Dr. Doom here (via Doug) again with an awards-voting post. We’re sticking with the Cy Young, but switching over to the National League.
Remember how there were two candidates in the AL who (at least on paper) stood head-and-shoulders above everyone else? Yeah… get ready for a repeat.
Clayton Kershaw is Clayton Kershaw. He continued to Kershaw. He Kershawed all over the season. Did he miss like 20% of his starts? Yes. Did he still somehow lead the league in wins – yes, with 18. Did he lead the league in ERA? Yes, with a 2.31. Did he lead the league in K:BB? Yeah, of course he did, 6.73. His 180 ERA+ was tops, too. Kershaw was the most efficient pitcher in the NL; was the lack of volume enough of a problem to hold him back?
If so, look at Max Scherzer who was nearly as good as Kershaw, just two wins behind the Dodger ace, Scherzer was also second in ERA (2.51), and a narrow second in ERA+ (177). Unlike Kershaw, Scherzer played his home games in a decidedly hitter-friendly park; but, that didn’t stop him from pacing the NL with a .902 WHIP and an ultra-stingy 5.7 H/9, the latter the 7th best number of all-time. Oh, and Scherzer’s 268 strikeouts were also tops in the league.
Here are some other top candidates:
- If there’s a third horse in this race, it’s Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg was third in ERA and ERA+, with marks of 2.52 and 176 respectively, and also third in FIP with 1.015. He allowed the fewest homers in the NL. Strasburg has not, perhaps, become the pitcher we were promised, but he’s become a force.
- Gio Gonzalez, the third Nats’ “ace”, was just about as good, with a 15-9 record and 2.96 ERA that might get it done in a lot of other years. Gonzalez’s weaknesses (a lower strikeout rate and weaker FIP numbers) perhaps don’t cut it as much in today’s analysis; there’s an argument there, too, but it’s a case that I’d be interested to read.
- Zack Greinke had an “up” season in 2017. When Greinke is on, he’s as good as anyone in baseball. He doesn’t outrank any of the top candidates in any significant category, but he’s a very solid down-ballot choice.
- Robbie Ray had his breakout year in 2017. 4th-best ERA (2.89) and ERA+ (166). He struck out the 3rd-most batters (218).
- And here’s my shameless plug as a Brewers fan for Jimmy Nelson, who was shockingly good. Third-best FIP (3.05); sixth-best K:BB (4.15). Only Strasburg allowed fewer homers.
- If you’re looking for others, there’s a fascinating Jeff Samardzija argument; Jacob DeGrom had a really interesting season, too; and Aaron Nola is young and plays for a terrible team.
I’d be interested to hear whoever else you’re interested in. Can’t wait to see what you all have to say!
DIRECTIONS: Please list 5 players on your Cy Young ballot in a NEW comment below (ballots with fewer than 5 candidates will be thrown out; I ask for a new comment because it’s easy to lose one if it’s in a reply, especially since we got rid of numbered comments). Ballots will be scored as per BBWAA scoring (7-4-3-2-1). Strategic voting is discouraged, though that’s unenforceable, so please just don’t do it, as the goal here is to (somewhat) mimic the BBWAA process. The post will be live for about a week; I will comment shortly after the post goes live to tell you when ballots are due. Please discuss and vote whenever you’d like, but there will be NO vote changes, so don’t vote until you’re sure you’re ready!