DFSR Midseason MLB Awards - Cy Young
Welcome to the Major League All-Star Break, where your only baseball fix over the next few days will be a rather meaningless exhibition game and a batting practice contest. So we thought we'd take the time to weigh in on our mid-season awards (both superlative and not so much).
Of course in baseball, the Cy Young Award is sectioned off between the American League and the National League. We don't have time for that kind of finite drilling down. Instead let's just assume Cy Young means "Best Pitcher" and leave it at that. Isn't life easier when it's simple?
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Max Scherzer - WAS
10-5 , 12.13 K/9
2.10 ERA / 3.07 xFIP
So I think Sale is the Cy Young this year, but since Durell already yoinked him out of consideration when we called dibs on these guys, I'll go ahead and make Scherzer's case on the NL side. Scherzer has improved upon last year's Cy Young campaign by tacking on a full K/9 to his already elite rates, and his 12.16 K/9 is a hair behind Sale's for the league lead. He's shaved his walk rate under 2.0/9, and continues to expertly navigate the dance of allowing a lot of fly balls while not allowing a lot of home runs. Why is this important? It depresses his BABIP. He's held his opponents under a .270 BABIP in each season since joining the Nationals, and paltry 26.5% hard contact rate is his best since 2011. He's also the same old workhouse once again, leading the NL in innings pitched per start. If you want to go Kershaw here, I think you should check yourself. Kershaw's only been better than Scherzer when it comes to walk rate, and I'd ignore his xFIP advantage. The fact is that Scherzer's HR/FB ratio is very likely sustainable, and xFIP isn't telling the whole tale.
While he can't touch Sale in terms of overall production, having separate Cy Young Awards for the AL and the NL means he can win also! Everyone gets a trophy!!
Doug Norrie - DFSR CoFounder, Editor-in-Chief and Statistical Director
Alex Wood - BOS
10-0 , 10.82 K/9
1.67 ERA / 2.57 xFIP
F@#$ it. I'm going off the board with this one. While Scherzer above and Sale below are ahead of Wood on the basis of WAR, it isn't by much and Wood is trailing them by a ton of innings (about 40 total) and yet he's still in the upper tier of starting pitchers this season because his per inning/ per start stats are just staggering. Forget that he's 10-0 on the season (will make the non-saber crowd warm and fuzzy) he's been simply dominant. The 10.82 K/9 rate is elite and he's incredibly efficient with his innings because the guys who don't K are just hitting weak groundballs. There are only two pitchers in baseball with a K/9 over 10 and a GB% over 60%. Wood and Lance McCullers. No one else is even close.
This is the very definition of efficiency in a pitcher. Sure he's getting "lucky" with the BABIP and LOB, but those numbers might be closer to his normal than other arms. Mitigating mistakes by inducing double plays is the way a guy who's only averaging 90 pitches a start is still able to average 5.7 innings per start. Give him basically one more start (or just a little run better on injuries) and he'd easily be among the best-qualified starting pitchers.
Chris Durell - DFSR MLB Content Manager and Lead Contributor
Chris Sale - BOS
11-4 , 12.55 K/9
2.75 ERA / 2.66 xFIP
Sale is the clear choice for AL Cy Young at this point and arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball. After changing the color of his Sox from White to Red this off-season, Sale has continued to be a dominant force on the mound. He leads the Majors with a 5.3 WAR that is backed by a 2.66 xFIP(second to only Kluber) and league-leading 12.55 K/9 rate and 16.2% Swinging Strike rate. Sale has even been better at home in Fenway where he holds a 2.24 ERA, 2.51 xFIP, and has held opponents to an average below the Mendoza line.
It doesn't appear that much, if any, regression will set in for Sale as the xFIP sits lower than the ERA and he is currently running a BABIP right on track with his career mark. With Kluber pitching as well as he has been, Sale won't run away with the award in the AL but as long as he stays healthy, should hit 20 wins and grab his first career CY Young.
Austyn Varney - DFSR MLB Lead Writer
Clayton Kershaw - LAD
14-2 , 10.81 K/9,
2.18 ERA / 2.75 xFIP
You really can’t go wrong here. Scherzer and Sale are the 2 most likely to grab the award and rightfully so. They have been insane all year long and are pitchers that teams have an X on the calendar for. Lance McCullers and Corey Kluber have also pitched to that level, but haven’t seen nearly as many innings. That leaves us with Alex Wood and Clayton Kershaw from the LA Dodgers, who both deserve some consideration for the award. If I have to take one pitcher for one game, it’s still Clayton Kershaw. The reason he isn’t getting as much attention this year just speaks to how good he really is. He’s still top 5 in every category and the same pitcher he has been for 5-7 years. He’s going to consistently dominate and will give you 2-3 rough starts each year. While I do think Sale will end up winning the award, we all know how viable he is and if he does have some rough starts in the 2nd half, don’t be surprised to see Kershaw take advantage.
Jerry Vanderwoude - DFSR MLB Writer
Corey Kluber - CLE
7-3, 11.86 K/9
2.80 ERA / 2.65 xFIP
A couple of weeks back while writing the picks article for the next day, I used the term “Kershawesque” to describe Corey Kluber. While Sale and Scherzer are arguably having solid seasons, and rightfully so lead the pack in their respective leagues in the race for the Cy Young award, there is a strong case to be made for Corey Kluber, and I’m not quite so sure the AL race can begin and end in Boston.
Kluber possesses the lowest xFIP among qualified starters at 2.65 and is right there with Sale and Scherzer trailing just behind them with a 33.5 K% and walking only 6.1% of the batters he faces. He hits the break with 7 wins under his belt through 13 starts and 88.1 innings pitched. He may take a knock for missing time on the DL earlier in the season, sitting out most of May with a back issue, but he only trails the other guys by 5 starts which over the course of a full season shouldn’t factor a big difference in overall performance. While the Indians claimed his back was the cause of his missed time, one could argue he also had a bionic arm implanted as well, since returning on June 1st, Kluber has a 1.24 ERA, a .69 WHIP, 74 K’s, and only 8 BB in 51 innings pitched. Should this type of performance hold up through the second half of the season, the AL pitcher of the month of June may very well earn the title of AL pitcher of the season, AKA 2017 Cy Young winner.
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- Chris Sale: (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)