1) JUSTIN VERLANDER – Detroit Tigers
Justin Verlander is a beast of a pitcher. I was lucky enough to see him pitch live in a game against the Red Sox at Fenway. Verlander threw 6 innings giving up 1 run on 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 5 Red Sox hitters. This would be an average outing for most pitchers, and the words “Quality Start” comes to mind. However, Verlander is so dominating on the mound that even though the Sox lead for most of the game it still felt like a losing fight. That’s what Verlander brings to the mound every game. He can suck the air out of a stadium and make an April game feel like it’s in late September.
Verlander’s numbers back up his fearsome persona. Boasting a 3.04 ERA, the lowest of the three finalist, and a hellacious 1.000 Walks/Hits Per Inning (WHIP), Verlander was a mammoth force for Detroit. A lot of people are going to point to his 16-9 record in 2016 as proof that he doesn’t deserve this Cy Young, but that’s FUCKING HOGWASH. Verlander lost 6 of the 9 games where he received little to no run support and was 10-3 in 18 gameswhen he got 3-5 runs from his offense. Those 9 games where he got no run support? In all but 2 of those games VErlander through 7 innings or more. This is a guy who puts the team on his back, even when the team doesn’t have his. That’s an Ace, ladies and Gentlemen.
2) COREY KLUBER – Cleveland Indians
When Corey Kluber won the Cy Young in 2014, his numbers were very good. In comparison, his numbers for 2016 are not as good. But that’s like saying there’s a difference between a 103 MPH fastball and a 100 MPH fastball. They’re still fastballs and one is slightly faster, but both can be just as unhittable. Kluber was the foundation of the Cleveland rotation and was from the beginning of the season. Kluber was the guy you could count on to get you a win.
We saw that happen in the playoffs. Kluber is your guy. In 2014 Kluber was an absolute beast and when it came to the Cy Young voting he beat out Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale, two very formidable pitchers, and each their respective team’s Ace. 2014 Kluber threw career highs across the boards and posted a 2.44 ERA and a WHIP of 1.095. Dude was good.
This years Kluber was less about the numbers and more about owning the mantle of Ace. His numbers were, for the most part, better than his personal average… so that’s a plus. Kluber’s careet average ERA is 3.33, and in 2016 he threw a 3.14. He was good, but his clutch performances and getting wins in big spots was what put him over the top for Cleveland. It was a year for Kluber to prove his worth to the club, the league and the fans. Kluber has cemented his spot as an elite pitcher in the league and not just a fluke.
3) RICK PORCELLO – Boston Red Sox
Everyone in New England was ready to write Porcello off as a guy who got paid too much and never played up to his contract. It was going to be Pablo Sandoval and Rick Porcello making crazy money and contributing nothing to the team. It was gonna be awful. After all, Rick Porcello had a 4.30 ERA, a 1.359 WHIP and a 5.5 K/9 in Detroit, which are not particularly stellar numbers. It was starting to seem the Porcello was signed for his potential and not his concrete abilities.
AND THEN FUCKING 2016 RICK PORCELLO SHOWED UP. HOLY SHIT. Porcello was LIT in 2016. Rick had career highs across his stat line. Carreer high 189 Ks, Career Low ERA of 3.14, Career high Stirkeout to Walk Ratio of 5.91, Career Low WHIP 1.009, Career high 22 wins, Career Low 4 losses. RICK PORCELLO LOST 4 GAMES THIS SEASON. HE WAS 22 AND FUCKING 4. RICK WENT NUTS. What’s even crazier is that Procello did all of those things in the same amount of starts a she normally has in a season. Whether or not this works to his advantage with the voters is something we’ll find out tonight. Do you reward a guy who had an insane off the wall year? Or do you look at his numbers and say, “This is where you should have been performing at the whole time” and leave this as just a hat tip for the good work. Could really go either way, to be honest.
Will Win: Justin Verlander
Should Win: ZACK BRITTON
REALLLY FUCKING CLOSE:
Corey Kluber and Rick Porcello
This is going to be a hardest call of the award season. All three of these guys had incredible years, but I’m going with Verlander because he doesn’t have too many serious weak points in his game. If Britton were a finalist, I would go with him, but Verlander is a shutdown starter who can carry a team on his back. I think he wins for keeping Detroit afloat.
1) MAX SCHERZER – Washington Nationals
I’m sure I’ll talk about this later, but buying the MLB TV subscription is best money I spend every year. Sure I love the game, but getting to watch guys you don’t normally get to see on a regular basis is . Max Scherzer is the best pitcher on this list. No one throws a 20 strikeout game and doesn’t get that honor. Two pitchers in this league have what I like to call the Koufax effect. Every time Koufax went out to the mound it seemed he had no-hit stuff. Kerhsaw and Scherzer have that kind of stuff.
Scherzer hit 20 wins for the second time in his career this year and a lot of that has to do with the offense behind him, but even when those guys came up short Max was there pick up the pieces. Only 6 times did Max get less than 3 runs to work with, and all but two when he got those 3 runs or more, the Nationals took home a Curly W. Mad Max also held down a 2.56 ERA when playing in the nation’s capitol, going 8-3 in 15 starts. Max was on lock down when playing in front of the Washington faithful
All those stats aside, the one shining moment of glory for Scherzer this season is his 20 strikeout game. The last time a pitcher had struckout 20 batter was in 1998 when Kerry Wood did it for Chicago. 5 pitchers have done it, and only one pitcher has ever done it twice, that pitcher being Roger Clemens. This was possibly the best display of sheer baseball talent that I have ever seen in my life. He was relentless. As a Mets fan, it was painful to watch, but as a baseball fan, it was history unfolding before your eyes. If any other pitcher had done it, it’s amazing, some might even call it a miracle. It was Scherzer, which makes it feel all the more normal. He’s got that kind of stuff every night. He’s nasty. Another thing to think about is that Scherzer has already thrown two no-hitters in his career and it’s not crazy to thingk he can’t do it again. IF he does he’ll be put into an exclusive group of pitchers to throw 3 or more No-No’s. Those pitchers are: Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Larry Corcoran, Bob Feller and CY YOUNG.
2) JON LESTER – Chicago Cubs
JON LESTER CANNOT THROW THE BALL TO FIRST BASE. HE CAN HOWEVER THROW THE BALL TO HOME PLATE. THAT’S SOMETHING HE DOES VERY WELL, ESPECIALLY IN 2016. Jon Lester found his groove in Chicago this year and posted career best numbers in ERA, WHIP, and Win-Loss %. If Jon Lester didn’t seem incredibly remarkable this year there’s a reason for that; he’s always been that good.
Even in a year when he was shipped out of Boston, Lester posted an ERA 0.02 points above his ERA this season. Lester is only getting better as he ages, another reason why signing him to a long term deal was a smart decision by Epstein. Lester is an elite lefty in the game, and if you can’t get Kershaw it’s not as if Jon Lester is a compromise. In fact he’s an answer. Perhaps the BWAA will award that fact tonight.
3) KYLE HENDRICKS – Chicago Cubs
This kid has a bright future ahead of him, but this nomination feels more like a hat tip than anything. That being said, Hendricks had a fucking year for the Cubbies. Hendricks consistently had the lowest ERA in the league, and with Kershaw out for a long portion of the season, Kyle sat atop that stat line for the rest of the season. The young gun from Dartmouth posted some flat out filthy stat lines in 2016, withhis 2.13 ERA, 0.979 WHIP. THAT WHIP STAT IS BANANAS. ON AVERAGE YOU GET LESS THAN 1 HIT OR BASERUNNER AN INNING OFF OF HENDRICKS. That’s the sign of a good pitcher, a fucking nasty pitcher. Here’s the thing that may keep Hendricks from winning the Cy Young tonight: his innings pitched. Hendricks started 30 games for the Cubs this season and went 6.1 innings on average. Both of the other finalists have higher innings totals. Even in the American league, Hendricks still has the lowest overall total innings. That could hurt his chances.
But let’s not discredit the Professor’s work in 2016. The Kid had one hell of a year and if he can maintain that level of production, he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the league. Hendricks and Jason Hammel were in a weird situation heading into Spring Training. When you have Cy Young Arrieta, Free Agent John Lackey, and Elite Lester in your rotation, it’s basically a fight for who’s the #4 guy and not the #5 guy on the bubble. Hendricks found his way to the #3 spot, beating out Lackey and proving that he belongs in the conversation for best young pitchers. It’s a toss up as whether or not he gets permanently put in that conversation for next season.
Will Win: Max Scherzer
Should Win: Max Scherzer
REALLY FUCKING CLOSE: Kyle Hendricks
This has been Max Scherzer’s award to lose, and he doesn’t lose often.