Greetings, HHS folks! Dr. Doom here again with another awards voting post. I’ve done these for the last two seasons, so I’m continuing the tradition in 2019. For the next award, we switch leagues and awards as we vote on the AL Cy Young. As it turns out, everything’s coming up Astros! More after the jump.
Our first contender is perpetual Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander. With one CYA already and three second-place finishes, Verlander attempts to avoid “bridesmaid” status again, but the competition is thick. A good way to get traction is to be durable – and Verlander led the league by any count in durability, starting the most games, pitching the most innings, and winning the most games. But none of that matters if you’re not effective. Verlander was second in the league with a 179 ERA+, and led the league with 7.8 WAR, a 7.14 SO:BB ratio, and a miniscule 0.803 WHIP. Oh – and for good measure, Verlander struck out 300 opposing batters, and logged a third career no-hit game! Only a susceptibility to homers (a career-high 1.5 per nine and worst among serious award contenders) damages Verlander’s credentials.
If there’s a competitor to Verlander, it’s his teammate, Gerrit Cole. Cole is a former #1 overall draft pick who never seemed to live up to that billing… until he came to Houston. He posted a blistering 13.8 SO per nine this year – a new MLB record, topping Randy Johnson‘s 13.4 in 2001! Cole’s 326 K’s led the majors, making he and Verlander the second-ever teammates to whiff 300 (the first, naturally, were Johnson and Curt Schilling, in 2002). Cole had the best FIP (2.64) and ERA (2.50) in the AL, and the best ERA+ (185) in all of baseball. Had Cole won one more game, he would’ve tied his teammate and recorded the very rare “pitching Triple Crown”; as it was, he and Verlander became the first teammates to win 20 games since Johnson and Schilling, and Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, both in the 2002 season. Finally, Cole notably became the first searchable pitcher to finish a season with 16 straight winning decisions as a starter, a streak he continued for three more games in the post-season.
While sorting out those two might be tough, you do have three more spots to fill, so let’s look at some other contenders. Lance Lynn of the Rangers managed to avoid homers in a notoriously homer-prone home park, to the tune of less than one per nine innings, helping him to a career best 141 ERA+ and 3rd ranked 7.6 WAR. Lynn’s FIP (3.13) was even better than his ERA (3.67), as he posted a creditable 16-11 record for a sub-.500 Rangers team. Leading the league in WAR (tied with Verlander) was Lynn’s teammate Mike Minor who, oddly enough, pitched the EXACT same number of innings as Lynn, and posted a similar 14-10 record to go with a 144 ERA+ that tied for 4th in the AL with the Indians’ Shane Bieber. Bieber ably filled the void in Cleveland created by Trevor Bauer‘s departure and Corey Kluber‘s lengthy injury layoff, leading the majors in CG (3) and shutouts (2), while placing 2nd in IP (214⅓) and 3rd in strikeouts (259). In Tampa, new hire Charlie Morton became this season’s Blake Snell, taking the role of staff ace in place of the defending CYA champ who lost time to injury and struggled to find his form of a year ago. Morton allowed homers at the lowest rate of any pitcher – less than 0.7 per nine, leading to a 2nd ranked FIP (2.81) and third best ERA (3.05).
There are some other interesting pitchers to look at: Lucas Giolito (1st in shutouts, 5th in ERA, 6th in WAR) of the ChiSox; and Eduardo Rodriguez (1st in starts, 3rd in wins, 5th in WAR) of the BoSox, to name two. In Minnesota, Jose Berrios was so hot at the beginning of the season (8-2, 3.01 over his first 14 starts) that it seemed he might make it into the conversation, but a rougher second half doomed him to down-ballot consideration.
So who’s it going to be? Which stud from the AL champion Astros will you take? Or, were one of the Rangers’ top two more valuable to a struggling team, and deserving of CYA recognition? Who’s going to slide in at the bottom of your ballot? Let us know by voting in the comments section below!
Also, apropos of nothing, here’s a fun fact: 19 different pitchers in the overhand pitching era have had a season of 300+ strikeouts. FIVE of them (J.R. Richard, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Cole, and Verlander) did so as Astros. No other franchise has had more than two such pitchers. Must be something in the air.
Rules: Vote by making a comment below and numbering your choices with 1 being the MOST preferred candidate, and 5 being your LEAST preferred candidate of your five choices. Your ballots will be EXACTLY five places, just as the BBWAA does. You must vote for 5 players. Scoring will be 7-4-3-2-1, just as the BBWAA does. You are not required to vote in all elections; only vote in the ones you would like to vote in. You may make vote changes, if the discussion so moves you. If you change your vote, please do so in a new comment, not as a reply to your original comment (it’s a lot easier to find new comments than replies to old ones). Please don’t vote strategically; we’re trying to get the best result, not to manipulate the vote totals based on what others have done. Voting will remain open about one week. When players are tied, tiebreakers go as follows: first tiebreaker is number of ballots on which players were named; second tiebreaker is highest placement on a ballot; third tiebreaker is the first player to be named (as this usually only happens when a bunch of players are tied for last). Results will be posted when balloting closes.