Baseball fans love debates, and the great thing about baseball is that almost anything related to the game can be debated and backed by a logical argument. The flip of the calendar to September not only marks the end of summer, but also means the home stretch of the baseball season is upon us. As the baseball season comes to a close, award season is just beginning.
Award races can be some of the most encapsulating things about sports and encourages fans to “embrace the debate.” The glory of this season’s National League Cy Young Award Race is that there really is no clear-cut favorite with just a month left in the season. The best pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, has been sidelined for the past two months with back issues, which resulted in what was a season on pace to shatter records now becoming ineligible for any type of recognition. In the meantime, Kershaw’s injury has opened the door for someone else to step in and claim the league’s top pitching award. And well, a lot more than just one guy stepped up.
Max Scherzer- Washington Nationals
Scherzer has long been one of the game’s top pitchers. Having already claimed a Cy Young award back in 2013, there is little to no surprise seeing the perennial contender for the award back in the hunt this year. On the 2016 season, Max has maintained an ERA of 2.89, possesses the lowest WHIP(average number of Walks and Hits a pitcher allows per inning) in baseball of 0.91, and has the second lowest BAA(Batting average against) in the game with opponents hitting .188 off of him. Moreover, Scherzer also has struck out 238 batters this season, 19 more than anybody else; all while pitching 190.0 innings on the year, the most in the majors. Despite Scherzer’s usual dominance, he has struggled mightily in keeping the ball in the park as he has allowed 26 home runs this year, which is the 9th highest mark amongst all Major League pitchers. Look past the long ball, and Max has all the right reasons to add another piece of hardware to the collection.
Kyle Hendricks- Chicago Cubs
I already know that some of you reading this are saying, “Who the hell is this guy?!” since Hendricks is far from a household name. But a quick glance at the National League, scratch that, the MLB pitching leaders, and you see Hendricks sitting at or near the top of every single major statistical category. He has the lowest ERA in baseball (2.09), the 4th lowest BAA with .205, and the 2nd lowest WHIP(0.98). The knock on Hendricks is that he only has pitched 159.0 innings, a low mark compared to other candidates. Even though he hasn’t pitched as much as the others, he’s been just as, if not more, effective since he has only allowed 37 runs. Further, if you stretch out his innings pitched to 190.0 to compare to the previously mentioned Mr. Scherzer, and after you crunch some numbers(lucky for you, I already did them), you can see that Hendricks earned run total only goes up to 42, which is still significantly lower than anybody else in baseball. Learn the name people, this guy is a stud.
Madison Bumgarner- San Francisco Giants
Mad-Bum is notoriously known around the league for his dominant run in the 2014 Postseason, which really put Bumgarner on the map with the best of the best. Since that run in October, Bumgarner is still blowing through hitters with ease and once again is vying for his first career Cy Young Award. Backed by career-best numbers, this very well could be the year he gets it. His ERA of 2.49 is good for 2nd in the Majors, his 187.2 innings puts him just 2.1 innings away from the league leader, Max Scherzer, and his WHIP is just a hair over 1 at 1.04, low enough for 8th in the MLB. Bumgarner has really been one of the most consistent performers in the game this season having never seen his ERA rise over 3.00 after he lowered it past that point on May 6th. The case is simple, Bumgarner is the most reliable guy on this list.
Jake Arrieta- Chicago Cubs
The second Chicago Cub pitcher on this list, Jake Arrieta, is the winner of last season’s award after a breakout season. This season, Jake is back and continuing to be the dominant, go-to guy for the league’s best team. His ERA is sitting at 2.84, while his BAA is an absurd .185, the best in baseball, and his WHIP is just 0.01 higher than Bumgarner’s at 1.05. Similar to his teammate, Kyle Hendricks, Arrieta’s inning total is rather low at 168.0 and his 161 strikeouts aren’t as eye-popping as others on this list. Now he isn’t the same guy he was from July-October last season, but he is still one of the best that the MLB has, which puts Jake right back in the race for another Cy Young award.
Since there is simply a crazy number of viable candidates for this year’s award and this post is already pretty long, I’ll put the last spot on the poll for The Field, which basically includes any other pitchers in the National League not specifically mentioned. Above, I listed my top 4 in no particular order. Now, if your opinion differs feel free to comment below or simply check off “The Field” in the poll below.
by Mark Panzini
Mark is a co-host for the Game Time Decision Podcast and can be found on twitter @MarkPanzini17