As August begins, we take a look at how Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Max Scherzer and others stack up in the 2017 Cy Young Award races.
As the calendar turns from July to August, the Cy Young Award races appear to be fairly clear-cut in both the American League and National League.
The top two candidates – Chris Sale in the AL and Max Scherzer in the NL – have led our rankings most of the season, and with only two months left to play, the odds are very much in the favor of both winning the highest individual pitching honor. Both have dominated the traditional pitching statistics many voters still use to determine their ballot, including wins, ERA and strikeouts. The pair has also put up spectacular numbers in advanced statistics like FIP, xFIP, ERA- and many others slowly impacting voters’ criteria.
However, a lot can happen in two months. A lot can happen in one day, as we saw Tuesday night.
Sale took the mound in Boston Tuesday, and had his worst performance since being traded to the Red Sox. Scherzer also started Tuesday, and after hitting his first career home run, exited his start in the second inning with a neck injury.
Even though both Sale and Scherzer took a step back Tuesday, both have compiled Cy Young-worthy résumés through the first four months of the season. But if their performances suffer down the stretch, or injury strikes, there is still time for another candidate to swoop in and earn the honor. And if the unfortunate happens, we have two other pitchers in each league capable of making a run.
3. Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox
There are several worthy candidates for the third spot in the American League Cy Young race. James Paxton has been practically unhittable for the Seattle Mariners this season, and has kept the club in the Wild Card race after missing time with injury. Luis Severino has been the anchor of the rotation for the New York Yankees this year, and though their ERAs have risen, both Chris Archer and Lance McCullers rank highly in many non-traditional or advanced statistics, and Dallas Keuchel has been outstanding when healthy.
However, our third sport goes to the Red Sox dominant closer, Craig Kimbrel. Relievers haven’t gotten much love in the Cy Young race in recent years, but Kimbrel’s performance thus far is noteworthy.
Kimbrel allowed two runs on three hits (including a home run) and two walks in his last outing Tuesday night, which ended a streak of five outing without allowing a run or more than one hit. The 29-year-old right-hander has now allowed as many runs in August as he did in any of the four previous months this season, which actually helps to highlight his success.
Overall, Kimbrel has a 1.61 ERA and 1.36 FIP with 25 saves and 83 strikeouts in 44.2 innings, and an MLB best 0.67 WHIP, 1.40 xFIP and 1.15 SIERA. He has struck out 49.1 percent of the hitters he has faced this season, which is the best rate in baseball by 6.3 percent, and he leads the majors with 16.32 K/9. Kimbrel has been worth 2.3 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, which puts him in the top 25 in baseball – nearly unheard of for a closer.