In this short 60 game season, one of the annual awards appears to be heading toward an epically tight finish—the NL Cy Young.
Jacob deGrom has been his usual outstanding self and could certainly end up winning it for the third straight season. As of the time of this writing, he has the following stats: 4-1, 2.09 ERA, 10 starts, 56 IP, 205 ERA+, 2.01 FIP, 0.929 WHIP, 80 K, 14 BB, 12.9 K/9, 5.1 K/BB.
A lot of years, those rate stats would run away with it, but here’s Yu Darvish’s stats: 7-2, 1.86 ERA, 10 starts, 63 IP, 240 ERA+, 2.17 FIP, 0.937 WHIP, 79K, 12 BB, 11.3 K/9, 6.58 K/BB. Most voters are savvy enough now not to weigh pitchers wins too highly, but Darvish’s 7 does lead the league.
Then there’s Trevor Bauer: 4-3, 1.71 ERA, 9 starts, 58 IP, 282 ERA+, 2.83 FIP, 0.810 WHIP, 83 K, 15 BB, 12.9 K/9, 5.53 K/BB. Notably, he has 2 complete game shutouts. His ERA, WHIP, and strike outs all lead the league.
Clayton Kershaw is likely a step behind due to only having 8 starts, missing his first start due to back pain and with 47.1 IP. Everything about this season’s awards is based on small sample sizes, but 1-2 fewer games played could make a difference. Here are his stats: 5-2, 2.28 ERA, 190 ERA+, 3.17 FIP, 0.782 WHIP, 53 K, 8 BB, 10.1 K/9, 6.63 K/BB. These are a touch behind the top 3—but 2 awesome starts to end the season could change that.
Similarly, Max Fried appeared to be out of the running after getting hurt. However, he’s back Friday and also could get in two more starts. Here’s his stats: 6-0, 1.98 ERA, 9 starts, 50 IP, 244 ERA+, 2.51 FIP, 1.060 WHIP, 47 K, 17 BB, 8.5 K/9, 2.76 K/BB. He doesn’t mow down hitters the way some of the other candidates do, but the ERA and ERA+ are right there with them. The 6-0 record will get some voters’ attention (if he remains perfect) as will his giving up 0 home runs (as long as that remains true). Two great starts from him could vault him back into the mix.
With the small sample sizes involved in the short season, and no obvious separation (like Shane Bieber so far in the AL), I have a feeling narrative is going to play an even bigger role than it might otherwise. Some will like deGrom getting it a third time, especially if the Mets sneak into the playoffs. Other voters might feel the opposite, especially if the Mets fail to make the playoffs. Yu Darvish has the coming back from oblivion and being the ace of a first place team narratives on his side. Bauer has been arguably the most dominant, leading the league in a few categories, and he will get a bump in support if the Reds make the playoffs. Kershaw leading the juggernaut Dodgers helps his narrative, but he needs two high quality starts to finish in the top 3. Fried plays for a first place team, is undefeated, and has yielded zero home runs when balls seem to be flying out of parks left and right. Two great starts from him that maintain those pluses might move him into the top 3.
With 10 days left in the regular season, I’d say the race is really too close to call. Bauer, Darvish, and deGrom appear to be the top 3, but it all comes down to the final 2 starts for each. If the season ended today, I’d pick Bauer, but *shrug*.