The AL Cy Young Award race might have been one of the most uncertain titles in this baseball award season. In the NL it seemed practically a given that the unstoppable force of Jacob deGrom would take home the coveted pitching trophy, but in the American League it became a real question of what metrics the voters were using to measure success.
Who would reign supreme, the AL ERA and wins leader—Blake Snell—or former Cy Young winner and Astros ever-dominant Justin Verlander, who by most analytical measures had one of the single greatest seasons of his career?
Both men deserved to win, but at the end of the day, the old school voters of the BBWAA tipped their caps in Snell’s direction, and awarded him his first Cy Young, only a day after he won the Warren Spahn award for being the most dominant left-handed pitcher of the year.
In an earlier article we explained precisely why we thought Snell deserved this win. His monster ERA (1.89) was best in the competition between himself, Verlander, and Indians ace Corey Kluber. He also ranked first in OPP AVG, OPP SLG, wOBA, and HR/9. Verlander bested him in OPP OBP, FIP, K%, and WHIP. Some might argue that Snell’s innings should have counted against him, as he only pitched 180 2⁄3 over the season, the rest of his numbers spoke to his incredible talent.
There will absolutely be detractors out there complaining the Justin Verlander was robbed again, but this win isn’t merely a matter of Snell having more wins. He was toe-to-toe with Verlander in all the major stats, and when the votes were tallied, he was the champion. It should not diminish what Verlander accomplished, as his season was certainly worthy of a Cy Young win. But Justin Verlander is a future Hall of Famer, and no one will dispute his dominance.
On Wednesday night, a new ace earned his trophy, and he earned every single one of his first place votes.
Congrats to Blake Snell: Cy Young Award winner.
Snell, 25, is the second pitcher in Tampa Bay Rays history to win the award, following David Price in 2012—the only Cy Young Award winners to come out of the AL East in the past 15 seasons.
No AL pitcher has matched Snell’s combination of wins and ERA since Ron Guidry (25 wins, 1.74 ERA) of the New York Yankees in 1978. Since the advent of the designated hitter in 1973, Snell was only the third AL pitcher to record at least 20 wins and a sub-2.00 ERA, along with Guidry in 1978 and Roger Clemens (21 wins, 1.93 ERA) of the Boston Red Sox in 1990.
Snell’s 1.89 ERA ranked third in the AL in the DH era, behind Guidry in 1978 and Pedro Martínez (1.74) of the Red Sox in 2000—both unanimous Cy Young Award winners.