Seth Lugo's Way Too Early Case For The Cy Young Award

Seth Lugo has been lights out for Kansas City on the mound so far this season.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Seth Lugo's start to the 2024 season has been nothing short of spectacular.

It would be almost unfair to Lugo to call this season a revival for the 34-year-old pitcher, instead, the former 1032nd overall pick has taken his game to new heights this season. He currently stands just a single win away from tying his single season win record.

A large part of Lugo's spectacular start to the season are changes that he has made since last year. With statistics in baseball ever evolving to value advanced metrics, players are going to adjust. One of the biggest strength in Lugo's game is his ability to make batters look silly with extreme movement on breaking pitches. A great example of this is Lugo's slurve pitch. Lugo threw the slurve for a total of 2.7 percent of his pitches last year. This year we have seen him throw it for a total of 11.1 percent of the time, an increase of around 8.5 percent. Not only is he beggining to throw it more, but the results of the pitches are better than before. Over the offseason and into this year, Lugo managed to add around six inches of downward vertical break. That is over a 15 percent increase in vertical drop on a pitch that only five pitchers even consistently use in their arsenal.

It's not just a single pitch that has changed for Lugo though, instead we can observe a complete shift in his approaches to batters. Lugo has moved away from attacking batters with velocity, dropping his total percent of fastballs thrown by eight percent. Opting to move into breaking pitches such as heavily utilizing his sinker thus far this season and even adding a cutter to his array of weapons.

Of course, in a league as tough and adapting as the MLB its not as easy as just changing your approach simply based on creating more break on pitches. It's because of that fact that Lugo has almost cut his usage of his curveball in half. Lugo went from throwing his curveball 28.7 percent of the time down to just 15 percent, mixing in more pitches and creating a harsher enviornment for batters in the box. It is a lot easier to predict and sit on a pitch when Lugo threw a two-pitch combination 60 percent of the time, but when Lugo has five total pitches within the 10-25 percent range it becomes almost impossible to confidently sit on anything.

The changes that Lugo has made coming into this season have been monumental in making him one of the best pitchers in the American League, if not the entire MLB up to this point in the season. His ability to adapt in modern baseball has propelled him to an ace on one of the better upcoming teams in the league.

Lugo isn't only showing his dominance by his own metrics, instead when compared to former Cy Young winners, his stats stand toe-to-toe in comparison. For another angle to show Lugo's dominance we can compare him to last year's winner Gerrit Cole through his first 10 starts. Gerrit Cole won the AL Cy Young as well as finishing 11th in total MVP voting for the league. Cole was spectacular, pitching a total of 63 innings across his first 10 starts. Cole picked up eight wins along the way, boasting a spectacular ERA of 2.0 in his appearances. Cole posted six quality starts in his first ten games, only allowing more than three runs once in that timeframe.

When comparing Lugo's start to that of Cole, it's clear the pace that Lugo is on. After pitching three more total innings than Cole in his first ten starts, Lugo has shined to the tune of a 1.79 ERA. That number is the best in the entire American League, while his 10th start gave him the league lead in innings pitched over Tyler Glasnow. His effeciency has allowed him to go deeper into contest with more productive results, leaving him near the top for almost every major pitching category. Lugo has put together eight total quality starts in his first ten games, tying Cole's pace last year. Lugo would have beaten Cole's pace if not for being an out away before an error by the defense caused him to exit the game against the Athletics on Saturday.

There is not a pitcher in the American League right now that is holding pace with Lugo so far this season. The key for Lugo going forward is consistency. Gerrit Cole had a wonderful start to last season, but in his 11th and 12th games would give up five earned runs in each contest. Without the Yankees brand or the name value of Gerrit Cole, Lugo will have to continue to dominate on the mound.

With his fantastic start to the season and vast improvement from previous seasons it's hard to understand how Lugo isn't a frontrunner for the award, but being an underdog is nothing new to Kansas City or their players.


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Austin Bidwell

AUSTIN BIDWELL

Austin is a sports journalist from Kansas City, Mo. He is a freshman at The University of Missouri-Columbia, pursuing a degree in sports journalism.