Two Astros in a seemingly neck-and-neck race, with their former teammate as a dark horse. As we await the upcoming announcement, let’s break down the best and worst stats of this year’s Cy Young candidates from the American League.
Gerrit Cole – SP, Houston Astros
Best stat: 185 ERA+
Gerrit Cole was nothing short of dominant in 2019. Along with a 20-5 record, Cole led the majors with 326 strikeouts and a 13.8 K/9 ratio. His 2.50 ERA also paced all American League pitchers in that category. But his 185 ERA+ may be one of the better indicators of his stellar performance.
If you aren’t familiar, ERA+ is essentially a measurement of a pitcher’s effectiveness against the league-wide ERA, while taking into account his home ballpark. An ERA+ of 100 is considered average. At 185, Cole easily led the majors in this category. To give you some context, teammate and fellow Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander had an ERA+ of 179. And Charlie Morton? 146.
Worst stat: Run support (it’s a stretch, we know)
Let’s be clear, Cole has nothing to do with the run support he earned. But if we are looking at Cole’s numbers, particularly his record, it’s hard not at least consider it- especially when trying to separate his case from Verlander’s.
Cole made 33 starts in 2019. In 18 of them, he received 6 or more runs of support from Houston’s offense. Think about that. Every other start, Cole could count on a 6 spot or better on the board from his lineup. Now, does that take away from his numbers? Of course not. But it certainly inflates his win-loss record, and one would imagine it’s a bit easier to go out there in pitch when your offense is constantly giving you a lead.
Charlie Morton – SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Best stat: 0.7 HR/9
First, let’s just say it. This award is going to go to one of Morton’s two Houston counterparts. But, if there was one thing that could carry Morton over the hump here, it’s his league-leading 0.7 HR/9 ratio. Unlike Cole and Verlander, Morton was virtually immune to the home run in 2019, allowing just 15 all season. In today’s game, where the number of homers hit goes up with each passing year, this is a truly stellar feat for the new ace of the Tampa Bay staff.
Worst stat: 4.21 K/BB ratio
Is this really that terrible? Relatively, no. But for a guy with 240 strikeouts on the season, you’d expect his strikeout to walk ratio would be a bit more impressive. Morton walked 57 guys in 2019, resulting in a rather pedestrian 2.6 BB/9 ratio (the league average was 3.3). Add in the fact that he also hit 12 batters this past season, and it’s clear that Morton is easily beat by Verlander and Cole in the control department (although let’s be honest, so was basically everyone else).
Justin Verlander – SP, Houston Astros
Best stat: 0.803 WHIP
Verlander is going to give Cole a serious run for his money as he vies for his second Cy Young award. Expect as tight a vote as we have seen in some time. Verlander’s season is on par with Cole’s, and it’s hard to believe that the Astros have BOTH of these guys to anchor the top of their rotation. Between the two, they lead the league in a slew of statistical categories.
So what did Verlander bring to the table? A league-leading 223 inning pitched, in which he amassed 300 Ks and a 21-6 record. But his major-league best 0.803 WHIP may be the most impressive of all. His control was on display all season, as opponents struggled to find ways to get on base. Think of it like this: he allowed the fewest walks and hits per inning, while pitching the MOST innings in the league. Nothing short of incredible.
Worst stat: 36 home runs allowed
The lone weak spot for Verlander? His susceptibility to the long ball. In 2019, Verlander allowed a career-worst 36 home runs (and made sure to whine about spiked baseballs along the way). Only two players in baseball gave up more bombs. Will it totally destroy his Cy Young case? Absolutely not. But if a voter is looking to break a tie between him and Cole, this may be enough to do it.
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