MLB Awards 2019: The NL Cy Young race is wide open following Hyun-Jin Ryu's slump
Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and others are still very much in the mix
Less than three weeks remain in the 2019 regular season, and that means the various postseason races will be decided over these next two weeks and change, as will the major awards races. We speak, of course, of the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year in each league. As things stand, most awards races are wide open.
With the regular season winding down, we here at CBS Sports are going to break down the various awards race this week. To be perfectly clear, we're not telling you how we'd vote for each award. We're analyzing the races based on the established standards of the voting body. That's a bit subjective, but then again so are the awards.
Our awards race preview continues today with the Cy Young in each league. Here are the best candidates for the NL Cy Young at this point in time. The players are listed alphabetically within each tier.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner isn't particularly close to what he authored in 2018, but deGrom has still been strong enough to put himself squarely in the mix for a repeat bid. At this writing, he ranks second in the NL inamong pitchers, fourth in ERA, sixth in , and fourth in innings. He may also get some credit with voters for pitching in front of one of the NL's worst defenses.
Ryu was once looking like a unanimous, runaway choice for the NL Cy. As recently as Aug. 11, Ryu boasted an ERA of 1.45 and 121 strikeouts against 17 walks. Since then, though, the wheels have come off, as he's registered a 9.95 ERA with five home runs allowed in 19 innings over his last four starts. The Dodgers are concerned enough to skip Ryu's next scheduled start. If he improves over his final starts, he could still end the season as the favorite.
Scherzer at one point looked like a strong bet to win a Cy for the fourth time in his career, but two separate IL stints because of back issues have cut into his body of work. On a rate basis, he's been pretty much vintage Mad Max, as the ERA, strikeout totals, and implied K/BB ratio above will tell you (he also leads the NL in ERA+ by a comfortable margin). Right now, however, he's comfortably outside the top 10 in innings pitched, and that could work against him.
In the mix
The 26-year-old right-hander as you see has topped 200 strikeouts for the season, and he's right now top 10 in WAR, ERA, ERA+, and innings. Castillo, however, isn't near the top of any of those lists, which is why right now he's in more of a down-ballot position.
The Nationals' decision to throw big money at Corbin has thus far been justified and then some. He's got an ERA in the low 3.00's, he's already topped 200 strikeouts, and he's got a shot at topping 200 innings. That adds up to a viable Cy contender. On the other hand, will he get lost in the shuffle of three Nats top-tier starting pitchers?
That Flaherty is even on this list is testament to the strength of his recent surge. At the close of play on July 2, the 23-year-old Flaherty was lugging around an ERA of 4.90 and the stench of disappointment. Since that low point, though, he's allowed eight runs in 78 1/3 innings and put up an ERA of 0.80 over those 12 starts. One more start at such a level probably bumps him up into the top tier.
Gray's Cincy renaissance has been one of the more compelling subplots of the season. He's perhaps a little light on innings, but that comfortably sub-3.00 ERA while pitching his home games in a great power park will draw some eyeballs.
No, this isn't a vintage Kershaw campaign, and his preexisting high standards make him a bit of a longshot to win this hardware for the fourth time. By anyone else's standards, though, it's been an excellent season: 135 ERA+ through 25 starts with a 4.75 K/BB ratio.
Strasburg also has the potential to leap into that top tier in short order. At the moment, he's fourth in WAR, second in innings, second in strikeouts, and tied for the NL lead in wins. In order to win it, Strasburg will have to drive down that 3.50 ERA in his remaining starts. The rest of the dossier is in place.
Also of note
While voters don't place nearly as much emphasis on pitcher wins as they once did (and that's very much a good thing), it's still worth name-checking the following two moundsman:
Fried and Hudson have, respectively, 16 and 15 wins on the year. Fried is tied with the aforementioned Strasburg for the NL lead. In terms of run prevention, this duo isn't quite on par with the leading candidates. Fried's ERA of 3.86 doesn't compare favorable, and while Hudson's ERA of 3.40 is much better he's also allowed 15 (!) unearned runs thus far. They're worth keeping an eye on the rest of the way, but they're longshots.
Nola's numbers have slipped from last season, when he finished third in the vote, but it's still been a strong campaign: 122 ERA+, 207 strikeouts, 184 2/3 innings. He's also toiled in front of a below-average team defense. It'll require a shimmering finish for Nola to become a real threat, but he's within punching distance.
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