For the most part, there isn’t really a surprising contender for the Cy Young Award in either league. In fact, three of the four biggest contenders are previous winners while the fourth, Chris Sale, has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past few years. With the MLB season on hold for the All-Star break, here are the top five contenders in each league.
1. Chris Sale (Boston Red Sox)
Stats: 18 starts, 11-4, 127 2/3 innings pitched, 2.75 ERA, 178 strikeouts, 0.987 WHIP, 12.55 K/9
The Red Sox have two former Cy Young winners on their roster and surprisingly neither of them are Sale, who will start in tonight’s All-Star Game. Acquired last December from the White Sox for No. 1 and No. 11 prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, the returns have been great for Boston. Sale’s 178 punch outs are 21 more than Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer, who is second in the AL. Sale has struggled a bit when he gets into a pitcher’s duel, losing tough matches earlier this year to Justin Verlander and Masahiro Tanaka, but he can be counted on to keep every game close. He has only allowed more than three runs in three games this year, with Boston winning two of those contests.
2. Dallas Keuchel (Houston Astros)
Stats: 11 starts, 9-0, 75 2/3 innings pitched, 1.67 ERA, 69 strikeouts, 0.872 WHIP, 8.21 K/9
The race for the Cy Young has been between Keuchel and Sale for most of the year, but an extended stint on the disabled list for Keuchel has given Sale the front seat. Keuchel won the Cy Young in 2015 and has been lights out on the mound this year when he is healthy, an encouraging sign after a rough 2016. He threw a bullpen session two days ago and the Astros are hoping he only needs one or two rehab starts before a return to the majors.
3. Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians)
Stats: 14 starts, 7-3, 93 1/3 innings pitched, 2.80 ERA, 123 strikeouts, 0.986 WHIP, 11.86 K/9, two complete game shutouts
Kluber missed a few starts with a stint on the disabled list, but he has been stellar this season, especially in his last five starts, where he owns a 0.73 ERA in 37 innings. His balls also aren’t leaving the park as he has surrendered just eight home runs this season.
4. Jason Vargas (Kansas City Royals)
Stats: 17 starts, 12-3. 106 1/3 innings pitched, 2.62 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 1.147 WHIP, 6.60 K/9
Vargas leads the AL in wins and ERA, but he also allows more baserunners than Sale or Keuchel and doesn’t punch out batters as often. With Vargas in his contract year, the next few weeks are going to be crucial for Kansas City, who are a game over .500 and 1.5 games back in the Wild Card race. If they are still contending, the Royals will likely hold onto Vargas, but if things take a wrong turn, they will likely sell high on the 34-year-old.
5. Ervin Santana (Minnesota Twins)
Stats: 18 starts, 10-6, 120 1/3 innings pitched, 2.99 ERA, 91 strikeouts, 1.080 WHIP, 7.48 K/9, three complete game shutouts
Santana has been a fun pitcher to watch this year. At times, he has been absolutely dominant. He has four complete games this year, three of which were shutouts. No other team in baseball has three complete games this season and only Cleveland has multiple complete game shutouts. Santana, however, has been lit up on several occasions this year too. He surrenders 1.35 home runs per nine innings and has allowed four or more suns in six starts. June was a particularly rough month for him as he pitched to a 6.03 ERA.
1. Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)
Stats: 18 starts, 10-5, 128 1/3 innings pitched, 2.10 ERA, 173 strikeouts, 0.764 WHIP, 12.13 K/9, two complete games
Scherzer won the Cy Young Award last season and seems hellbent on winning it again in 2017. He is on pace to strike out an absurd 318 batters and was named the starter for the All-Star Game. In eight of his last nine starts, Scherzer has stuck out 10 or more batters. Scherzer faces stiff competition for the award from Clayton Kershaw, but for now, he is the favorite.
2. Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Stats: 19 starts, 14-2, 132 1/3 innings pitched, 2.18 ERA, 159 strikeouts, 0.877 WHIP, 10.81 K/9, one complete game
Not to be outdone by Scherzer, Kershaw has been on fire as well. The Dodgers have not lost a game that Kershaw has started since May 1 and he has punched out 1o or more batters in seven starts this season. Additionally, he has pitched at least six innings in all but one start in 2017.
3. Zack Greinke (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Stats: 18 starts, 11-4, 116 1/3 innings pitched, 2.86 ERA, 131 strikeouts, 0.997 WHIP, 10.13 K/9, one complete game
Greinke’s debut season in the desert was one to forget as he went 13-7 with a 4.37 ERA just one year after finishing second in the Cy Young race with the Dodgers. He has bounced back this year and is one of the main reasons the Diamindbacks are competitive. He is on pace for 238 strikeouts, the most since 2009, when he won the Cy Young with the Royals.
4. Robbie Ray (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Stats: 17 starts, 8-4, 106 innings pitched, 2.97 ERA, 141 strikeouts, 1.217 WHIP, 11.97 K/9, one complete game shutout
In the early 2000s, the Diamondbacks had Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling atop the rotation, giving them one of the most lethal 1-2 punches in baseball. Now, they have Greinke and Ray, who is having a breakout campaign. Much like Greinke, Ray has bounced back from a rough 2016 season to now be one of the reasons why Arizona owns a Wild Card spot. Ray’s curveball has been especially devastating this season.
5. Gio Gonzalez (Washington Nationals)
Stats: 18 starts, 7-4, 113 1/3 innings pitched, 2.86 ERA, 110 strikeouts, 1.218 WHIP, 8.74 K/9
While Scherzer and Strasburg get all of the attention, Gonzalez has quietly been great this season. His 2.86 ERA is a career-best as is his ERA+ of 153. Gonzalez has been especially effective in high-pressure situations. Batters have gotten on base against him, but few make it home.