With a little over a week’s worth of games remaining on the regular season schedule, the race for the National League Cy Young Award appears to be completely up for grabs, as this year’s BBWAA voting is sure to spark plenty of controversy among followers of the game everywhere.
If there is a slight favorite in the eyes of the fans, it’s Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Scherzer is on the verge of his fifth-straight 200-inning season, and leads the senior circuit far and away with 253 strikeouts. He has a 0.91 WHIP, which also leads NL starters, and his 6.6 WAR and 2.59 ERA both rank second in the league. Despite his relatively solid peripherals, the 33-year-old righty only has 15 wins at the moment, which may cost him a good portion of votes, especially those from the writers who weigh more importance on the traditional statistics. Scherzer, who already has won the award once in both leagues, is making a bid for his third Cy Young Award—his second with the Nationals.
Gio Gonzalez, also a member of the star-studded rotation of the Nationals, actually has a better WAR than Scherzer at 6.9. He has the same number of wins, and nearly the same number of innings pitched as Scherzer. Gonzalez also has a very respectable 2.68 ERA, which ranks third in the National League. His 1.15 WHIP ranks fifth, but the fact that he has struck out only 179 batters over 191-2/3 innings may slightly harm his chances in the eyes of the voters.
Continuing along in the Washington rotation, next we come upon 29-year-old right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The San Diego State product has put together a 14-4 record with a 2.68 ERA—identical to that of Gonzalez, accompanied by 196 strikeouts, a 1.04 WHIP and a 5.8 WAR. If there’s one stat that could potentially hurt Strasburg in the voting, though, it’s the fact that he has 167-1/3 innings under his belt, which is about 30 less than both Gonzalez and Scherzer.
Ranking right up there with the Washington trio is Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks. At 17 wins, he has more than any of the Nationals’ candidates, and his 211 strikeouts and 1.04 WHIP rank second and fourth in the league, respectively. His 6.1 WAR ranks third in the league right behind Gonzalez and Scherzer, but his 3.18 ERA has recently been trending downward, and presently ranks sixth in the NL among all qualified starters. On Friday evening against the Marlins, Greinke’s ERA rose a few more ticks, as he surrendered eight earned runs on nine hits—including three long balls—in an even four innings of work.
The ace of the Dodgers’ staff, Clayton Kershaw, perennially appears in the conversation for the award, and 2017 is no different, despite missing a little over five weeks with a herniated disk in his back. Despite the injury, Kersh leads all qualified NL starters with a 2.26 ERA, and is tied with Greinke for first in wins with 17. His 0.91 WHIP is second only to Scherzer, and although his 10.71 K/9 ranks third, his 194 strikeouts rank ninth, resulting from his absence. He’s been a little murky as of late, having surrendered nine earned runs on 18 hits in 15-2/3 innings of work over his last three starts.
One final name sure to garner a high number of top-ten votes is Kershaw’s teammate, Kenley Jansen. His 40 saves rank second in the National League, but more importantly his 1.36 ERA and 0.74 WHIP are astronomically low. His 14.32 K/9 destroys the mark of any of the starters we discussed, and what’s even more impressive is the fact that he’s walked just seven batters in an even 66 innings of work.
For those keeping track of all the latest stats in real time, Scherzer is on the bump on Sunday afternoon for the Nationals against the Mets in New York, while Kershaw is seeking his league-leading 18th victory against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.
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