- It's Cy Young time, folks. Jacob deGrom is your likely winner in the NL, but who grabs the AL hardware? Our experts discuss.
The American League and National League Cy Young Award winners will be announced on Wednesday, with two new winners all but guaranteed in two close races. In the AL, defending champion Corey Kluber will likely finish behind the Astros' Justin Verlander, who is looking for the second Cy Young of his career, and the Rays' Blake Snell, who is looking for his first. In the National League, Mets ace Jacob deGrom will win over the Nationals' Max Scherzer and the Phillies' Aaron Nola, it's just a matter of whether the other two receive any first-place votes. The SI MLB team takes a look at each race and picks their winner before the 6 p.m. announcement on Wednesday evening.
Ben Reiter: Justin Verlander. Yes, Blake Snell has the flashy ERA (1.89), but Verlander threw 33 more innings, and led the league in strikeouts and WHIP. It’s a shame that Trevor Bauer’s fractured leg essentially cost him the last month and a half of the season; he might have won it, as he undoubtedly still thinks he should have.
Emma Baccellieri: Blake Snell. You’re probably familiar with the gaudy numbers by now—1.89 ERA, 219 ERA+, 11.01 K/9, man, gaudy—so instead, let’s rewind to 2017. Snell had significantly improved in the second half, but he was still coming off a season in which he’d been demoted for six weeks in Triple-A and finished with a 4.04 ERA. His prospect shine lingered, but it wasn’t as bright as it had been. Now, a year later, he’s here. Snell led the American League in wins, bWAR, ERA, and ERA+. Roughly 50% of swings on his slider and his curve were whiffs. The 25-year-old easily had the best season ever by a starter for the Rays, and he deserves the Cy Young.
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Jon Tayler: Blake Snell’s combination of voter-friendly stats—he led majors in wins with 21 and the AL in ERA at 1.89—should overcome both his relatively low innings total (180 2/3) and another strong season from Justin Verlander. Pity Verlander, who’s probably heading for his third career second-place finish in the Cy Young voting instead of a potential third trophy (counting the 2016 award he should have won but narrowly lost to Boston’s Rick Porcello in a controversial vote).
Jack Dickey: The Justin Verlander-Blake Snell race is an intriguing one, pitting a contender's 35-year-old workhorse (Verlander threw 214 innings) against an also-ran's 25-year-old with a microscopic ERA (Snell’s 1.89 was the best mark since Pedro Martinez’s 1.74 in 2000). But the old-school/new-school collision gets a new spin—Snell won 21 games against Verlander’s 16. My guess is that the wins and the ERA carry the day for Snell, even if Verlander may have been just as valuable a pitcher.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: Unlike the lopsided National League race, this one is a toss-up. I'll take Snell, who transformed from an explosive starter with poor command in 2017 to one of the most feared starters in the American League in 2018. The eye-catching 1.89 ERA isn't the only compelling reason to vote for the 25-year-old ace; Snell also led the league in hits allowed per nine innings (5.6) and improved as the season progressed. When it was rumored that Tampa would limit the righty to an innings limit, he went 9–0 with a 1.17 ERA and 12.7 K/9 to end the season. Perhaps the voters will reward Verlander after they incorrectly gave the 2016 Cy Young to Boston's Rick Porcello, but Snell deserves this one.
Ben Reiter: Jacob deGrom. No race here.
Emma Baccellieri: Jacob deGrom. He led the National League in ERA (1.70), ERA+ (216), FIP (1.98), bWAR (10.0), fWAR (8.8), home run rate (0.42/9 IP), and win probability added (6.0). He was second in WHIP (.912), K% (32.3%), innings pitched (217), and zone contact (79.7%). It should be clear that no starting pitcher gave his team a better chance to win. The Mets, unfortunately, didn’t do too much with those chances; deGrom’s 10-9 record proves that. If voters penalize him for that record, though, they won’t be just giving absurd importance to an undeserving metric. They’ll be neglecting one of the best pitching performances in recent memory. deGrom’s been let down enough by his team’s record this year. Hopefully, it won’t find a way to hurt him one more time here.
Jon Tayler: There’s no argument imaginable against Jacob deGrom, who should earn every first-place vote in this contest. Just as amazing, though, is that Max Scherzer will likely finish second despite putting up a better season in 2018 than he did in ’17 when he took home this award: He threw more innings, racked up more strikeouts, posted improved strikeout, walk and home-run rates, and finished with the highest bWAR total (8.8) of his career. Were it not for deGrom’s annus mirabilis, Scherzer would be cruising for a three-peat; he’ll have to settle for the rightful title of best pitcher in baseball.
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Jack Dickey: Jacob deGrom. His 8.8 wins above replacement on Fangraphs is more than Clayton Kershaw amassed in his MVP season or Justin Verlander in his. If he doesn’t win this one, even Marc Elias will start slinging accusations of voter fraud.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: I'm hoping that deGrom receives every first-place vote because, as Jon and Emma described in detail, he may have had the best season of any starting pitcher in history. The Mets' poor treatment of their ace will remain one of the most incredible failures in baseball history, yet the good-natured deGrom has expressed a desire to remain with his team. We could all learn a lesson from the 30-year-old ace.