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:
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:
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.