A Preliminary Glance at the 2017 NL Cy Young Race

max-scherzer
(Mandatory Credit: Logan Bowles/USA TODAY Sports)

Looking deep into the history books of the Los Angeles Dodgers, we tried to find out if Clayton Kershaw was the fastest pitcher to notch 15 wins in a season, only to discover that the great Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat in his final season back in 1966. Of course, Koufax would go on to capture his third NL Cy Young Award after posting a 27-9 record with a 1.73 ERA, along with five shutouts, 27 complete games and 317 strikeouts over an even 323 innings pitched.

In the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday evening, Kershaw was once again brilliant, scattering seven hits and a walk over a full seven innings while striking out seven batters. With the win, CK’s record now stands at 15-2, and the three-time NL Cy Young winner lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.07. It took Kershaw exactly 20 starts and 94 team games to hit the 15-win plateau.

Conversations about the 2017 NL Cy Young race are already beginning to escalate, and obviously Kershaw is at the top of the list. However, another pitcher who is putting up phenomenal numbers is righty Max Scherzer of the Nationals. Through Tuesday’s games, Scherzer has posted an 11-5 record over 19 starts, however, his record doesn’t even come close to reflecting the type of success he’s having in 2017. In 134-1/3 innings pitched, the 32-year-old St. Louis native’s 2.01 ERA, 216 ERA+, 2.56 FIP, 0.797 WHIP and 183 strikeouts are all tops among qualifiers on the Senior Circuit. If the season were to end today, despite Scherzer’s superior peripheral numbers, it’s probably safe to assume that only a few votes would seperate he and Kersh, keeping in mind some of the past voting tendencies of the BBWAA members.

And not to be ruled out is the season being put together by the Dodgers’ dynamic No. 2 starter Alex Wood. The 26-year-old lefty still doesn’t have enough innings under his belt to qualify for the leaderboards, but he does have the exact same number of wins as Scherzer, and his 1.56 ERA and 2.03 FIP completely annihilate those of Scherzer. Despite his appearance on the national stage in the 2017 All-Star Game, Wood is still somewhat flying under the radar, however, many eyes will be opened once his numbers appear among the league leaders not too far down the road. Fans on both coasts are already imagining a coup where votes are split, leading to a winner who will ultimately be disputed in some shape or form.

Former Dodger and current Arizona ace Zack Greinke is showing glimpses of his former self, having quietly put together a respectable 11-4 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 0.998 WHIP, and could also be among the NL vote-getters. Others who may be in the conversation with strong finishes down the stretch are Greinke’s teammate Robbie Ray, Scherzer’s teammate Stephen Strasburg, or perhaps even Ivan Nova of the Pirates. And while it’s certainly atypical that a reliever be in the running for the acclaimed award, it still would not be surprising to see Dodgers’ reliever Kenley Jansen‘s name appear somewhere in the voting mix.

Undeniably, Kershaw’s highest priorities do not lie in a quest to capture his fourth Cy Young Award, but rather in the measures the lefty could take in helping his club advance deep into the postseason. More individual awards would certainly be nice, but CK has surely had his fare share, and his biggest desire unquestionably is guiding his team to the organization’s first World Championship since 1988. There have already been whispers of the management crew providing Kershaw days of extra rest during the stretch run of the regular season, a luxury which can be easily utilized when considering the Dodgers current 10-1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks in the West. Thinking along the same lines, management could even have similar plans in mind for Wood.

Regardless, there’s still plenty of baseball to be played over the final 10 weeks of the season, and in some cases, pitchers on a number of clubs could see as many as a dozen or so more starts before the end of the 2017 campaign. But for those who follow the National League closely, it currently appears to be a two-man race, with that left-hander named Wood gaining ground very quickly.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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