The Cy Young races are shaping up very different in the two leagues. There have been multiple pitchers who led the race in the NL that had been wide-open, but there now appears to be a clear favorite. In the AL, the race has been neck and neck between two teammates all year, and either one could come away with the hardware. Let’s dive in and take a look at the top candidates in each league.
NL Cy Young Candidates
Jacob deGrom: New York Mets
The reigning NL Cy Young winner got off to a shaky start as he posted a 4.85 ERA in his first 5 starts, going 2-3. But since that point, deGrom has looked like the dominant pitcher who had lead baseball with a minuscule 1.70 ERA the year before. At the conclusion of the 2019 MLB season, deGrom looks like the favorite to claim back-to-back Cy Young Awards with a 2.43 ERA and 255 strikeouts in 204 innings pitched despite his 11-8 record. Luckily for deGrom, we know from last year that voters will not hold his lack of wins against him. He is still the favorite for the award as he is among the top 5 National League pitchers in every important category for winning the award: fWAR (1st), IP (3rd), ERA (2nd), FIP (2nd), SO (1st), bWAR (1st), and ERA+ (3rd).
Max Scherzer: Washington Nationals
Scherzer seemed to be running away with the Cy Young Award until he got hurt in late July and did not return until late August. Scherzer put together an impressive resume as he went 11-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 243 strikeouts in only 172.1 innings pitched. Only 2 starting pitchers have won the Cy Young Award with fewer than 200 innings pitched in a non-strike year: Clayton Kershaw in 2014 (198.1 IP) and Blake Snell in 2018 (180.2 IP). Thus, it will be hard for last year’s NL Cy Young runner up to come away with the award this year despite some of his impressive stats. In the NL, Scherzer finished highly in the following categories: fWAR (2nd), ERA (6th), FIP (1st), SO (4th), bWAR (4th), and ERA+ (5th). These ranks put him up there with the rest of the competition, but he will almost certainly be punished by his lack of innings pitched.
Stephen Strasburg: Washington Nationals
Scherzer’s teammate may have even put together a better Cy Young case. Strasburg had a phenomenal year, posting an 18-6 record, a 3.32 ERA, and 251 strikeouts in 209 innings pitched. Strasburg’s performance this year led to these rankings among NL pitchers: fWAR (3rd), Wins (1st), IP (2nd), ERA (11th), FIP (5th), SO (3rd), bWAR (2nd), and ERA+ (8th). His ranks are very impressive, and his 18 wins stand out in comparison to other candidates. However, his low rank in ERA will make it difficult to win the award.
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Los Angeles Dodgers
Ryu was the clear front runner to win the NL Cy Young Award for most of the season. However, he struggled in the last couple of months to open up the race. Ryu still finished off an impressive 2019 campaign with a 14-5 and a 2.32 ERA. However, he only pitched 182.2 innings and had only 163 strikeouts. His lack of innings pitched will put him in the same position as Scherzer, as he will also have a tough time winning the award for this reason. Ryu still finished the year among the best in the NL in many categories: fWAR (5th), Wins (T-6th), ERA (1st), FIP (4th), bWAR (8th), and ERA+ (1st). Ryu’s dominance in ERA will give him a considerable chance in the minds of voters, but the rest of his resume does not appear to stack up to those of his competition.
Jack Flaherty: St. Louis Cardinals
Flaherty had a breakout season, or rather, a breakout 2nd half of the season after having an average start to the year. He dominated after the All-Star break and led the NL in ERA in that time frame. He finished the year with an 11-8 record, a 2.75 ERA, and 231 strikeouts in 196.1 innings of work. His body of work led to an impressive finish in many categories: fWAR (7th), IP (9th), ERA (4th), FIP (8th), SO (7th), bWAR (3rd), and ERA+ (6th). While this was an impressive breakout year for Flaherty, his lackluster 1st half of the season will most likely hold him back from winning the Cy Young Award this year.
- Jacob deGrom
- Stephen Strasburg
- Max Scherzer
- Jack Flaherty
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
AL Cy Young Candidates
Justin Verlander: Houston Astros
Verlander finished 2nd in last year’s AL Cy Young Award voting and finished in the same position in 2016 and 2012. This year, the only person who could force him into 2nd place again would be his teammate Gerrit Cole. However, Verlander in the eyes of many has emerged as the favorite for the award as in 2019 he posted a 21-6 record with a 2.58 ERA and 300 strikeouts in 223 innings pitched. Let’s see how he stacks up in comparison to other AL pitchers: fWAR (3rd), Wins (1st), IP (1st), ERA (2nd), FIP (5th), SO (2nd), bWAR (T-1st), and ERA+ (2nd). Verlander also threw a no-hitter this year to make his resume even more dominant.
Gerrit Cole: Houston Astros
Cole has found a lot of success since becoming a member of the Astros, and his second season was even more dominant than his first. He posted a 20-5 record with a 2.50 ERA and a whopping 326 strikeouts in 212.1 innings pitched. Similar to Verlander, the only thing in the way of Cole coming away with this award outright is his teammate. Cole finished very well among all AL Pitchers in many categories: fWAR (1st), Wins (2nd), IP (3rd), ERA (1st), FIP (1st), SO (1st), bWAR (4th), and ERA+ (1st). Cole led the MLB in strikeouts and fWAR, and lead the AL in more categories than any other pitcher, which puts him in great position to win the AL Cy Young Award.
Charlie Morton: Tampa Bay Rays
Morton, a former teammate of Cole and Verlander, has taken what he learned in Houston and has become even more dominant in Tampa Bay. Morton finished his 2019 campaign with an impressive 16-6 record, a 3.05 ERA, and 240 strikeouts in 194.2 innings of work. While he does not measure up to his former teammates, he still had a phenomenal year and ranks among the best in the AL in many categories: fWAR (4th), Wins (T-5th), IP (10th), ERA (4th), FIP (2nd), SO (5th), bWAR (7th), and ERA+ (3rd). Morton had an impressive year and will finish in the top 5 for AL Cy Young voting, but it was not impressive enough to come away with the award this year.
Lance Lynn: Texas Rangers
Lance Lynn had a career year and impressed in his first year with the Rangers. Lynn put together an impressive campaign with a 16-11 record, a 3.67 ERA, and 246 strikeouts in 208.1 innings pitched. Lynn’s best year puts him amongst the best in the AL in many categories: fWAR (2nd), Wins (T-5th), IP (T-5th), ERA (8th), FIP (3rd), SO (4th), bWAR (T-1st), and ERA+ (6th). Lynn’s performance in 2019 should put him in contention for a top 5 AL Cy Young finish.
Shane Bieber: Cleveland Indians
In his first full MLB season, Bieber took over the reins as the Indians ace and put together a phenomenal season. He finished the year with a 15-8 record, a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts in 214.1 innings pitched. This led to top finishes in many categories amongst AL pitchers: fWAR (5th), Wins (T-8th), IP (2nd), ERA (5th), FIP (6th), SO (3rd), bWAR (8th), and ERA+ (5th). Bieber has emerged as a bright star and a dominant ace for many years to come, but this is not his award to win just yet.
- Gerrit Cole
- Justin Verlander
- Charlie Morton
- Shane Bieber
- Lance Lynn