As the final month of the baseball season begins, theScore’s MLB editors break down the leading candidates for the MVP and Cy Young awards in the American and National Leagues. Today, we’re ranking the early favorites for the 2018 NL Cy Young.
5. Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks
Corbin appears to be getting better at a time when the Diamondbacks need him most. He continued to state his case as one of the league’s top starters with an outstanding August, crafting a 2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and a ridiculous 13.67-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After allowing 10 home runs over 75 1/3 innings to begin the season, he’s allowed just two in the subsequent 98 1/3.
The 3.06 ERA remains a little on the high end, but his peripheral numbers are among some of the best in the business. He enters September ranking top five in multiple categories, including strikeouts, and sits third in Fangraphs’ calculation of wins above replacement (using Baseball-Reference’s WAR, he’s fifth). Corbin’s 2018 season is one that’s very worthy of award consideration, and it’s sure to earn him a massive pay raise in free agency this winter.
4. Miles Mikolas, Cardinals
When he signed with the Cardinals this winter, few prognosticators expected Mikolas would replicate his superstar-caliber production from the last three years he spent in Japan. And though he hasn’t quite reached that level, he’s come awfully close in what’s now a comeback season for the ages.
The key to Mikolas’ resurgence has been his ability to limit walks. After issuing only 23 free passes in 27 starts for the Yomiuri Giants last year (he issued just 69 total walks over his three-year stint in Japan), Mikolas has allowed 27 in 27 starts for the Cardinals this year – good for an NL-best rate of 1.5 per nine innings. But there’s more to his game than simply being stingy with the walks, as he ranks among the top-10 NL arms in almost every important pitching category and has done well to avoid the long ball. He’s emerged as the Cardinals’ ace in storybook fashion and has undoubtedly earned some down-ballot love during awards season.
3. Max Scherzer, Nationals
As the Nationals have crumbled around him, Scherzer has stood tall and continues his usual excellence on the mound. He leads all NL pitchers in strikeouts (260) by a wide margin and also tops the leaderboards in innings pitched, strikeouts per nine, and WHIP. Barring an injury, the game’s premier workhorse will surpass the 200-inning mark for a sixth straight year, a feat that’s worthy of praise in today’s bullpen-dominated game.
Scherzer’s quest to join Greg Maddux, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens as the only four-time Cy Young winners may come up a bit short in 2018, but the field is loaded with worthy contenders. Were this any other year, he’d likely be running away with the honor.
2. Aaron Nola, Phillies
His first couple of big-league seasons were rocky, but Nola is finally living up to the hype that came with being the Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2014. And the 25-year-old has taken his game to a new level with Philadelphia in the thick of a pennant race; since Aug. 1, he owns a 1.82 ERA while holding opponents to a .193 average. Nola has allowed more than three earned runs in a start just once since June 17.
Nola will have plenty of opportunities to stake his claim to this year’s award during what will be a meaningful September in Philadelphia. There is nothing yet to suggest he’ll shrink from the pressure.
1. Jacob deGrom, Mets
Since the Cy Young Award was established in 1955, no starting pitcher has won it while either posting a win-loss record of .500 or worse, or recording less than 10 wins. Felix Hernandez came the closest in 2010 when he won the AL award despite a 13-12 record.
However, pitcher wins mean less now than they ever have, save for certain extreme circumstances, and deGrom’s .500 record is merely a product of the Mets team that surrounds him. New York is averaging only 3.59 runs per nine innings while deGrom is on the mound; among NL pitchers, only the Marlins’ Jose Urena receives less support. Yet deGrom is somehow still managing to produce an incredible, history-making season. He leads all Senior Circuit starters in ERA, ERA+, FIP, and homers allowed per nine, while sitting top three or four in every other meaningful category. If the 2018 season ended today, his ERA would be the fifth-best since the mound was lowered in 1969.
The Mets may be awful, but deGrom is the NL’s best pitcher.
Honorable mentions: Mike Foltynewicz (Braves); Kyle Freeland (Rockies); Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks)
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)
(WAR courtesy: Fangraphs)