MLB

MLB roundtable: Who is currently the frontrunner for NL Cy Young award?

Welcome to the dog days of August, baseball fans. The All-Star Game and trade deadline have come and gone, and now all that’s left is the daily grind of baseball, with the added bonus of increasingly intense postseason races.  

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated the NL East race. This week we’re going to tackle the NL Cy Young competition.

Who is the frontrunner for the NL Cy Young award?

R.J. Anderson: For me, it’s Zack Wheeler. Corbin Burnes has a better ERA and a superior strikeout-to-walk ratio, but Wheeler has thrown 40 additional innings and leads the NL in pitching Wins Above Replacement. Of course, Burnes (along with his Milwaukee teammates) deserves plenty of credit — as do others, like Walker Buehler, Kevin Gausman, Jacob deGrom … — but if I were voting for someone today, it would be Wheeler.

Dayn Perry: This is a tough call, but right now I lean Walker Buehler by a hair over Zack Wheeler. The innings are close, and Buehler right now leads the majors in ERA with good strikeout numbers and just three unearned runs allowed. As well, roughly half of his starts have come against the Giants, Padres, and Reds — strong offenses, all — or in Coors Field.

Matt Snyder: This is a ridiculously close race that will go down to the wire. I put together a list recently of nine names that had a shot. At the time I leaned Wheeler and he’s still a popular pick. Burnes is putting up some absurd rate numbers. He trails only Buehler in ERA and it’s by 0.04 and leads in ERA+. He leads in walk rate, strikeout rate and, obviously, K-BB rate. His lead in FIP is almost a run, too. He’s also only thrown 127 innings compared to 162 from Wheeler and 154 2/3 from Buehler. It’s tough to account for what would happen if Burnes’ workload increased like that, but that gap is certainly a plus for Wheeler and Buehler. I’ll lean Buehler based upon the nearly half-run lead in ERA and better WHIP. I had Wheeler one start ago, so it shows how things can change. The other two Brewers aces (Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta) also merit mention along with Kevin Gausman. Let’s also not forget about Max Scherzer. He’s in the mix and if he wins, that’s number four. It would tie Greg Maddux and Steve Carlton while trailing only Roger Clemens (seven) and Randy Johnson (five). 

Mike Axisa: It’s between Walker Buehler and Zack Wheeler for me. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff (and Jacob deGrom!) have been outstanding on a rate basis, but they lag in innings behind Buehler and Wheeler (Burnes and deGrom significantly so), and I want quality and quantity from my Cy Young winner. The more elite innings you throw, the better. Buehler has the edge in run prevention over Wheeler, though he pitches in front of a significantly better defense (the Phillies rate as one of the worst defensive teams in baseball), and some of the advanced numbers indicate Wheeler has faced tougher competition. Right now, I’ll go with Buehler because a half-a-run difference in ERA is tough to ignore. I view him and Wheeler as neck and neck though. They have six weeks remaining to separate themselves from the pack.



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