Post-season awards in baseball are not always deserved or justified. Many voters cast ballots for their personal favorites or turn their back on worthy candidates because of vendettas. Often writers who receive the privilege of voting simply vote for players they’ve seen more often, which is why we sometimes get the dreaded “East Coast Bias.” But for the most part, I believe voters truly do try to make sure the most worthy players get rewarded.
Now, by merely looking at the headline of this piece, you might think I am one of those biased people. It’s no secret I love the A’s, which is why I hold them to such a high standard. I will never bow down to executives who have never won anything or acquiesce to owners with zero ambition to win. I also refuse to act like an A’s player is actually decent when he shouldn’t even be in the big leagues. I’m a tough crowd. I expect a lot out of well-paid athletes. No excuses. But with that all being said, Sonny Gray deserves the American League Cy Young Award this year. Just give it to him now.
- ERA: 2.04
- WHIP: 0.98
- Hits per 9 innings: 6.56
- Shutouts: 2 (three-way tie)
The best three closers in baseball are all in the National League, so Gray won’t have to worry about any AL fireman grabbing the Cy this year. You can find all sorts of stats concerning pitching, but will voters look past the big three numbers of record, ERA and strikeouts? Let’s hope so. For me, there are only two other worthy starters. Taking a closer look:
Dallas Keuchel, Astros
He started the All-Star Game, which voters always remember, but only because Gray had come down with a bizarre case of salmonella and thus threw off his turn, pitching the Sunday before and making him ineligible. Keuchel is a very deserving candidate.
Wins and losses shouldn’t matter, because they are basically a team stat, but it’s always the first thing people look for in a pitcher’s stats. Keuchel is 14-6, with a 2.37 ERA and 156 strikeouts. But the probably the most important aspect about Keuchel’s bid for the Cy is that he pitches for a first place team, which is ridiculous. If you’re giving out an individual award, a team’s position in the standings shouldn’t matter, but it usually does. He’s Gray’s biggest threat to win.
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
King Felix keeps rolling along, dominating the league yet again. He’s got an impressive line of 14-7, 3.65, and 147. He broke new ground in 2010 when he won the Cy Young with a tepid record of 13-12. Savvy voters knew that Hernandez led the AL in innings pitched, was second in strikeouts, and had the lowest opponents’ batting average. Yet what won him the award was having the lowest ERA in MLB, with a 2.27. Knowing all the turmoil the M’s have gone through this season, and since he’s already won it (which shouldn’t matter), I don’t see Felix bringing it home again this year. The 3.65 is just way too high.
Dark horses from other rotations includes Chris Sale (11-7, 3.32, 208), Scott Kazmir (6-8, 2.43, 123), Edinson Volquez (11-7, 3.20, 114), Mark Buehrle (13-6, 3.45, 75) and Collin McHugh (13-7, 4.09, 123) Kazmir has the ERA and the K’s, but some voters will be turned off by his record. Volquez will get love for being on a division winner. Buehrle has the record but nothing else. And McHugh has an unsightly ERA.
But here’s why Gray deserves the award. Every time he pitches, he is surrounded by the worst defensive team on the face of the earth. He plays for a bus stop of a franchise, where new faces emerge on a weekly basis. He is the only starter who has remained in the A’s rotation the entire year. In his last start, he lost but incredibly still lowered his earned run average. And, in case you forgot, he allows a shade over two earned runs per game in a league without a pitcher trying to make an out every ninth hitter.
Sonny Gray is the jewel of jewels in the American League. We all know the Oakland ownership will refuse to pay him someday soon. And even though there is a lot of baseball left to be played this season, Sonny Gray deserves the Cy Young. There is not one shred of doubt in my mind.