With only a tad over two weeks left in the regular season and the pitchers having two, maybe three, starts remaining for each of them, it’s time to take a look at who could drop the Cy Young Award onto their mantel.
First, a little bit about the man. Cy Young, adopted by poor Chinese immigrants and christened Egg Foo Young… hold on, wrong source. Let’s try that again. Cy Young, was born Denton True Young – seriously, his middle name was ‘True’ – in 1867. He threw the pill for the following teams:
Cleveland Spiders – a team now known as the Indians because ‘Spiders’ was offensive to arachnids. In reality, they disbanded after going 20-134 in 1899.
St. Louis Browns – a team so bad at baseball they moved to Cleveland and started playing football. They’re no good at that either. Actually, they started as the Milwaukee Brewers, moved to St. Louis for better fortunes… and beer… then eventually became the… St. Louis Cardinals? Nope. Baltimore Orioles. Baseball team history often makes no sense.
Boston Americans – Later to become the Red Sox while Cy Young was still taking the bump for them. At no point were they called the Murricans.
Cleveland Naps – Named after their player-manager Napoleon Lajoie, aka “The Frenchman.” The team should’ve been named ‘The Frogeaters’ as that still would have been less offensive than what they became – The Indians.
Boston Rustlers – formerly the Boston Beaneaters, so Rustlers was an improvement. Eventually, through twists and turns, they became the Atlanta Braves.
And why was this award named after Cy Young? Cy was the first pitcher to pitch in the World Series, first pitcher to throw a no-hitter, and won 511 games. To put that in perspective, second on the all-time list is Walter Johnson with 417. Since I’ve been in existence, the top pitcher in career wins is Greg ‘Mad Dog’ Maddux. Mad Dog won 355 games.
AL Cy Young
This is a two-arm race with both pitchers running strikeout-to-strikeout with each other: Justin Verlander and Garrit Cole. Both Astros.
Technically it’s a three-headed monster when you add in yet another Astro, Zach Greinke, but he pitched half the season in the sweet air conditioned Chase Field as a Diamondback (which BTW “D-back” is insanely stupid to say. Too close to D-bag and while some of their players would fit that description, mom always said…).
Numbers? Here’s a quick Verlander vs. Cole comparison:
AL Leaders in Strikeouts: Cole 1st, Verlander 2nd.
AL Leaders in ERA*: Verlander 1st, Cole 2nd.
AL Leaders in Wins: Verlander 1st, Cole 2nd.
AL Leaders in WHIP**: Verlander 1st, Cole 2nd.
They could make a replica of the trophy in cake form and then split it, but it’s the hardware they want. I would like them to share it… if they could. They’re both fierce competitors. As such, I can envision their discussion regarding any sort of sharing to go pretty much like this.
“Happy Thanksgiving. Did you bring the trophy, Garrit?”
“Whaddya mean you forgot it? Go get it. You have it for November; I get December.”
“November isn’t over yet, Justin.”
“My wife just cooked you a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.”
“The turkey was dry.”
“Garrit, you son of a… you can’t even spell your first name right!”
At this point, assortments of insults would hurl across the room and my money’s on Verlander winning that battle. Cole seems too nice to win a war of snark. Also, since it will be Verlander’s wife, Kate Upton, doing the cooking, Cole may just give up and cede the hardware to Verlander. Kate, from what I hear, makes a mean stuffing.
All that being said, the cynic in me says – and does so out loud so people move away from me– it will come down to contractual status. Verlander is locked up for another two seasons. At the end of the season, Cole will be a free agent, and a free agent cradling the Cy Young like it’s a two-legged toy poodle will command more cash. To ease some pressure on Fat Cat owner’s wallets, the Cy Young will go to Verlander.
NL Cy Young
This race is… well it’s like the Florida Marlins since Derek Jeter and his pals bought them… a hot mess. There are a handful of pitchers worthy of the reward… unlike the Marlins who are only worthy of scorn and derision. For the sake of brevity, I’m going to skim these likely candidates: Jacob DeGrom, Mike Soroka, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jack Flaherty, Sonny Gray, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Stephen Strasburg, and Max Scherzer.
Whoo that’s too many. Automatically out are: Walker Buehler until he legally changes his first name to Ferris; and Clayton Kershaw because he played high school football with the Lion’s Matt Stafford in Dallas. Yeesh. Hyun-Jin Ryu, while good, has a name that sounds like a bad tropical drink on a C-rate cruise ship. Plus, like the above two, he’s a Dodger. Ryu is out too. Sonny Gray pitches for the Reds. The Reds are underachievers and I cannot have a Cy Young award winner from a losing team. Sonny, go home, your mom’s calling for you.
Any other pitchers to be discounted like that set of Wham! vinyl collecting dust at the Goodwill after being dropped off with a careless whisper? Yes. Jack Flaherty. He leads the rest of the pack in giving up taters. Cardinal Flaherty, give yourself wings and fly.
That leaves Met Jacob DeGrom, Brave Mike Soroka, and the tag team of Senators Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. Using the same parameters as we did for the AL, we have:
NL Leaders in Strikeouts: DeGrom 1st, Strasberg 2nd, Scherzer 3rd
NL Leaders in ERA*: Soroka 2nd, DeGrom 3rd, Scherzer 4th
NL Leaders in Wins: Strasburg 1st, but even though I used it in the AL, wins is kind of a weak-ass way to judge pitching and the stats bear it out. Strasburg has 17 wins; our next candidate Soroka has 12 and is 9th. That’s sad. Hell, Jon Lester has 13 victories and his WHIP is abysmal.
NL Leaders in WHIP**: DeGrom 1st, Scherzer 4th, Strasburg 6th.
For the NL, I’m adding a category, the workhorse category of Innings Pitched.
IP: Strasburg 1st, DeGrom 2nd and no else left is close.
In the end, anyone who wins the Cy Young in the National League will be greeted with a simultaneous ‘okay’ and ‘but what about (fill in any runner-ups name here).’ However, a winner must be named. That winner is… Stephen Strasburg. While Jacob DeGrom has had a fine season, Strasburg carried the Senators through some rough patches while Scherzer was ailing. Schwerzer ends up a close third.
So there you have it. In the National League, it’s as tight as a Country Joe West waistband, but I’m going with Strasburg. In the American League, due to contractual status and my belief that collusion will cost Garrett Cole some coin, I’m going with Verlander.
*ERA is Earned Run Average, or total number of earned runs multiplied by 9, then divided by number of innings pitched. It protects a pitcher from being responsible for bumbling fielders, like most of the White Sox infield. C’mon! Pick up the ball!
**WHIP is Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched. It’s a very cool stat and delicious right out of the tub. I’ll be here all the week. Tip your server.