Prof: Gold Gloves and Rookie of the Year is great and everything, but other than winning an actual World Series ring, there’s not much more prestigious hardware that a baseball player can acquire than a Cy Young Award. And before you say, “But Prof, only pitchers win the Cy” – duh, fam. I am biased towards pitchers, y’all know this. And there are very few awards in sports that change the perception of a player or a career than saying “Cy Young Award winner” before saying a guy’s name.
So, with that being said, one of the most important individual awards in baseball is presented to two pitchers today (Wednesday), and this year, it’s a very interesting and tight race in the American League, while in the National League, it’s tight for a different reason. Let’s break it down. Scout and I will post our reasons for our choices.
Our Nominees are:
- Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers (18-4, 2.31 ERA, 27 G, 175 IP, 202 SO, .949 WHIP)
- Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals (16-6, 2.51 ERA, 31 G, 200 IP, 268 SO, .902 WHIP)
- Stephen Strasburg – Washington Nationals (15-4, 2.52 ERA, 28 G, 175 IP, 204 SO, 1.015 ERA)
Prof: This is an interesting list. A few years ago, we had a list a lot like it, when Kershaw was up against then teammate Zack Greinke and the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta. While all three of them had excellent cases, I think that the fact that two of the three were on the same team ultimately hurt them both, and caused Arrieta to win. (For the record, if you remember, I was going for ZG that year.) I think this same scenario will play out this year, in a way. However, this year, Scherzer (the reigning NL CYA winner) has Fangraphs-approved stats going for him. Kershaw has the advantage in wins, his 2.31 ERA was the lowest in the NL and his walk rate (4.4%) was the second best in the senior circuit. Scherzer is the SABR choice, Kershaw is the choice of traditional metrics. I give the edge to Kershaw, because he was able to do all of this and also spent time on the disabled list, which means that he made up significant ground on Mad Max and was still able to best him in many categories despite being out of commission for part of the year.
Prof’s Choice – Clayton Kershaw
Scouts: Very tough call here. I could see things going any way, although I’d be most surprised if Strasburg won it. I agree that having two Nationals in the top three is going to hurt them a bit, however we also lost Kershaw for quite a long period of time there and that always seems to factor in for the voters. Ultimately I believe that Scherzer’s 268 strikeouts and much lower WHIP will win voters over Kershaw’s better record. I do believe that the votes are cast before the playoffs, which if so is better for Scherzer, as clearly Kershaw pitching well in the World Series would be enough to tip the scales in his direction.
Scouts choice – Max Scherzer
Scouts guess on who the voters will choose – Max Scherzer
- Luis Severino – New York Yankees (14-6, 2.98 ERA, 31 G, 193 IP, 230 SO, 1.040 WHIP)
- Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox (17-8, 2.90 ERA, 32 G, 214.1 IP, 308 SO, .970 WHIP)
- Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 29 G, 203.2 IP, 265 SO, .869 WHIP)
Prof: Now, here’s the beef. Severino is a fine pitcher, but he’s definitely the third place guy here. No shade, just facts. This is a two horse race, and those two horses are among the best pitchers in all of baseball, not just in the AL.
It’s Sale or Kluber’s award to lose. And much like in the NL, the distance between the two is short and relies a lot on what a voter values more – traditional stats or sabermetrics. Although, in this instance, the SABR guys and the traditionalists will be more in line with one another because both Sale and Kluber have pedigree on both sides this season.
There is an advanced stat called Expected Weighted On-Base Average. It’s one of the most advanced saber-minded tools out there, and according to an MLB.com article, it’s an “attempt to remove the effects of defense and ballpark by looking at the quality of contact of each batted ball (by exit velocity and launch angle), and identifying the usual outcome of that combination across baseball, as well as including real-world strikeout and walk totals.”
Kluber and Sale are tied for xwOBA.
Sale has more strikeouts this season, and more innings pitched, but Kluber missed time (much like Kershaw) on the disabled list, and was still able to come roaring back with a lower ERA for the season (2.25 compared to 2.90). I’m not exactly sure, and you stat nerds out there might be able to help me with this, but I think the Klubot got more called strikes, too. Plus, it doesn’t help that Sale dropped off after August while Kluber powered into the postseason with magnificent starts.
Prof’s Choice – Corey Kluber
Scouts: I agree that I don’t see any way that Severino gets the nod here. His inclusion at all was a pretty big surprise compared to expectations at the beginning of the season. Just to be here is pretty great for him.
When it’s down to just Sale and Kluber, I just don’t see any way Sale doesn’t walk away with this easily. For one Sale is in a massive market and as such has garnered MUCH more attention than Kluber. Plus strikeouts are sexy. How many “Sale struck out 10+ again” articles did you read last year? How many “Kluber pitched very well quietly” articles did you read? 308 Strikeouts is just a massive number. And although I think at this point he’s the biggest asshole in baseball, I just don’t see how Sale won’t walk away with this one. While I believe that Kluber had the better season and is more deserving, I don’t think the voters will see it the same way.
Scouts’s Cohice – Corey Kluber
Scouts guess on who the voters will choose – Chris Sale