With about 7 weeks left in the regular season, most pitchers only have around 8-9 starts left. Which means around 70% of their season is behind them. With that in mind, I think it’s time for us to consider who has a shot at winning some regular season awards. And, we’ll start with the Cy Young. We’ll divide the candidates into three categories: Frontrunners, Contenders, and Dark Horse. With around 30% of their starts ahead of them, there will be a number of guys who have a chance to climb up in the conversation. So, we’ll take into consideration what a guy’s season might look like if he wins 6 or 7 more games in dominant fashion, in this stretch run. Keep in mind that some of these stats fluctuate rapidly, so don’t be surprised if I missed a start between this article being written, and it posting.
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) – By now, everyone should be familiar with Keuchel (pronounced kai’kl). He started off blazing hot at the beginning of the season, and was 7-1 with a 1.76 ERA by the end of May. He has definitely cooled since then (7-5, 2.90 ERA), but is still leading the league in wins, with 14. He’s also 3rd in the league in WHIP (1.01), 4th in FIP (fielding independent pitching – 2.74), 6th in BAA (.212), and 6th in K’s (151). His 3.78 K/BB ratio just ranks 11th in the AL, but his other numbers are very impressive. Barring a drop-off in production over his remaining starts, he should remain a frontrunner for the award.
Sonny Gray (OAK) – With the A’s floundering in last place, I doubt many have paid that much attention to Sonny. But, his numbers stack up with the best of the best in the AL. In fact, he leads the league in a number of important categories: BAA (.197), ERA (2.06), and WHIP (0.96). He’s also one of only three pitchers in the AL with multiple shutouts. And, with 12 wins already under his belt (and just 4 losses), 18-19 wins seems very attainable. He only ranks 7th in FIP (2.93), and doesn’t strike out as many guys as others on this list (136 – ranks 10th in the AL). But, leading the league in those other categories more than makes up for it.
Chris Sale (CHW) – Just 11 wins (t-9th) and a 3.32 ERA (12th) doesn’t exactly sound like a frontrunner for any pitching award, does it? But, Sale seems to have been the recipient of some bad luck. How else would you explain the fact that he leads the league in FIP (2.40), K’s (208), K/9 (11.9), is 2nd in K/BB ratio (6.5), and tied for 3rd in WHIP (1.04)? I think the evidence is seen in the fact that he’s 8th in the AL in BAA (.222), but has the 7th highest BABIP (.317) in the entire AL – that’s some incredible bad luck. He might only end up with 16-17 wins, but his dominance on the mound could easily lead to him winning this award.
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) – The way his season started, I had zero expectations for Kershaw contending for the Cy Young. Yet, here he is . . . again. Sure, he may only have 10 wins right now. But, have you seen him lately? In his last 6 starts, he’s 5-0 with a 0.75 ERA, .167 BAA, 0.69 WHIP, and 58 K’s in just 48 IP – which, by the way, included 37 consecutive scoreless innings. Kershaw now leads the league in K’s (205), FIP (2.18), and K/9 (11.4). He’s also 3rd in ERA (2.39), 4th in BAA (.201), 4th in WHIP (0.92), and 2nd in K/BB (6.83). Another dominant 7 weeks could put Kershaw in the driver’s seat for his fourth Cy Young. But, I think the biggest thing standing in his way is…
Zack Greinke (LAD) – Greinke is having an incredible year. And, unlike many others on this list (in both leagues), he hasn’t really gone through a “rough” patch. The closest thing to that on his resume is from May 11th – June 23rd, when in 9 starts he went 0-2. But, it was certainly no fault of his own, as he posted a 1.79 ERA, and 1.03 WHIP, while striking out 54 in 60.1 IP. Just imagine how much better his 12-2 record might look if he had picked up just half the wins he deserved in that stretch (allowed 1 run or less in 7 of those starts!). As it is, Greinke still leads the league in win pct. (.857), ERA (1.59), WHIP (0.86), BAA (.189), and H/9 (6.1). He’s also 2nd in FIP (2.59). And, while Greinke isn’t a big strikeout pitcher (142 – 11th), he doesn’t walk many guys either, so he ranks 6th in K/BB (5.07). If I had the award to give out today, Greinke would be my NL choice.
Jacob deGrom (NYM) – What a fantastic follow-up to his rookie year this guy is having. deGrom may not be leading the league in any significant stat. But, he’s right there with the leaders. He’s 2nd in ERA (2.03), 3rd in FIP (2.62), 2nd in WHIP (0.89), 2nd in BAA (.192) and 5th in K/BB (5.43). If either Kershaw or Greinke falter down the stretch, deGrom could easily follow his ROY award with a Cy Young.
David Price (TOR) – A reinvigorated Price is exactly what the Blue Jays were hoping for when they traded for him. Since joining Toronto, Price has gone 2-0 in three starts, with a 1.61 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and has struck out 24 in 22.1 IP. His numbers with Detroit weren’t bad, mind you (9-4, 2.53 ERA, 1.13 WHIP). But, his numbers north of the border have pushed him to the brink of being a frontrunner. His name now appears near the top in several categories: 4th in K’s (162), 4th in ERA (2.41), 6th in FIP (2.92), 7th in K/BB (4.76), 9th in WHIP (1.09). If he keeps pitching like has been since joining the Blue Jays, don’t be surprised if he wins his second Cy Young.
Corey Kluber (CLE) – After winning last year’s award, people should know who Kluber is, and know what he’s capable of. But, Corey didn’t do himself any favors the way his season started. Through his first seven starts, he was 0-5, with a 5.04 ERA. But, since then, he has done much better, and he has really turned it on since the end of July. In his last 4 starts, Kluber has three complete games, and is 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA, .165 BAA, 0.70 WHIP, and 27 K’s in 32.2 IP. He already ranks 3rd in the league in WHIP (1.04), 2nd in FIP (2.59), 3rd in K/BB (5.68), and is 3rd in K’s (193). He will need some help from those that are ahead of him, because he only has 8 wins at this point – but, the potential is there for 15.
Jake Arrieta (CHC) – If I told you to take a guess at which NL pitcher was tied for the league lead in wins (14), tied for 3rd in ERA (2.39), 4th in FIP (2.67), 5th in WHIP (0.99), 5th in BAA (.205), and 5th in K’s (163), how many guesses do you think you’d need before coming up with Arrieta’s name? Just two years ago, he was given up on by the Orioles, after being one of their top prospects in 2009/10. Now, he’s looking like a legit ace. And, if he carries his current momentum (last 8 starts: 6-1, 1.41 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 55 K’s in 58.1 IP) through the rest of the season, he could surprise a lot of people by taking this award.
Max Scherzer (WSH) – In addition to having a near-perfect game (which still resulted in a no-hitter), Scherzer is having a very good year. But, if Arrieta is on an upward trend, Scherzer is going the opposite direction. In his last three starts, he’s 0-1, with a 7.80 ERA, and 1.60 WHIP. He still ranks among the league leaders in several categories (1st in K/BB – 8.43; 2nd in K’s – 194; 2nd in BB% – 3.6%; 3rd in WHIP – 0.90; 4th in BAA – .202; 6th in FIP – 2.68; 10th in ERA – 2.73). But, if he wants to be considered a frontrunner, he will need to reverse the trend of his last few outings.
Chris Archer (TB) – If the Rays make a late-season push for the playoffs (just 2.5 GB in the Wild Card), Archer will have a lot to do with it. He’s another one that I doubt many are paying attention to, primarily because his 10-9 record is a bit underwhelming. But, he ranks 6th in ERA (2.93), 2nd in K/9 (10.91), 3rd in FIP (2.65), 2nd in K’s (194), tied for 5th in WHIP (1.06), and 6th in BAA (.214). If he carries those kinds of numbers through the rest of the season, and finishes with 16 or more wins, he will likely be on everyone’s short list.
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) – Carrasco’s biggest hindrance to winning the Cy Young might be the fact that he plays on the same team as Kluber. But, don’t underestimate the young Venezuelan. He already has 11 wins (same as Price), and has really turned it on in his last three starts (1.04 ERA, 0.38 WHIP, .085 BAA, and 22 K’s in 26 IP). He ranks 5th in the league in K’s (155), 5th in FIP (2.90), 4th in K/9 (9.67), 5th in K/BB (5.64), and 5th in WHIP (1.05). Cy Young award or not, keep an eye on this guy in the coming years.
Gerrit Cole (PIT) – He leads the league in wins (14), and 15-20 years ago, that would put him in the “frontrunner” category. But, the rest of his stats are lagging behind the frontrunners. He’s 5th in ERA (2.48), 8th in K’s (149), 5th in FIP (2.67), and tied for 10th in WHIP (1.12). Don’t get me wrong – Cole is having an excellent season. But, he’s actually on a bit of a downward trend. Since the All-Star break, he’s 1-3 in 5 starts, with a 3.16 ERA, and 1.24 WHIP. He will need to step it up the next few weeks to get back on everyone’s short list.
Matt Harvey (NYM) – Harvey is slowly creeping up the leader boards. Prior to the All-Star break, he was just 8-6 with a 3.07 ERA. But, since that time, he has gone 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA, .162 BAA, 0.74 WHIP, and 26 K’s in 36.2 IP. After that impressive run, he now is tied for 5th in WHIP (0.99), ranks 7th in ERA (2.61), and 6th in BAA (.211). If he really turned it on down the stretch, and came away with 18 wins (he has 11 already), he could sneak into contention.
That’s my list. Who do you think I forgot? Who do you think is ranked too high? Too low? Let your voice be heard in the comments below.