The Baseball Writers Association of America should consider themselves very lucky that the Cy Young Award is not handed out until November. If it was given now, we’d have quite the controversy unfolding in the American League.
Currently, in the American League, we have four pitchers who would handily blow anyone else out of the water in any other Major League Baseball campaign: Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana, Boston Red Sox southpaw Chris Sale, Seattle Mariners hurler James Paxton, and former Cy Young recipient Dallas Keuchel, the ace of the Houston Astros staff.
I, for one, feel blessed that I don’t have a vote from the BBWAA, because this one is a real head scratcher. Keuchel sits at 5-0 in seven starts with a 1.88 ERA, Santana is 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA, while Sale and Paxton have each been brilliant in their early starts, too.
Sale has a 1.92 ERA but is failing to receive any offensive support from his Red Sox bats, so he’s just 3-2. Despite that, he leads MLB pitchers with a 2.4 wins above replacement (WAR) rating and 73 strikeouts.
Paxton tallied a 3-0 record with a 1.43 ERA in April and into early May, only making the conversation harder. He has not allowed a home run in any of his six starts, which is a miracle considering the slugging talent of the American League West, and he has a strikeout per nine innings pitched (K/9) ratio of 10.8.
Keuchel was voted the American League Pitcher of the Month with a 5-0 record, 1.21 ERA and just 0.806 walks/hits per inning (WHIP). His defensive excellence has been on display, as well, as the bearded lefty is on track to win his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. In all seven of his 2017 starts, Keuchel has gone seven innings or more, and he has allowed two or fewer runs in six of those.
Santana was leading the majors in ERA (0.66), WHIP (0.707), and hits allowed per nine innings pitched (3.5) until his rough start on Sunday. The journeyman 34-year-old, a former All-Star, saw his ERA+ drop from 602 to 233, which is still very good (although not quite record-setting like the 602 would have been). Santana is the first starter in franchise history to begin a season with six straight starts allowing one of fewer runs since Walter Johnson did it for the Washington Senators in 1913.
As you can see, it’s hard, but you can make the decision yourself in this poll:
Who would you vote for if AL Cy Young voting happened now?
— Baseball Essential (@BB_Essential) May 10, 2017
The voters will have an extremely hard time narrowing these four pitchers down to just one. As the 2016 Cy Young voting showed, sometimes the only tiebreaker is wins or overall team success — Rick Porcello knocking off Justin Verlander is a prime example.
Obviously, April performances are generally unsustainable barring miraculous efforts over the next five months, but marveling at these absurd stats is as fun as most baseball-related activities.