Midseason Award Watch: Cy Young
This time around, we’ll start with the AL.
Max Scherzer, Tigers (13-1, 3.19 ERA, 152 K, 10.55 K/9, 4.90 K/BB, 129.2 IP) The record is what everybody looks at with Scherzer, but he’s pitching very well regardless. He ranks 10th in the AL in ERA, but second in both strikeouts and strikeouts per nine. He’s also third in K/BB ratio, meaning he’s missing bats without giving free passes. He’s probably the favorite right now because of 13-1, but he’s up there on things he actually controls as well.
Yu Darvish, Rangers (8-4, 3.02 ERA, 157 K, 11.84 K/9, 3.83 K/BB, 119.1 IP) Here’s your American League leader in both strikeouts and strikeouts per nine. Darvish has been brilliant at times, most notably his near perfect game back in April. He’s been struggling a bit more lately, and has been put on the DL with a strained back muscle, which could explain the problem. This DL stint though will cause him to fall behind in innings pitched, which will be important given how many top pitchers there have been.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners (10-4, 2.53 ERA, 140 K, 9.09 K/9, 5.38 K/BB, 138.2 IP) King Felix just does it every year. So far, he leads the AL in ERA, innings pitched, and pitching WAR, while being third in strikeouts and second in K/BB ratio. Lucky for him, Cy Young voters have been more apt to reward pitchers stuck on bad teams than MVP voters, as shown by Hernandez’s previous Cy Young win. Helping him this time is that his record actually matches how well he’s pitched for once.
Chris Sale, White Sox (6-8, 2.85 ERA, 131 K, 9.83 K/9, 4.85 K/BB, 120 IP) Sale’s numbers show that he is easily been one of the top pitchers in the league. Unfortunately, for him, the White Sox’s putrid offense means his record is sub .500. Only Darvish and Schrezer have struck out guys at a better rate than Sale, and only four guys have better ERAs of those qualified. He ranks second in pitcher WAR. Not many will notice because the White Sox are nowhere though, and that will hurt Sale’s candidacy.
Bartolo Colon, Athletics (12-3, 2.69 ERA, 66 K, 4.94 K/9, 4.40 K/BB, 120.1 IP) Let’s get one thing straight now. Due to his past issues with PEDs, there is no way Colon will get anywhere near the Cy Young. However, he has pitched very well this year, despite throwing almost nothing but fastball that sit in the low 90s. His K rate is very low though and likely hints to some regression in the second half, which will save us from some very annoying columns later.
Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees (8-6, 2.65 ERA, 84 K, 6.37 K/9, 3.50 K/BB, 118.2 IP) Kuroda is second in the league in ERA yet isn’t on the All-Star team. Figure that one out. His strikeout rate is middling, but it always is like that and Kuroda just gets it done anyway. He’s not spectacular enough to win the Cy Young, but he could get some down ballot support, and he definitely should have been an All-Star.
Others to Consider: Clay Buchholz would be right there if he hadn’t gotten hurt, and it’s not looking like he’ll get back quick enough to make up for lost time. Hisashi Iwakuma has been excellent and leads the league in K/BB, but he doesn’t miss a lot of bats and is outshown by Hernandez in Seattle. John Lackey has come back and has a 2.78 ERA, which no one seems to realize. Coming into today, Justin Verlander had a 3.71 ERA. He’ll need a second half hot streak to get into the race. The leader in saves is Jim Johnson, who definitely shouldn’t get Cy Young votes. The next two though, Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan, might, particularly Rivera.
If I Had to Vote Now: 1. Hernandez, 2. Scherzer, 3. Darvish, 4. Sale, 5. Kuroda
It’s close, but I think King Felix has been the best by a slight margin. Realistically it feels like a race between the top four unless someone like Verlander goes on a tear in the second half.
How I Think It Will End Up: 1. Hernandez, 2. Scherzer, 3. Rivera, 4. Darvish, 5. Sale
The Cy Young voters have been more enlightened, so if things go as they have been, it’s not a lock they see Scherzer’s win total and vote him automatically (although he would be deserving if he did win). I have a hunch they’ll be a Vote Mariano movement and he’ll pick up some votes.
Turn the page for the NL Contenders