For just about every player on a contending team, the goal of clinching a playoff spot is the highest priority, superseding even the most decorated individual awards. However, the individual honors are important in their own way, as they often dictate the fame a player achieves in their place among the storied greats, plus a heavy bonus on their end-of-year paycheck.
As the Dodgers are perennially one of the best teams in the majors, the individual awards seem to roll in every year as well. Mookie Betts scored a Gold Glove last year, but none were bigger than Corey Seager’s MVP awards in the NLCS and World Series.
Trea Turner finds himself in the midst of a batting race, and Max Muncy is a contender for the National League home run king. Additionally, the Dodgers conceivably have two —maybe even three — legitimate contenders in the NL Cy Young Award race, an honor no member of the team has won since Clayton Kershaw landed back-to-back awards in 2013-14.
Here’s a very concise rundown of the key pitchers in the 2021 NL Cy Young Award race:
Heading into August, Zack Wheeler might have had the most balanced stat sheet of all the contenders, but his last few outings have been borderline dismal. Still, with a handful of starts remaining, he could turn the tides yet again. As it stands, the righty out of Philadelphia is 11-9 with a 3.01 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP with a 10.2 K/9.
Max Scherzer will probably tell you his recent change of scenery has thrown him into a higher gear. Since “the trade,” Scherzer has gone 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 41 strikeouts over an even 29 innings of work. What’s even more impressive is that his season WHIP of 0.86 leads the entire National League. Seemingly, Scherzer finds himself in the CY Young conversation every season.
If you’re a believer in some of the old-school, traditional Cy Young criteria, then Julio Urias’s 16-3 record stands out among the entire field. His 3.11 ERA and 1.05 WHIP aren’t elite, but depending on his last few starts of the season, he could jump higher on the frontrunner list.
Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff
Neither Corbin Burnes nor Brandon Woodruff have eye-popping win tallies, but their peripheral numbers are among the NL’s finest. They both have a 0.94 WHIP, which is good enough for third on the senior circuit. Burnes has an ERA of 2.27 ERA while Woodruff is sitting at 2.35, ranking them second and third in the NL, respectively.
Walker Buehler currently sits first in the league with a 2.05 ERA, second behind Scherzer with a 0.91 WHIP, third in WAR and sixth in strikeouts. Additionally, he’s been a workhorse on the mound this year, as his 176.0 innings pitched are second only to Wheeler’s 182.2.
Buehler gets the spotlight again on Sunday as the Dodgers try to reclaim control of the NL West in this week’s Sunday night game on ESPN. With an outstanding outing, the 27-year-old righty can pd his Cy Young credentials more, perhaps even dropping his ERA to below 2.00.