While some say Mookie Betts is the AL MVP, others lean toward Mike Trout, and still others would make the case for David Ortiz. Meanwhile, the NL MVP chase is led by the Cubs’ Kris Bryant, but there are several Nationals hot on his heels. Dave McCullough takes a look at the landscape for the 2016 NL Cy Young award to see if there is a clear-cut winner or if it will come down to the wire.
The astoundingly hot start from Gary Sanchez of the Yankees has threatened to put the AL Rookie of the Year award back in play, while Corey Seager of the Dodgers has the NL award sewn up and an outside shot at the NL MVP. SoSH Baseball will preview the Cy Young award races – and have several writers who have cast their ballots – so come back later this week for the full rundown. The candidates below are presented in no particular order.
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Now in his eighth major league season, the Giants ace is – rightfully – feared as one of the elite postseason pitchers in baseball. However, he has never finished higher than 4th in the Cy Young voting (2014). This is his sixth consecutive season with more than 200 innings and he’s logged a career-high 246 strikeouts (and counting) in 2016. He’s also sporting career-best marks in both ERA+ and K/9. However, he’s won just 14 games, his FIP is 3.27 – excellent, but not his best, or league-best – and his 2.2 BB/9 is his worst since 2013. He’s also had an off-year at the plate – by his standards.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Washington’s workhorse is in contention to lead the NL in WHIP (0.93), victories (18), innings (217 ⅓), and strikeouts (267). Those numbers are in line with the statistics that earned him the 2013 American League Cy Young award when he played with the Detroit Tigers. He’s also made a few highlight-reel defensive plays – like this one:
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers
The three-time former Cy winner (and MVP) suffered through an injury-plagued season, limiting him to just 20 starts. Because of the time he missed, he does not qualify on the leaderboard for many of the major statistical categories. However, the best pitcher on the planet would lead – in some cases, by leaps and bounds – all of baseball if he had thrown a few more innings. His WHIP is an astonishing 0.71 and he has a strikeout per walk ratio of an unbelievable 16.8. His microscopic FIP of 1.66 is… awe-inspiring. He is on track have an ERA+ of 223, which would be the 16th best single-season mark in baseball history. He has more wins than walks this season (12 wins to 10 BB)
Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
Lester, the 11-year veteran, has only received Cy Young votes in two prior seasons – he finished fourth in both 2010 and 2014 with Boston. But at age 32, he is having an excellent season for the powerhouse Cubs: 18 victories, 184 strikeouts, and an ERA+ of 169 should generate some response from the BBWAA voters. However, Lester is actually stumping for his teammate, Kyle Hendricks, to win the award. The 26-year-old has emerged as a force this season, racking up 15 wins for the league-leading Cubs as well as leading the NL in (qualified) ERA+ at 194, and in ERA as well, with a 2.06 mark.
Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young laureate, has continued to excel on the mound in 2016, albeit with fewer victories (18) than last season, and somewhat weaker component stats across the board. He again leads the league in fewest hits allowed per nine. However, he also leads in wild pitches. The trio of Cy Young candidates on the Cubs, together with their likely MVP, make a textbook example of the number of great contributors to a great team – and how it clouds the voting: who among them is truly the most valuable?
Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets
Thor throws the hardest, fastest fastball on the planet. Sure, some relievers are able to crank up the radar gun to higher peaks, but Syndergaard not only brings the heat – he sustains it. His average fastball velocity is best among starters, He has also thrown more than 1,000 98+ mph fastballs this season – more than several entire pitching staffs. His prodigious power has also helped him to limit his opponents’ home run rate – his 0.6 leads the league. He’s been among the Mets’ best offensive players, too.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
The hard-luck righty’s season is either already over, or was shortened because of injury. However, in his performance prior to his elbow problem, his 15 wins would have seen him among the league leaders, as would some of his other stats. Nationals fans hope he may return to the rotation for the playoffs, but baseball fans have to wonder if one of the brightest talents in the game can ever stay healthy enough to truly compete in a Cy Young race.
Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants
Finally, the offseason’s best free-agent signing has contributed 17 wins and a 2.79 ERA to his new club. He’s been everything they could have expected, and more, making the All-Star team and keeping San Francisco in contention. However, his candidacy is decidedly middle-of-the-pack – if not for his participation in the greatest GIF of the 2016 season: