For the first time since 2015, an Astros’ pitcher is a finalist for the AL Cy Young award.
The All-Star right-hander finished the 2018 season in the AL second in innings pitched (214), third in ERA (2.52), third in FIP (2.78), first in WHIP (0.90), first in strikeout-to-walk rate differential (30.4%), and first in fWAR (6.8). It was quite a season for one of the best pitchers of his generation.
That said, the Astros’ starter does face some stiff competition for this year’s award. Blake Snell of the Rays and Corey Kluber of the Indians are also in the running. Snell finished with the best ERA of any qualified starter in the AL (1.89), third-highest strikeout rate (31.6%), and fourth-best FIP (2.98) this year. Kluber was fifth in ERA (2.89), eighth in strikeout rate (26.4%), and seventh in FIP (3.12) in the AL. No disrespect towards Kluber, I’d expect that the award comes down to Snell or Verlander.
At this point, it is hard to separate Snell and Verlander. Snell burst onto the scene this season as he helped lead the Rays to 90 wins in the always tough AL East. Although wins isn’t an effective avenue to evaluate how well a pitcher threw, Snell did finish a major league-best 21 wins. Kluber was second with 20 wins while Verlander was tied for twelfth with David Price at 16 wins. For those who still live by a pitcher’s win-loss total, Snell has the advantage. But Verlander does hold the edge across numerous categories like FIP and strikeout-to-walk rate differential.
If Verlander wins the award, it will be his second career Cy Young award. His first came with the Tigers following the 2011 season when he also won the AL MVP award. He also finished as one of the three finalists following the 2009, 2012, and 2016 seasons with Detroit. Verlander is the first Astros’ pitcher since Dallas Keuchel in 2015 to have his name listed as a finalist for the award. If he wins the award, he joins Keuchel, Roger Clemens in 2004, and Mike Scott in 1986 as the only pitchers in club history as Cy Young award winners. The AL and NL winners will be announced on November 14th.