Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu was arguably the favorite for the National League Cy Young Award just a couple weeks ago, though he’s now in the throes of a rough stretch that could damage his chances. After shutting out the Diamondbacks over seven innings on Aug. 11, Ryu was the proud owner of an incredible 1.45 ERA for the season. But since then, Ryu has trudged through three subpar starts, in which he allowed 18 earned runs on 25 hits over 13 2/3 innings. For reference, Ryu yielded a combined 18 earned runs across his previous 19 starts prior to his adverse run this mnth.
Despite his recent struggles, there is no question Ryu has been among the most effective hurlers in the NL this year. The pending free agent’s 2.35 ERA through 157 1/3 innings paces all qualified NL starters, while his K/BB ratio of 6.85 comes in second.Ryu’s advanced numbers – a 3.17 ERA, 3.42 xFIP and a 3.84 FIP with 4.2 bWAR/4.0 fWAR – aren’t quite as marvelous, but they still help place him smack dab in the Cy Young conversation with a month remaining in the regular season.
If Ryu’s going to take home the NL’s best pitcher honors on the cusp of a trip to free agency, there are a few starters he’ll have to fend off, including reigning winner Jacob deGrom. While the 31-year-old deGrom hasn’t been as unhittable as he was a year ago, when he posted a 217-inning season with 9.6 bWAR/9.0 fWAR, he he has been tremendous nonetheless. DeGrom has logged a 2.66 ERA/2.77 FIP with 11.4 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 and 5.6 fWAR/5.4 bWAR through 169 frames. As of now, he looks to have a real chance of repeating in the Cy Young race.
Back-to-back Cy Youngs aren’t foreign to Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer, a three-time winner who nabbed the award in consecutive seasons from 2016-17. Scherzer is currently leading NL pitchers in WAR, having notched a 2.46 ERA/2.22 FIP with 12.62 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9, though a relative lack of innings could be his undoing in the race. The 35-year-old has only thrown 142 2/3 after missing large portions of July and August with injuries. If you’re a voter who values dominance over innings, Scherzer should have a legitimate shot. Otherwise, considering health issues have prevented him from turning in a quality start since July 6, collecting a fourth Cy Young this year could be a tough task.
We’d be remiss to ignore that there are a few other potential winners in the NL, including two of Ryu’s teammates (Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw), a couple more Nationals (Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg), a pair of Reds (Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray), and the Braves’ Mike Soroka. Although the rookie Soroka is a ROY long shot because of the prodigious power Mets first baseman Pete Alonso has demonstrated, Cy Young voters may not be able to ignore his excellence. Even lights-out Padres closer Kirby Yates and Pirates game-ending lefty Felipe Vazquez could garner consideration if voters are willing to entertain a reliever winning, though the fact that they’re neither starters nor on contenders should help take them out of the running.
There’s clearly no shortage of candidates, evidenced in part by this top five leaderboard of notable stats among starters:
- ERA – Ryu: 2.35; Soroka: 2.44; Scherzer: 2.46; deGrom: 2.66; Kershaw: 2.76
- Innings – German Marquez: 174; Strasburg: 171; Madison Bumgarner: 169 2/3; deGrom: 169
- Strikeouts per nine – Scherzer: 12.62; Robbie Ray: 11.82; deGrom: 11.4; Yu Darvish: 10.81; Buehler: 10.79
- K/BB ratio – Scherzer: 7.41; Ryu: 6.85; Buehler: 6.61; deGrom: 5.49; Kershaw: 5.13
- Wins (if those still matter to you) – Strasburg: 15; Castillo/Kershaw/Dakota Hudson: 13; Ryu: 12
- bWAR – Scherzer: 5.5; deGrom: 5.4; Soroka: 5.3; Corbin: 5.1; S. Gray: 4.6
- fWAR – Scherzer: 5.8; deGrom: 5.6; Buehler: 4.6; Strasburg: 4.5; Corbin: 4.3
It’s not easy to find a clear-cut favorite for NL Cy Young honors yet, which should make the last month of the campaign all the more intriguing if you’re interested in who collects season-ending hardware. With only a few weeks to go in 2019, which pitcher do you see as the favorite?
(Poll link for app users)