Will Max Scherzer win his third-straight Cy Young Award? There’s a lot to consider.
As tarps covered 20 baseball diamonds across the nation for the last time, competition for the NL Cy Young award is virtually a two-dog race between New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom and Washington Nationals strikeout artist Max Scherzer.
Scherzer and deGrom, both pitching out of the NL East and headed home without postseason participation, carried their teams as far as they could in 2018. The Mets had a season they hope to forget soon, while the Nats were not mathematically eliminated until the last week of the regular season, but arguably were eliminated as far back as a month before the season ended.
I would like to start by saying that I, by no means, believe that a vote for deGrom is wrong or unjustified. These two workhorses are neck-and-neck, with almost identical numbers in many categories, such as innings pitched, hits allowed, and others. In fact, many strong arguments can be made that deGrom deserves the trophy.
This piece is about what someone voting for Scherzer may be basing his or her vote on.
First, someone voting for Max Scherzer may be placing a lot of emphasis in the historical context of his 300 strikeouts, a feat only accomplished by 16 other pitchers since 1900. His 300 strikeouts in 220.2 innings give him an average of 1.36 strikeouts per inning or 12.24 strikeouts per nine innings.
It’s important to be clear that deGrom’s averages for strikeouts per inning (1.24) as well as strikeouts per nine innings (11.16) are close to Scherzer’s, but reaching 300 strikeouts in a season is a big milestone. Those are numbers of historical proportions, and perhaps a strong consideration for those giving him their Cy Young vote.
Second, some voters may be swayed by the number of total wins at the end of the season. This is the one statistic in which Scherzer is ahead by a lot. Scherzer’s 18 wins almost double deGrom’s 10 wins. Some of the most team-oriented voters may feel that wins are the statistic that ultimately matters the most and allow them to carry a big weight in their determination of who was the better pitcher.
Lastly, the most purist voters may look at a more intangible quality, like how the rest of the team performed when both pitchers were on the mound.
Scherzer received considerably more average run support from the Nationals over the course of nine innings at 5.27 than what deGrom received at 3.53. Some voters may feel that this is a product of Scherzer’s more visible personality or even strong signs of leadership inside the clubhouse. A non-statistical factor that made the Nats believe that they would win the game every fifth day and helped them perform better as a unit.
As a team sport, and in an all-around underwhelming season for the Nationals, Scherzer kept their hopes alive until the last week of the regular season.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, any of these generational superstars is well-deserving of the award, and this tough decision is in the hands of the voters.
All of us will have to wait until November 14 to find out who reigned supreme.
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