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1st Cy Young poll has some surprises at top

@RichardJustice
May 14, 2019

Justin Verlander is at the top of the heap in the American League in MLB.com's first Cy Young Award poll of 2019, and that’s probably the least surprising thing you’ll read. Verlander received a whopping 32 of 46 first-place votes. Meanwhile, Reds ace Luis Castillo leads a much closer National

Justin Verlander is at the top of the heap in the American League in MLB.com's first Cy Young Award poll of 2019, and that’s probably the least surprising thing you’ll read. Verlander received a whopping 32 of 46 first-place votes.

Meanwhile, Reds ace Luis Castillo leads a much closer National League poll, with 57.3 percent of possible points, followed closely by Padres rookie Chris Paddack (56.1 percent) and Dodgers veteran Hyun-Jin Ryu (45.6 percent). (Note: These are percentages of the highest possible point totals -- also known as their awards “share” -- so they don’t add up to 100. More on that below.)

Interestingly, Paddack (15) and Ryu (14) received more first-place votes than Castillo (13), but Castillo had enough total support up and down the ballot to finish in first place.

As for Verlander, he’s the very definition of a future Hall of Famer. In the 12 seasons before this one, he was a top-five finisher in AL Cy Young Award voting seven times. That Verlander won the award just once -- in 2011, when he was also the AL Most Valuable Player Award winner -- takes nothing away from the fact that for more than a decade, he consistently has been in the best-in-the-game conversation.

The righty has been as good as ever in his 15th Major League season, with a fastball that still touches 98 mph and a smothering 0.820 WHIP and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Since he joined the Astros on Aug. 31, 2017, he leads the Majors in wins and is second in innings, strikeouts and earned run average.

Verlander received 32 of 46 first-place votes, but the rest were spread among four pitchers: Matthew Boyd (seven), Gerrit Cole (three), Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios (two apiece).

Tyler Glasnow of the Rays was in close contention before being sidelined for several weeks with a right forearm strain. Glasnow leads the AL with a 1.86 ERA, but since this poll is about predicting a winner, he appears to be a longshot unless he makes a fast recovery.

Here’s a breakdown of the top three vote getters in each league, with their "share" listed in parentheses. A share is their vote points divided by the highest possible number of points, which in this case is 230 (46 total votes, with 5 points for each first-place vote, 3 for second, 1 for third):

American League

1. Justin Verlander (79.6 percent) -- Milestones come routinely these days for Verlander. Most recently, he reached 22nd place on the all-time strikeout list with 2,774. He’s 29 behind Cy Young, who is No. 21. This season, Verlander has pitched at least six innings in eight of his nine starts, and finished at least seven innings four times. His name is all over the AL leaderboard. Heading into Monday, he was first in batting average against (.163) and WHIP (0.82), second in innings pitched (57 1/3), third in strikeouts (68) and fourth in ERA (2.51).

2. Jose Berrios (28.3 percent) -- The right-hander entered Monday’s start with a personal five-game winning streak, and the Twins were 7-1 in his eight starts before the Angels knocked him around for five runs on 12 hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings in a 5-4 loss. The 24-year-old had previously allowed more than two earned runs just twice in 2019. Berrios has tweaked his approach slightly, throwing fewer fastballs and more curves and changeups this season.

3. Matthew Boyd (26.5 percent) -- The lefty is building on a breakout second half in 2018 in which he had a 1.08 WHIP and a .230 opponents' batting average. Before allowing three runs on five hits and two walks over four innings vs. the powerful Astros in an 8-1 loss Monday, Boyd ranked fourth in the AL with 65 strikeouts and seventh in WHIP at 0.99.

Others receiving votes: Odorizzi, Cole, Glasnow, Charlie Morton, Domingo German, Mike Minor.

National League

1. Luis Castillo (57.3 percent) -- It's been a breakout season for the 26-year-old right-hander. In nine starts, Castillo has allowed more than two earned runs just once, and was the NL Pitcher of the Month Award winner for March/April with a 1.45 ERA and 50 strikeouts. In 14 starts since Sept. 1, he has been close to untouchable: 1.51 ERA, .168 batting average against and 104 strikeouts in 89 1/3 innings.

2. Chris Paddack (56.1 percent) -- The 23-year-old has a chance to join Fernando Valenzuela (1981) as the only rookie to win a Cy Young Award. Paddack will be pitching on seven days of rest Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, as the Padres attempt to manage his workload. Paddack pitched 90 innings of Minor League ball last season in his return from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and he hasn’t pitched on fewer than five days of rest as he approaches the 50-inning mark this season.

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu (45.6 percent) -- The veteran's great start is one of the best comeback stories in the sport. Ryu made just one start in 2015-16 (left shoulder surgery and elbow soreness), was on the injured list twice in '17 (left hip and foot) and was limited to 15 starts last season (left groin injury). In three starts this month, he has allowed one earned run in 25 innings. Overall, the lefty has three walks and 54 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings.

Others receiving votes: Max Scherzer, Caleb Smith, Zack Greinke, Zach Davies, Jon Lester.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.