Greetings, once again, friends!
So we’re not dragging out our awards voting into forever, we’re going to handle both Cy Young awards with a single post. I will present the candidate, some statistics, and a brief paragraph’s synopsis of considerations. I don’t want to tarry too long here, because there’s a lot to consider! Just remember to check the bottom of the post for results! Balloting will close Friday, December 17 at 11:59:59, your local time. That is, I’ll tabulate officially whatever is there Saturday morning when I wake up. 🙂 Post after the jump!
In the American League, the featured candidates are:
Gerrit Cole, NYY: 16-8, 3.23 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 181.1 IP, 243 SO, 1.059 WHIP, 133 ERA+, 5.93 SO/W
Cole tried to be worthy of his ~$1m/start contract. Cole’s candidacy is largely based on the idea that, the more control over events the pitcher has, the more heavily those should be weighted. You can’t decide how far back the fences are, which affect HR rate; you don’t get to decide what your fielders do with a batted ball. If you look at just walks and strikeouts, Cole might be your guy. He also might be your guy if you’re extremely old-school, and are only concerned with pitcher wins. In many ways, this makes Cole the perfect candidate: both by the bluntest instrument (wins) and by the finest ones (there’s some interesting Statcast-related stuff for Cole), he’ll likely rank as the AL’s best pitcher. Any method in between might not get you there. So what do you trust?
Nathan Eovaldi, BOS: 11-9, 3.75 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 182.1 IP, 195 SO, 1.190 WHIP, 126 ERA+, 5.57 SO/W
Eovaldi posted an even better FIP than Cole, in nearly identical innings. Eovaldi had an ERA a full run worse than his FIP, which might be attributable largely to pitching at Fenway. He was second among these pitchers in Innings (essentially even with Cole).
Lucas Giolito, CHW: 11-9, 3.53 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 178.2 IP, 201 SO, 1.103 WHIP, 123 ERA+, 3.87 SO/W
Giolito is an interesting candidate: he doesn’t have the goods in any one department, but he shows up well across the board, when looking for a down-ballot candidate. The White Sox got those wins from somewhere, and Giolito was one of the primary reasons. Only six AL pitchers posted 200+ strikeouts in 2021, Giolito among them.
Lance Lynn, CHW: 11-6, 2.69 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 157.0 IP, 176 SO, 1.070 WHIP, 161 ERA+, 3.91 SO/W
Lynn was, per inning, one of the best starters in the AL this year. His 161 ERA+ would’ve led the league, had he qualified. This is an interesting debate: how much do you weight playing time relative to effectiveness? This is a much larger issue in the NL, but it factors in here, too. Choose wisely!
Robbie Ray, TOR: 13-7, 2.84 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 193.1 IP, 248 SO, 1.045 WHIP, 154 ERA+, 4.77 SO/W
Ray led the AL in… pretty much everything. Had Toronto performed a bit better as a team, you can imagine a world in which he led in wins, too, and snagged himself a Triple Crown. Ray was very effective all season long and kept Toronto in the hunt until the season’s last day (though that final day may harm his candidacy in the eyes of some).
Plenty of others, like Dylan Cease, Jose Berrios, Sean Manaea, and Lance McCullers have good claims for down-ballot support. Maybe you believe Shohei Ohtani deserves a vote for Cy Young, since the reason he didn’t pitch more was his otherworldly hitting. (For the record, I was not overwhelmed with the relief pitching among the AL pitchers… but if someone has a good candidate, please enlighten us and make the case below!)
Over in the National League, the highlighted candidates are:
Walker Buehler, LAD: 16-4, 2.47 ERA, 3.16 FIP, 207.2 IP, 212 SO, 0.968 WHIP, 165 ERA+, 4.08 SO/W
Just being totally honest, I have a really hard time seeing a wrong choice among some of the top contenders here. It was a weird year: lots of excellent years, but no one quite putting it all together. A player like Scherzer, Buehler, or Wheeler would’ve coasted to the AL Cy Young; it’s a shame only one of them can win it here. Anyway, Buehler has been in these Cy Young conversations before, but suffers a little from always appearing the second-best pitcher on his own team, and possibly a product of Dodger Stadium. The question is: do we agree?
Corbin Burnes, MIL: 11-5, 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, 167 IP, 234 SO, 0.940 WHIP, 176 ERA+, 6.88 SO/W
Here’s the fact: if the innings pitched weren’t at issue in Burnes’ case, this would be an extremely boring vote. This season was absolutely epic from a performance standpoint. The question is, how do you weight that level of performance against that dearth of innings, relative to your competitors? He finished nearly 50 innings behind Wheeler, yet was more effective. How you weight that comes down to personal preference. He did manage to squeeze out a qualifying innings total… but was that enough to give him the same win in this community that he got from the BBWAA?
Max Scherzer, WSN/LAD: 15-4, 2.46 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 179.1 IP, 236 SO, 0.864 WHIP, 166 ERA+, 6.56 SO/W
First of all, that WHIP! Second of all, a fun fact I just learned is this: Max Scherzer has never led his league in ERA+! Isn’t that fascinating? He’s been at or near the top of the “best pitcher in baseball” conversation so long at this point, I just assumed he’d have led the league at least once. Ultimately with Scherzer, the question you have to ask is this: does his Dodgers performance in the second half of the year weight more heavily than his Nats performance in the first half? If so, he’s probably a no-brainer winner. (1.98 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 11.13 SO/W for the Dodgers.) But then, that was only about 40% of his innings. So what does that do for you>
Julio Urias, LAD: 20-3, 2.96 ERA, 3.13 FIP, 185.2 IP, 195 SO, 1.018 WHIP, 138 ERA+, 5.13 SO/W
Urias’ candidacy is all about those wins, baby! The only 20-game winner in baseball this year, he also had that fabulous .870 winning percentage. Also, while his SO/W doesn’t look too spectacular in this group, he was nearly as good as anyone in the AL. It’s not his fault his competition is so stiff!
Zack Wheeler, CIN: 14-10, 2.78 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 213.1 IP, 247 SO, 1.008 WHIP, 150 ERA+, 5.37 SO/W
Wheeler’s numbers, in isolation, are outstanding. Not only was he the league’s workhorse in innings, he faced the most batters, threw the most shutouts, and the most complete games. There’s a reason both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference have him as the league’s WAR leader, and that’s not something you can count on happening every year.
There are too many Dodgers here, but there could’ve been just as many Brewers, as Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader have compelling candidacies; Wade Miley of the Reds and Aaron Nola and even Ranger Suarez of the Phillies also have down-ballot cases. But the idea that you’re going to find candidates outside of those four teams… well, you must’ve liked Max Fried or Kevin Gausman‘s year. Or maybe you just have an Adam Wainwright-shaped soft spot in your heart.
Happy voting! Here are the rules, for a refresher:
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 in a comment at the bottom of the post when balloting closes.