This week, Bally Sports looked at the leaders for Major League Baseball’s 2021 postseason awards, and it’s time to wrap it up with the National League Cy Young candidates, also known as NL MVP-in-waiting Jacob deGrom and the other guys.
We have arrived at the middle third of the regular season, and a total of 15 pitchers in the NL are running ERAs 2.90 and under. Sounds like a lot of Cy Young candidates, right? And that doesn’t even include Clayton Kershaw and Aaron Nola.
There’s only one issue with the candidates we do have: It’s going to be hard to overtake deGrom.
Heading into his 10th start of the season for the New York Mets, against Francisco Tatís and the San Diego Padres on Friday night, deGrom’s 0.62 ERA is on pace to blow away Bob Gibson’s modern ERA record of 1.12 and Tim Keefe’s all-time record of 0.86. In Keefe’s day, the late 19th century, they probably used heads of cabbages for balls, for all we know.
Some statistical regression is always possible, but deGrom’s 45.4 percent strikeout rate and 3.9 percent walk rate indicate someone who minimizes the chance of mistakes hurting him. You almost have to hit a home run to score against him. He’s allowed four runs this season and three have come on solo homers. That’s what throwing 101 mph wherever you want can do. They didn’t catch Secretariat, and they’re not gonna catch deGrom.
Unless he does the polite thing and declines the award. He’s won it twice already in 2018 and 2019. What do you even need a third Cy Young for? It’s not like you can decorate with them. All you get is a gnarled hand covered in bronze-like material.
Look at this ugly thing:
With deGrom sensibly taking himself out of the running, probably, that leaves a large field.
The pitcher not named deGrom having the best season is arguably Milwaukee Brewers righty Brandon Woodruff, with San Francisco Giants righty Kevin Gausman centimeters behind and Philadelphia Phillies righty Zack Wheeler coming up fast on the outside. Woodruff’s 1.42 ERA is third in the NL, while Gausman’s 1.27 ERA is second. Woodruff’s 32.5 strikeout percentage is fifth, but his 24 percent soft contact is first. Gausman’s 31.7 strikeout percentage is eighth, and his 20.7 soft contact rate is ninth. Wheeler is just ahead of Gausman in soft contact.
Wheeler’s advantage might come with innings and timing. Innings are a pitcher’s currency more than ever these days. He leads the NL with 90.1, eight ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer. Wheeler’s 2.29 ERA is just ninth right now, but he’s gaining on the field. It has been 1.84 since May 1, covering eight starts. Woodruff and Gausman’s ERAs are likely to spike a little. Wheeler’s actual numbers are closer to his expected results.
Joe Musgrove, Max Scherzer, Trevor Rogers, Yu Darvish, Taijuan Walker, Freddy Peralta, Marcus Stroman, Bauer, Walker Buehler, Pablo Lopez and Jack Flaherty also are Cy Young candidates, or would be, if deGrom would abdicate.
How will the race actually finish?
So congratulations, maybe, to Zack Wheeler, for winning the Cy Young if Jacob deGrom doesn’t want it.