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Beyond the Box Score Awards: Cy Young

Nobody voted for John Smoltz.

Atlanta Braves v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Before we get to the Cy Young races, keep in mind that today is Election Day. The first stat I present to you in this article is 36.4 percent. That was the national voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections. Honestly, that’s pretty pathetic, and I believe we can do better. If you haven’t voted yet, make sure you do so today. Here is a polling place locator, in case you aren’t sure where to go.

If you don’t know if you’re registered, you can usually request a provisional ballot. If you’re not sure who to vote for, spend five minutes Googling the candidates; it’s not that hard. As if that wasn’t enough incentive, @MLBRandomStats adds the cherry on top:

With that taken care of, let’s get back to baseball stuff. At Beyond The Box Score, we will vote on five awards: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Reliever of the Year. Devan Fink covered our MVP picks yesterday. Without further ado, here are our Cy Young selections, complete with screenshots of our votes ripped straight from our Slack channel.

National League CY: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

DeGrom may not win the actual CY, but he’s our unanimous decision here at BtBS. I covered the NL CY race pretty extensively right before the end of the regular season, which is when actual voters made their decisions. Essentially, there’s no good reason to vote for Scherzer over deGrom. He only really leads in two categories: wins, which don’t mean anything, and strikeouts, which actually is legitimate. He’s also got a slim lead in innings pitched if you want to split hairs. Otherwise, deGrom was statistically better than Scherzer in every meaningful way.

Be that as it may, Scherzer probably will win the actual award. Voters have come a long way, but I don’t know if they’re ready to elect a 10-9 pitcher. Scherzer led the league in two of the three triple crown stats, and landing on exactly 300 strikeouts is a nice touch.

Ultimately, there’s nothing terribly wrong with Scherzer winning the award. He’s been the best pitcher in baseball over the last six years, and he enjoyed possibly his best season yet in 2018. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as big a sham as Rick Porcello taking home the CY in 2016. Scherzer was unquestionably one of the two best pitchers in baseball this year, and if he pitched in the AL he’d probably win unanimously. It’s just that deGrom was simply better.

American League CY: Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays

The AL CY picture is much more murky than the NL. Three different pitchers received votes from our staff writers. Blake Snell won our poll, and he’ll likely win the real thing as well, which is slightly more prestigious. He led the league in ERA (1.89), wins (21), and bWAR (7.5). He’s basically a slightly lesser AL version of Max Scherzer’s candidacy, except there’s no obvious Jacob deGrom to dethrone him.

However, the deeper down the sabermetrics rabbit hole we go, the more questionable Snell’s CY becomes. As stated, he was the best by bWAR, which is derived from runs allowed per nine innings. FanGraphs uses FIP as the basis for fWAR, and Snell topples down the leaderboard. His 4.6 fWAR was only eighth best in the AL. Baseball Prospectus’ WARP uses DRA primarily, and Snell’s 5.98 was fourth in the junior circuit.

Your AL leader in both fWAR and WARP was Justin Verlander, for whom only Steven Martano voted. The future Hall of Famer (we all agree on that, yes?) set a career high with 290 strikeouts and pitched superbly over 214 innings, one behind Corey Kluber for the league lead. That 33 13 inning advantage over Snell is a big factor in his fWAR and WARP lead.

However, the most dominant starting pitcher in the AL this season was Chris Sale. Patrick Brennan and I voted for the Red Sox ace, and we are obviously, unquestionably correct! It says so right here in this article that I volunteered to write!

Despite injuries that limited him to just 158 innings, Sale still finished second in the league in fWAR— just a hair behind Verlander (6.8 to 6.5). His 2.24 DRA was second best in baseball among starting pitchers behind only deGrom’s 2.09. He really was the best starter in the league when he was actually on the mound. However, it’s highly unlikely voters give the award to someone who finished four innings shy of qualifying for the ERA title, especially since Snell’s ERA was better anyway.

What’s next

Check back tomorrow for the announcement of Beyond The Box Score’s Rookie of the Year picks, as we sort through the Ronald Acuña/Juan Soto and Shohei Ohtani/Miguel Andújar/Gleyber Torres debates.


Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at Off the Bench Baseball. Tweets @depstein1983