Hello baseball fans, it’s Dr. Doom again! (I know it was just a little while since the last post, but it’s awards season!)
Today, we’re going to dive into BOTH Cy Young Awards! (As an aside, I kind of wish the award had a different name in each league: the Cy Young and the Walter Johnson, maybe. Yes, it could get confusing when talking about how many “pitcher of the year” awards people won, but it’s also always fun when you get to name awards after players and honor the game’s history. End of aside.)
Over in the AL, we have a mystery brewing: what do you do when the league’s best pitcher was a starter who didn’t qualify for rate awards? Technically, the day after Chris Sale made his last start, he was eligible for the ERA title, because he had pitched 158 innings through 158 games. Alas, four days later, he no longer qualified, so what do we do? If you’re not interested in Sale due to his failure to qualify, might I interest you in Trevor Bauer? Bauer led the AL with a 2.44 FIP (had he qualified, Sale would’ve led MLB with a 1.98 mark). Bauer also allowed HR at the lowest rate in the AL. Of course, he was injured, too. So maybe that leaves you with the triumvirate of Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber, and Blake Snell. Snell has the flashiest surface numbers (21-5, 1.89 ERA), league-leading 7.5 WAR and 5.6 H/9, but “only” 180.2 IP. Verlander has some great underlying indicators (see this article), and Kluber is a nice marriage of the two, with 20 wins, a league best 1.4 BB/9, and WHIP under 1.00. Whom do you prefer?
If you like relievers, I’d offer up Edwin Diaz and his 57 saves with a 208 ERA+ (and his FIP is even better than his minuscule ERA). Or, if you like being a little off-center, check out Jose Leclerc of the Rangers, with a 311 ERA+ (no typo) in 57.2 innings over 59 games. He’s not a closer, but he may have been the AL’s most effective reliever.
In the NL, a couple of starters really separated themselves from the pack: Max Scherzer with his 18-7 record, 2.53 ERA and MLB-leading 300 strikeouts (and the best pitcher in the world at season’s end, according to Bill James’ starting pitcher rankings); and Jacob deGrom with a 1.70 ERA and 269 K’s (deGrom did manage to finish a game better than .500, on the strength of wins in his final two games, both quality starts like the twenty-two they followed). Of course, those two studs were both “owned” this year by the Phillies’ Aaron Nola (defeating deGrom in May, and outpitching Scherzer twice in a week in late August), so, with his MLB-leading 10.5 WAR (third best since 1914 for 25-and-under hurlers), maybe he’s your choice. And, if you ignore actual runs allowed and just look at FIP, Patrick Corbin (3.15 ERA, 2.47 FIP, second to deGrom) has an argument that he’s right there with that group.
Maybe you noticed, like I did about a week before the end of the season, that Clayton Kershaw was Kershawing again – he just missed too much time to seriously compete for any awards. So perhaps you have a down-ballot vote for him. Or maybe you always like to give one to a reliever. Might I introduce you to Prodigal Brewer Jeremy Jeffress? (For those who don’t understand my Milwaukee-based reference, the Brewers have traded him away twice – once for Zack Greinke, and once with Jonathan Lucroy… and yet here he is again, finally living up to what we we Brewers fans hoped he’d one day become when Milwaukee drafted him like a thousand years ago.)
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