Astros: Verlander’s no-no provides edge over Cole in Cy Young race

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 01, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 01: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros delivers a pitch in the first inning during a MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on September 01, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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The race for the AL Cy Young Award may come down to Astros teammates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

With less than a month left to go in the regular season, a pair of Astros teammates may be jockeying for the American League Cy Young Award. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are the current frontrunners, with Mike Minor, Charlie Morton and Wade Miley likely receiving votes as well.

Verlander and Cole have the two lowest ERAs among qualifying AL pitchers. They’re also the top two pitchers in the league in strikeouts, hits per nine innings and WHIP. Barring a collapse from either of them or an otherworldly September from one of the other contenders, they may end up finishing first and second in the voting.

But which of them finishes first? Obviously their last few starts will have a bearing on that, but taking a look at where they stand now, Verlander appears to have the clear edge.

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The Effects of the No-No

The fact that Verlander threw a no-hitter on Sunday does not, in and of itself, make one worthy of the award. Voters will likely remember it when making their choices, however, so it will have something of an effect. But its impact goes deeper than that.

It illustrates what seems to separate the two pitchers the most. Verlander has the lead in innings pitched and has a wide lead in the hits allowed per nine innings category. He’s been more durable and has thrown more innings for the Astros than Cole has.

Verlander also has the lower ERA and a big edge in WHIP. So he’s thrown more innings and allowed fewer runs and baserunners per inning, which to me gives him the edge. He also has the lead in wins, although that stat doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

Cole does have the lead in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings, and in fact leads the league in both categories. Verlander is right behind him, though, and those are the only two major categories in which Cole leads the league.

Verlander, on the other hand, leads the league in wins, ERA, games started, innings pitched, ERA+, WHIP, hits per nine, walks per nine, and strikeout-to-walk ratio. Cole is having a magnificent season, but Verlander has simply been otherworldly, and his no-hitter is like the cherry on top.

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Things could still change depending on their last few starts, but right now it looks like Verlander has the clear edge. Either way, they could end up as the first pair of teammates to finish first and second in the Cy Young voting since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did so in the NL race in 2002.