Although there hasn’t been an overwhelmingly long list of NL Cy Young Award candidates this year, the favorites to win the honor continue to shift as the home stretch of the regular season approaches.
Righty Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins has been a favorite since the beginning. His 1.73 ERA in the middle of July solidified him as the clear leader at the time, but those numbers have changed significantly in the second half of the year, especially after he ran into a few solid teams like the Mets and the Dodgers.
Late in the spring, Tony Gonsolin made a run at Alcantara for the leading spot, but the Los Angeles righty’s forearm soreness has since removed him from the race.
Entering Sunday’s games, the 27-year-old Alcantara has made 29 starts this season and has posted a 2.43 ERA, a 3.10 FIP and a 1.016 WHIP with 181 punchouts. If you’re giving out an ironman award, Alcantara is your man, leading all major league pitchers with 203-2/3 innings pitched and 796 batters faced.
However, lefty Julio Urias of the Dodgers has Alcantara beat in several other major categories. Obviously, the voters do not look at wins, as made evident by Urias’s poor showing in the 2021 voting after he led the league with 20 wins and didn’t even crack the Top 5 finishers.
This year is a different story. Now leading the National League with a 2.27 ERA and a 186 ERA+, many pundits contend that this may be Urias’s season to take home the prize.
Here’s the crazy thing — if you look at Urias’s stats from July 15 on, he has been virtually untouchable with a 1.30 ERA and a .171 opposing batting average over 11 starts and an even 69 innings of work. If any voters on the panel take second-half performance into consideration, Urias is far and away the clear winner.
Plus, his 17 wins don’t hurt his case if there are still any old-school BBWAA voters out there.
Of course, Urias would probably be the first one to tell you that these awards are entirely secondary to his club’s championship quest. We know that Urias will be one of the workhorses of the Los Angeles postseason rotation if he stays healthy, but we don’t know if skipper Dave Roberts will tighten the reigns on his usage as the final few weeks of the regular season approach.
With 18 games left on the schedule, Urias could still comfortably log three more starts. Even if they’re limited in innings — let’s say five frames per outing — he could still pad his stats enough to pull away as the clear NL Cy Young winner.
Atlanta lefty Max Fried is also emerging as a potential candidate with a 2.52 ERA, a 164 ERA+ and a 1.015 WHIP over 28 starts and 175-1/3 innings pitched. The 28-year-old Santa Monica resident has posted a 2.22 ERA over 13 starts since the beginning of July.
Righty Zac Gallen of the Diamondbacks might also be a dark horse. His 2.52 ERA matches Fried’s and his 0.921 WHIP leads the entire National League.
It should be interesting to see how much the BBWAA voters put an emphasis on innings pitched this year. If you look at performance based on longevity, Alcantara might be your man. If you consider overall performance based on opportunity and effectiveness in the second half of the year, you almost have to go with Urias.