Less than four weeks remain in the 2016 Major League Baseball season, so the majority of the season played. There’s still more to go though, and this represents a fun point to discuss how the individual awards races might shape up. Let’s do that with the AL Cy Young race.
Before we dive in, let’s point out that these aren’t our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. It’s a snapshot of where things stand, and we’re making subjective judgments on how the vote could turn out based on recent historical voting tendencies.
Unlike the MVP races, the Cy Young voting is generally not impacted by team quality. Pitchers don’t get extra credit if their teams make the postseason. The Cy Young race is wide open this year, maybe moreso than any other awards race. Here’s our current snapshot look at the AL race.
Kluber leads the AL in ERA+, shutouts, WAR, and FIP; he’s third in wins; he’s fifth in innings; and he’s ninth in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Basically, he’s at or near the top in every meaningful measure. That good-across-the-board approach makes his case sound as sweet as a Fredric Chopin waltz. As a result, we’re going to give him the nod again — even if you can make the case for a number of other pitchers.
|W-L: 15-7||ERA: 3.07||WAR: 5.1|
The Chicago White Sox are a mess, but Sale hasn’t been a contributor to that. (Okay, outside of the jersey-slicing incident. And maybe the Drake LaRoche stuff.) Sale is down the board a bit in ERA+, yet he leads the league in complete games and is second in both WAR and innings pitched. That he’s managed a 15-7 record on an otherwise noncompetitive team should appeal to old-school voters, too.
A steady climber, Porcello’s last 10 starts have seen him compile a 2.57 ERA, 50 more strikeouts than walks, a seven innings-per-pop average, and a quality start in all but one of those tries. He now leads the majors in victories (with 19) and ranks third in the AL in ERA+ and fourth in innings. Oh, and Porcello hasn’t walked a batter since Aug. 19. Remember when that extension looked silly?
Verlander doesn’t have the shiniest ERA — his ERA+ ranks 12th, between Trevor Bauer and Kevin Gausman — but he leads the AL in innings and should get credit for a ridiculous post-April run. In his last 24 starts, he has a 2.89 ERA. And 19 of the 53 earned runs he allowed came in three outings, meaning the other 34 were spread across 21 starts. You can’t really slice and dice like that. Every pitcher looks better without their three worst starts, but sheesh.
Consecutive poor outings against the Seattle Mariners have damaged his case. He allowed 13 runs in six innings over the past week, causing his ERA to balloon from 2.67 to 3.25. Nonetheless, he ranks fourth in WAR, sixth in ERA+, and he’s been the constant in an otherwise tattered Texas rotation. Whether he deserves extra credit for that depends on your perspective. Just keep Hamels away from the Mariners and he should finish high on the ballot.
Blame it on the greater circumstances surrounding the New York Yankees that Tanaka’s season has gone largely unnoticed. He’s been especially good since the break, notching a 2.89 ERA and 48 more strikeouts than walks over 10 starts — that includes fewer than a walk issued per start. The most encouraging note here for the Yankees? That Tanaka is almost certain to record his first career 30-start season. Promising.
Is any pitcher referred to more often or consistently as underrated? You’d think it was part of his legal name at this point. Anyway, Quintana is about to turn in is fifth season in a row with an ERA+ exceeding 110, and a third consecutive season with a strikeout-to-walk ratio eclipsing 3.00. Yet he always seems to get passed over. Hence just making his first All-Star team in July, and hence still seeking out his first Cy Young vote — not first award, mind you, first vote. Someone do him justice.
Britton’s placement here reflects the uncertainty that comes with his case, namely with how segments of voters will rank a reliever. His 0.65 ERA is threatening Fernando Rodney ‘s single-season mark (0.60), and he’s allowed just one earned run since April — oh, and not a single home run since April 11. We can bray about how groundball pitchers benefit from unearned runs more than the average pitcher. And Britton, equipped with a sinker heavier than Infinite Jest, is a groundball pitcher, but come on.
Another pitcher whose case is unusual. Sanchez merits consideration, no doubt. But there’s legitimate question about how his candidacy will be viewed in light of the shutdown and the Jays’ attempts to limit his innings, with a demotion and subsequent turn to a six-man rotation. It’s not a situation we’re accustomed to seeing, and as such it’s hard to get a precise read on what might happen here. Let’s be clear though: Sanchez deserves up-ballot consideration.
And hey, here’s one more oddball for the road. Duffy has been exquisite since sliding to the rotation — in 21 starts he has a 3.15 ERA and 109 more strikeouts than walks, as well as more strikeouts than innings — and he’s 10th in WAR despite having four fewer starts than anyone else ahead of him. Still Duffy’s going to get dinged for spending most of the first two months in the ‘pen. Oh well.
Honorable mention: J.A. Happ , Toronto Blue Jays ; Michael Fulmer , Detroit Tigers ; Steven Wright , Boston Red Sox ; David Price , Red Sox; Andrew Miller , Cleveland Indians ; Dellin Betances , Yankees; Marco Estrada , Blue Jays; Chris Tillman , Baltimore Orioles .
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / AL Cy Young Power Rankings: Corey Kluber leads a race that is still very close