looks the most like a Cy Young winner’s: he’s 22-4 with a 3.11 ERA. Kluber has fewer wins — he’s 18-9 — but his ERA is about the same. More importantly, he has struck out 44 more batters in two fewer innings and has given up fewer hits and has an edge in Fielding Independent Pitching stats. Verlander’s case has, somehow, flown under the radar, but the former AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has put up an outstanding campaign as well, pitching more innings and striking out more batters than either Porcello or Kluber. WAR is sort of all over the place, with Baseball-Reference.com’s WAR putting Kluber ahead of Verlander at the top with Porcello a distant sixth, while Fangraphs’ version of it has Chris Sale in the top spot with Porcello at two, Kluber at three and Verlander fourth. So, eh.

Ultimately, we tend to favor guys who strike batters out, even if that’s fascist, so the three of us are leaning this way:

Craig: Kluber
Bill: Kluber
Ashley: Verlander

 

Who will win the AL Cy Young Award? 

I feel like it’ll go to Porcello. As explained above, he won’t be some empty, wins-heavy candidate — his walk rate, a fantastic 1.24 per nine innings, is the second lowest in the AL and his FIP is second best in the league — but the wins will help. As will his story, having put together his best season ever in a year when the Red Sox had all kinds of questions about their rotation heading into the season. He’s a fine choice and, if he wins, no one should get bent out of shape about it.

 

Who should win the NL Cy Young Award?

For the first half of the season there was no suspense to this whatsoever. It was Clayton Kershaw‘s award to lose and he was on his way to winning it unanimously. Then he got hurt and missed a couple of months and will finish the season with only 21 starts and fewer than 150 innings. They’ve been fantastic innings — he’s got a 1.65 ERA and one of the lowest walk rates you’ll ever see — but to win a Cy Young award with only 2/3 of a season is a tough trick even if your rate stats are two or three times better than the next guy’s. Half of life is showing up, as they say, and Kershaw was physically unable to show up for a good chunk of the year.

That leaves two or three others. Kyle Hendricks has gotten the most heat of late, having pushed his ERA below the magical 2.00 level, which awards voters tend to think of as some sort of reverse Mendoza line for pitchers. A Maddux line? Sure, why not. He’s pitched far fewer innings than some of the other leaders — 185, with one more start scheduled — and much lower than your typical Cy Young winner, even in this modern age.

Max Scherzer has a big edge in bWAR, but is only third over at Fangraphs. He has a commanding lead in total strikeouts. He doesn’t lead in strikeout rate, however, as the late Jose Fernandez was more dominant in that regard (Fernandez, incidentally, is second in FIP and second in fWAR, and will likely get a good number of Cy Young votes based on both merit and sentiment). Jon Lester‘s 19 wins, matching Scherzer’s, will get him some consideration. Noah Syndergaard and Madison Bumgarner will get some votes too, as the aces for a couple of teams that should be in the playoffs, though the Giants’ second half slide will hurt MadBum’s chances.

Another split decision:

Craig: Scherzer
Bill: Hendricks
Ashley: Scherzer

 

Who will win the NL Cy Young Award? 

Hendricks, we suspect. As long as he doesn’t get blown up in his final start, I suppose. If he keeps the ERA under 2.00, I figure he’ll win it by a comfortable margin. The voters are better than they used to be, but sometimes it’s hard to avert one’s gaze from shiny things.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

astros general manager
Logan Riely/Getty Images
1 Comment

HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”