Early Candidates for the American League Cy Young Award

We are a third of the way through the MLB season, baseball’s top pitchers are separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Some of the usual cast of characters are pitching as expected, and there are a couple of surprises as well.

Today we will look at early contenders for the American League Cy Young Award.

Gerrit Cole – The $324 million dollar ace of the New York Yankees is doing his thing. His numbers (6-2, 1.81 ERA) are as you would expect. Cole struck out ten or more five times, and struck out 59 hitters without issuing a walk. The Cy Young odds have been updated and it looks like Cole is now -125 favorite to take home the award.

John Means – Means opened eyes across the baseball world on May 5, when he pitched a no-hitter against the Mariners in Seattle. But those who have watched the big, strapping lefty for some time shouldn’t be surprised. He’s leading the AL in ERA with 1.79, and would be among the league leaders if he had more run support from his Orioles teammates.

Kyle Gibson – Some folks reading this are probably saying, “WHO?” The 33 year old Gibson has toiled in relative obscurity in Minnesota for most of his career, before coming to the Rangers prior to the 2020 season. He entered this season with a career 69-74 record and ERA over 4.50, but seems to have finally put it together. Gibson has a 3-0 record and 2.24 ERA in ten starts, including a 1.50 ERA in his last nine outings. Like John Means, he should have a lot more wins if he had run support.

Hyun-Jin Ryu – Ryu has been one of baseball’s top pitchers since coming to the majors in 2013 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to the 2020 season, he signed a four year contract with Toronto to be their ace. He hasn’t disappointed. Ryu posted a 2.69 ERA across a dozen starts in the abbreviated season last year. He has carried it over this year, fashioning a 2.53 earned run average. The stuff is there for him to win, the biggest obstacle has been staying healthy long-term.

Tyler Glasnow – Before he was traded to the Rays from Pittsburgh, it was hard to tell where Glasnow’s career was headed. The 6’8″ righty had trouble with mechanics and keeping everything in-line. The raw stuff was there, but no one know where the ball was going when it left his hand. After the trade in Summer 2018, Kevin Cash and the Rays put him right into the starting rotation. A switch flipped on when Glasnow began working with respected pitching coach Kyle Snyder. The Rays coach is also a big man and a former pitcher. The 27 year old Glasnow (4-2, 2.57 ERA) is pitching deep into games, averaging 12.6 K’s per nine innings. 

In a later installment, we will break down starters who could battle for the Cy Young in the senior circuit.

 

You want shorter MLB games? Throw strikes and locate!

In a few short weeks Spring training will be upon us. Mostly likely with it will be more changes initiated by Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred in his never-ending quest to improve pace of play and shorten the length of games.

This past week, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale revealed Manfred’s proposal to change the 10 day disabled list back to 15 days as well as another stab at adding a pitch-clock to help control pace of play. I agree with returning the DL back to 15 days because it seemed to be used more as a way to manipulate rosters than an actual disabled list. I disagree with a pitch-clock but think it’s inevitable since all minor leagues now use it.

A search of average time per nine innings over the last 25 seasons revealed a MLB low of 2:49 in the year 2005. Two teams, the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros tied for the lowest average time per nine innings at 2:43 and the New York Yankees had the highest at 3:02, with the Boston Red Sox on their heels at 3:01. In 2018, the average time per nine inning games was three hours even, a drop of five minutes from the previous year.

What stood out for me in this research was the collective amount of pitches thrown between the Twins and Astros of 2005 and the rest of the league. The ’05 San Francisco Giants led MLB in total pitches with 24,324 over their 162 games. The Twins threw the fewest (21,902) with the Astros second fewest (22,112) that year.

The biggest thing I took away from looking at the numbers from from the ’05 Twins and Astros was that their starting pitchers threw strikes and pitched deep into games. Minnesota’s top three starters, Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva all averaged close to seven innings per start. In combination with this, all three guys constantly threw strikes. Santana, a power pitcher at the time gave up 1.7 BB/9 IP. Radke (1.0 BB/9) and Silva (0.4 BB/9!!) weren’t power guys, but located and let their defense do their jobs behind them. Houston starters Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and a 42 year old Roger Clemens weren’t the hardest of throwers, but tallied more strikeouts, being a National League team at the time. Oswalt (1.6 BB/9), Pettitte (1.7 BB/9) and Clemens (2.6 BB/9) also threw strikes and pitched deep into ballgames, all averaging between 6.5 and 7.0 innings per start.

In contrast with 2005, the 2018 Twins threw the most pitches collectively in MLB with 24,927, with the Chicago White Sox right behind with 24,926. The ’18 Twins top-three starters Kyle Gibson (3.6 BB/9), José Berríos (2.9) and Jake Odorizzi 3.8) walked well more than twice as many as their 2005 counterparts. As a result, Gibson and Berríos averaged just a shade over six innings while Odorizzi barely averaged five innings/start.

There are other variables that add to the length of the game today, with pitchers throwing harder and hitters going for the home run instead of putting the ball in play, but I think better control and location would be a big help with pace of play.

Throw strikes! (Shout-out to my man @JordanLeandre55 for this timeless moment) 😉