With teams in the last leg of the season, the heated debate over who will take home the MVP and Cy Young awards in the American and National leagues is a hot button topic. Fans and writers alike opine who will take home the Cy Young in each league, as it’s one of the most exciting parts of the regular season.
The interesting part about this year’s Cy Young discussion is the usual position the writers will likely be in at the close of the regular season. Advanced statistics and analytics have completely taken over the game of baseball. The voters have gradually shifted from the old school statistics that once dictated the Cy Young award towards these new era statistics that give a more holistic view of a pitcher’s overall performance. It might come to a head and mark a milestone change in the approach taken when determining the two Cy Young award winners.
In many fans’ and pundits’ eyes, Jacob deGrom is the clear front runner for the award. If the season ended today it would be hard to argue against him receiving the award. If he continues his current pace for the rest of the month he will be one of only four pitchers since 1969 with a single-season ERA below 1.70 and more than 200 innings pitched. He would join Dwight Gooden, Greg Maddux and Zack Greinke who each accomplished this feat.
He’s doing this despite a horrible win-loss record of 8-8, which comes from having the sixth lowest run support in the league. In fact in all eight of his losses, he surrendered no more than three runs each game and ten of his no-decisions came when he allowed one run or less. Ironically, deGrom could finish with a higher fWAR than wins this season, currently sitting at 7.3 fWAR with eight wins.
His toughest competition for the NL Cy Young so far has been Max Scherzer, who looks to take the award for the third straight season. There’s no doubt baring some incredibly crazy and unusual circumstances, either deGrom or Scherzer will be the NL Cy Young winner in 2018. But to better understand how the Cy Young race in the National League looks, here’s how these two stars stack up thus far.
deGrom vs Scherzer
These numbers put the voters in a particularly tough spot. Do they go with Scherzer’s impressive 16-6 record, plus his league leading 260 strikeouts and 193 2/3 innings pitched? Or do they go with deGrom, who’s been far better situationally with his league leading home runs per nine innings, base-out runs saved, win percentage added, and fielder independent pitching. Normally they’d go with Scherzer, but a large contingent of critics and sports pundits believe that deGrom is easily leading the Cy Young race in the National League, not Scherzer. Given his incredible numbers despite being on one of the worst hitting teams in the league, it’s hard to argue.
If they rightfully award the Cy Young to deGrom, it might be the final nail in the old school mentality’s coffin, where wins and losses actually meant something and that situational pitching meant next to nothing. That’s much different than what we’re use to seeing. For example, back in 2014 there was a controversial Cy Young race in the American League which saw Corey Kluber land the award over Félix Hernańdez by ten voting points. Here’s a comparison of those two for more perspective.
Kluber vs Hernańdez
As you can see, Kluber had Hernańdez beat in strikeouts, wins, home run rate and fWAR. But Hernańdez had Kluber beat in almost everything else. Kluber went on to win the award and it’s suggested this is because Kluber finished better down the final stretch of the season, whereas Hernańdez scuffled a bit. Regardless, it was clear at that time that writers were still using old school methodologies to determine who would receive the award.
With a little over three weeks left in the season, crunch time is upon Scherzer and deGrom as well as the voters. Since there’s little question in order for this shift in voting tendencies to become complete, deGrom will have to keep up his current pace in basically every statistical category. If he can do that, it will really put the pressure on the voters to award the Cy Young to the best overall pitcher, not a pitcher that was particularly dominant in a few specific areas. If the Cy Young is to go to the best overall pitcher in the respective leagues, right now there’s no way to deny it should go to Jacob deGrom.