Astros: MVP, Cy Young awards preview, predictions

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by teammates after the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on September 8, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 08: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros is congratulated by teammates after the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park on September 8, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /
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HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts after allowing a solo home run to Juan Soto (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals during the fifth inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 29: Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros reacts after allowing a solo home run to Juan Soto (not pictured) of the Washington Nationals during the fifth inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Cy Young

This is going to be a tight vote, with there even being the possibility of a tie. It’s that close. We can run down the numbers between these two guys, but it’s hard to put one squarely ahead of the other.

In the old-school stats, Verlander has the slight lead in wins (21 to 20), while Cole has the slight lead in ERA (2.50 to 2.58). Those two stats will essentially cancel each other out. Verlander threw more innings (223 to 212.1) but Cole struck out more batters (326 to 300). Again, those may make little difference.

Verlander led the majors in WHIP (0.803 to Cole’s 0.895) and hits per nine innings (5.5 to 6.0) and led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.14 to 6.79). Cole led the majors in ERA+ (185 to 179) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.8 to 12.1) and led the league in Fielding Independent Pitching (2.64 to 3.27).

Among those numbers, the WHIP and FIP totals stand out. Verlander has a sizable lead in WHIP, while Cole has a sizable lead in FIP. Whether an individual voter gives more weight to one or the other could determine how that voter chooses one player over the other.

There’s one more number that may factor in here, and that’s WAR (Wins Above Replacement). The Baseball-Reference version of the stat has Verlander at 7.8 and Cole at 6.8. This is a difference that could play heavily in the voting results.

One other thing to note is consistency. Cole wasn’t nearly as good in April and May as he was the rest of the year, while Verlander’s results were more even throughout the season. Cole’s second half was absurdly brilliant, and Verlander’s was excellent too, though not quite as much as Cole’s. Will voters look at Cole’s June-September dominance, or will they see that Verlander threw more innings and was more consistent?

Cy Young Prediction: Verlander

It’s splitting hairs trying to choose one, but in the end I think Verlander’s otherworldly WHIP, higher bWAR, greater innings total and general consistency will give him the ever-so-slight edge. Verlander also notched his 3,000th career strikeout this season, and while that shouldn’t necessarily factor in to the voting, it may be in the minds of some of the voters. I think he comes away with his second career Cy Young award.