More home runs were hit in the 2017 regular season than any other season in MLB history — over 6000! Before you call it the year of the hitter and dismiss pitchers, keep in mind that on the other side of that coin is the fact that 2017 also saw more strikeouts than any other season. Many pitchers are worthy of winning the NL Cy Young award, and most of them are on two teams — the Dodgers and the Nationals.
Despite leading the Majors in wins (18) and the NL in ERA (2.32), will Clayton Kershaw‘s missed time cost him the award? Fellow lefty Dodger Alex Wood also had a shortened season but went 16-3, good for an MLB-best .842 W-L %. Closer Kenley Jansen was lights-out all season, posting a 1.32 ERA, NL-best 41 saves, and 109 strikeouts in 68.1 innings. Will the closer take the award?
Last year’s NL award winner Max Scherzer defended his trophy with another great season, posting a 7.6 WAR and leading the NL in strikeouts (268) and WHIP 0.902. Stephen Strasburg finished with similarly strong numbers, leading the league with a 2.72 FIP. Nationals southpaw Gio Gonzalez is another Nationals starter to record 15 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Other worthy names are Zack Greinke (17-7, 3.20 ERA), starter Robbie Ray (15-5, 2.89 ERA), closers Wade Davis (32 saves, 2.3 ERA) and Corey Knebel (39 saves, 1.78 ERA), and Mets ace Jacob deGrom (15-10, 3.53 ERA, 239 Ks).
I asked my fellow MMO writers who they think will win the National League Cy Young Award, and here’s what they said:
Mathew Brownstein: Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer edges out Clayton Kershaw for me in this year’s NL Cy Young voting. Scherzer led all National League starters in WHIP (0.90), fWAR (6.0), strikeouts (268), K-BB % (27.3), opponents’ batting average (.176), and Win Probability Added (4.14). Scherzer also allowed the fewest hits per nine (5.65), a career best for the 33-year-old hard throwing right-hander. Though he didn’t lead the league in innings pitched, due in part to his 10-day DL stint in August, he reached 200 innings for the fifth consecutive season. He went deep into games as well, pitching at least seven innings in 16 of his 31 starts.
John Sheridan: Max Scherzer
Scherzer is as dominating a pitcher as there is in all of baseball, leading the National League in strikeouts, WHIP, and hits per nine. He also had the second best ERA. To put it succinctly, he’s as un-hittable a pitcher as there is in all of baseball right now.
Josh Finkelstein: Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw could very well win the award again with his Major League-leading 18 wins and National League-leading 2.31 ERA, despite missing over a month on the disabled list. This is the fifth time he’s led the National League in ERA, and four of those times he led all of the MLB. He’s the real deal and will be hard to ignore.
John Jackson: Max Scherzer
Max Scherzer should be able to defend his title as the reigning Cy Young Award winner. He has some stiff competition from Clayton Kershaw who has a better record and ERA than him, but Scherzer beats him significantly with strikeouts (268 to 204) and WAR (7.2 to 4.6). He also has four more starts and 25.2 innings under his belt which should give him the upside.
Laney Ortiz: Max Scherzer
This one really hurt me, but I can’t let my feelings get in the way. Max Scherzer is a darn good pitcher with amazing stats and there’s really no way around it. If Kershaw wasn’t injured for so long then he’d have a much better chance to win, and he probably would. But Scherzer stayed mostly healthy which gives him the edge.
Dilip Sridhar: Max Scherzer
Scherzer seems to be getting better as he gets older. Another Clayton Kerhsaw back injury case will help him win it again this year but his 7.2 bWAR is the best in the league. Kershaw led the league in ERA but Scherzer had roughly 25 more innings than him. Scherzer led the league in WHIP and strikeouts for the second straight year.
Logan Barer: Kenley Jansen
The last closer that won the Cy Young award was Eric Gagne in 2003 for the Dodgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next closer to win the award played for the same team. For much of the season, the Dodgers were so dominant that there weren’t many save situations. Despite that, Jansen led the league with 41 saves. Across 65 appearances he was 5-0 on the season, pitching to a pristine 1.32 ERA, 1.31 FIP and 0.746 WHIP. In just 68.1 innings he struck out 109 batters and walked seven — seven. If I had to pick a starting pitcher I’d be forced to predict Scherzer, but when it comes to who’s most deserving, it’s Kenley Jansen.
Check out our other recent MMO roundtables here: