MLB Awards: AL Cy Young race will likely come down to two Astros -- will it be Gerrit Cole or Justin Verlander?
Cole and Verlander are both having outstanding seasons in Houston
Less than three weeks remain in the 2019 regular season. The various postseason races will be decided over these next two weeks and change, as will the major awards races. That is 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 AL Cy Young at this point in time. The players are listed alphabetically within each tier.
Other award races
Believe it or not, Astros co-ace Gerrit Cole was sitting on a 4.11 ERA as late as May 22. He has been brilliant since then, pitching to a 1.97 ERA with 181 strikeouts in 18 starts and 118 2/3 innings in the last three months and change. Cole leads baseball in strikeouts and with 17 double-digit strikeout games. He is among the league leaders in pretty much every meaningful category and could finish in the top two in strikeouts, ERA, and WAR. Cole has put together quite a contract year.
Cole's biggest competition for the Cy Young is his teammate Justin Verlander. Verlander leads the league in ERA and innings pitched, and he and Cole have been going back-and-forth for the league strikeout lead each time they pitch. Verlander also leads baseball in starts of seven innings (17), six innings (26), and five innings (29), so he remains a workhorse of the first order at age 36. He has a legitimate chance at his second career pitching Triple Crown (2011 with Tigers).
Also In The Mix
In a year where the Indians traded away Trevor Bauer and have been hit hard by pitching injuries, Shane Bieber has been a rock in Cleveland's rotation. He is currently top five in innings, strikeouts, and ERA, and is seventh in WAR. With two other guys sporting sub-3.00 ERAs and more strikeouts, it's tough to see Bieber getting anything better than a third-place Cy Young vote, but he is firmly in the mix for that top spot behind Cole and Verlander.
What a remarkable season for White Sox righty Lucas Giolito. Last year he became the first qualifying starter in a decade to a post an ERA north of 6.00, and now this year he is a bona fide Cy Young candidate. Giolito is currently top three in WAR and top 10 in innings, strikeouts, and ERA. The Cy Young ballot runs five names deep and he should receive plenty of votes in those 3-5 spots. Regardless of his Cy Young finish, Giolito turning into this is an extremely promising development for the ChiSox.
Thanks to sabermetric-friendly strikeout, walk, and home run rates, Rangers righty Lance Lynn currently leads the American League in the FanGraphs version of WAR. He also ranks 13th in the league in ERA, and I'm not sure the voting body is analytically inclined enough to give Lynn serious Cy Young support. Lynn's had a marvelous season though and he deserves a mention here. I bet he receives a few fourth- or fifth-place Cy Young votes.
Lynn leads the AL in the FanGraphs version of WAR. His teammate, Mike Minor, leads the league in the Baseball-Reference.com version of WAR. There is a quality of competition adjustment in WAR, so the difference between Minor (8.0) and Verlander (7.1) essentially boils down to Minor facing the Astros and Verlander facing the Rangers. Minor is top five in the league in ERA but lags a little bit in strikeouts. I still expect him to finish in the top five of the Cy Young voting.
Verlander leads the league in ERA, Cole is second, and their former Astros teammate Charlie Morton is fourth. Morton has continued his dominance this season after signing with the Rays as a free agent, and he ranks in the league top 10 in innings, strikeouts, and WAR in addition to the super low ERA. At this moment, Morton might be the favorite to finish third in the Cy Young voting behind Verlander and Cole. Wouldn't that be something?
Also Of Note
Twins ace Jose Berrios , possibly due to fatigue, which has taken a bite out of his Cy Young case. Not too long ago he was top 10 in innings, strikeouts, ERA, and WAR. Now there's a chance he won't finish top 10 in any of those categories. A strong finish could put Berrios in the mix for some fourth- or fifth-place votes.
Yankees righty Domingo German has a chance to win 20 games and lead the league in wins, but his Cy Young case ends there. He's not top 10 in any other meaningful category. German might've received more serious Cy Young support once upon a time given his win total. Those days are pretty much over though.
No American League reliever is having a season worth of serious Cy Young discussion -- a 2016 Zack Britton season, basically -- but Liam Hendriks has been the best reliever in the circuit, so he deserves a mention here. The Athletics setup man turned closer leads all relievers in WAR and all American League relievers in strikeouts.
Red Sox southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez actually ranks ahead of Bieber and Morton in WAR, plus he might win 20 games. Ranking outside the league top 10 in strikeouts and innings will hurt his Cy Young case though. Rodriguez has been sneaky good this year and could grab a fifth -place Cy Young vote or three.
Not too long ago Verlander, Cole, and Wade Miley ranked 1-2-3 in the American League in ERA. Three Astros right at the top of the leaderboard. (Morton was fourth for a while too.) Miley has slipped a bit but is still top 10 in ERA. He is not top 10 in strikeouts, innings, or WAR, however, so his Cy Young case isn't particularly strong.
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