With just over 40 games remaining, the end of season awards are starting to get some talk in the sports media, and no prize is more coveted for a pitcher than the Cy Young Award.
Let’s start with a couple honorable mentions, who I think will be on the outside looking in no matter how the season shakes out.
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Sanchez (TOR), Chris Tillman (BAL), and Michael Fulmer (DET)
Sanchez has become part of a 6-man rotation, meaning he’ll be far behind in innings pitched. Tillman’s 3.46 ERA is just a bit too high, and he has the drawback of having another Cy Young contender on his club. Fulmer is a rookie, is likely to be pitch limited soon, and will be knocked down another peg if the Tigers miss the playoffs.
#7: Steven Wright (BOS)
Wright has a respectable 3.01 ERA, is sitting at 13 wins, and is on a team that’s in the thick of the playoff hunt. Wright also has the intrigue of being a knuckleballer in an era of baseball where the pitch is rare. His case may lag due to lower strikeouts (123) and innings pitched (146.2) than other contenders.
#6: Chris Sale (CHW)
If this conversation was in mid-June, the overwhelming favorite for the award would have been Chris Sale. His numbers have come down to earth, however, with his ERA jumping up to 3.30. He still has a very respectable number of strikeouts (157), but with the White Sox sitting near the bottom of the A.L. Central, Sale would need a heck of a rebound.
#5: Corey Kluber (CLE)
Kluber, a former Cy Young Award winner, had a rough start to his season. That being said, he now leads the serious contenders in strikeouts (163) and has logged an impressive 163 innings pitched so far. He is also the only contender in the A.L. with multiple shutouts, but he may be limited if he can’t drop his 3.15 ERA down below 3 before the season ends.
#4: Rick Porcello (BOS)
First thing’s first, Porcello is hurt by teammate Steven Wright having an equally impressive year. That being said, he is still part of the discussion because he is a workhorse, with 158 innings pitched and a lead-tying 16 wins. Those wins perhaps mask his 3.30 ERA, however, which is a bit high for a serious Cy Young contender.
#3: Zach Britton (BAL)
If the Cy Young Award was given to the pitcher who did his job the most effectively, Britton would be a shoe-in. The Baltimore closer has 37 saves, boasts an ERA of 0.54, and averages well over 9 strikeouts for 9 innings pitched. That being said, he is a reliever, and the last reliever to win the award was Eric Gagne in 2003. It may be too high of a hurdle to jump.
#2: J.A. Happ (TOR)
Happ actually leads the field in ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor, but that’s primarily because he has logged 16 wins and is on a first place club (for now). His 2.96 ERA is terrific, but he lags other contenders in innings pitched (143) and strikeouts (124). Happ could finish the season as the league leader in wins, but on the outside looking in when it comes to the Cy Young.
#1: Cole Hamels (TEX)
Hamels boasts an impressive 2.88 ERA, has logged a respectable 153.1 innings pitched and is on a playoff-bound club in Texas. His strikeout numbers are solid (149) but he does lag behind some other Cy Young competitors in wins (12). Then again, wins are a relatively meaningless stat dependent upon run support, not just the pitcher’s performance. All things considered, however, Hamels has the most complete case in mid-August.