Breaking down NL Cy Young Award race

October 3rd, 2021

The National League Cy Young Award is shaping up to be one of the most highly contested races when it comes to the major awards -- and we're here to help track all the main candidates.

Below is a closer look each of the top NL Cy Young candidates (listed alphabetically):

Walker Buehler, Dodgers

2021 stats: 15-4, 2.49 ERA, 201 K's, 0.97 WHIP, 202 2/3 IP (32 starts)

Last time out: 7 IP, 0 R, 5 K's, 2 BB vs. Padres

Stock trending: Neutral
Buehler had been lights out nearly all season, but he took his game to another level in July and August. He posted a 1.33 ERA over a 10-start span from July 10-Aug. 31, but he's come back to earth in September. He had a 7.32 ERA in his first four starts this month before Tuesday's seven-inning gem against the Padres.

What's next: Buehler is scheduled to make his final start on Sunday against the Brewers.

Corbin Burnes, Brewers

2021 stats: 11-5, 2.43 ERA, 234 K's, 0.94 WHIP, 167 IP (28 starts)

Last time out: 2 IP, 3 ER, 4 K's, 1 BB vs. Dodgers

Stock trending: Neutral
Burnes made a major statement in the NL Cy Young race on Sept. 11, striking out 14 over eight hitless innings before handing the ball to teammate Josh Hader to complete a combined no-hitter. He was less dominant over his final three starts, however, posting a 4.20 ERA over 15 innings. He pitched just two innings in his final outing, with the Brewers opting to get him some extra rest heading into the postseason. Burnes leads the Majors in strikeouts per nine (12.6) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.9).

Kevin Gausman, Giants

2021 stats: 14-6, 2.81 ERA, 227 K's, 1.04 WHIP, 192 IP (33 starts)

Last time out: 7 IP, 1 ER, 5 K's, 1 BB vs. Padres

Stock trending: Down
Gausman was terrific in his last two outings, racking up 16 strikeouts over 13 innings, while allowing only two runs. Still, Gausman's NL Cy Young Award chances have taken a hit in the second half, with the right-hander posting a 4.42 ERA over 15 starts after taking a ridiculous 1.73 ERA into the All-Star break.

Max Scherzer, Dodgers

2021 stats: 15-4, 2.46 ERA, 236 K's, 0.86 WHIP 179 1/3 IP (30 starts)

Last time out: 5 1/3 IP, 6 R (5 ER), 4 K's, 0 BB vs. Padres

Stock trending: Neutral
Scherzer had been lights-out since joining the Dodgers, going 7-0 with a ridiculous 0.78 ERA in his first nine starts before running into some trouble over his final two starts. After allowing five runs over five innings against the Rockies in a Sept. 23 trip to Coors Field, Scherzer was tagged for six runs (five earned) off a season-high 11 hits in Wednesday's game vs. the Padres. Scherzer still leads the Majors in WHIP (0.86), his recent stumble dropped him to second in ERA (2.46) behind Burnes' 2.29 mark. Scherzer also ranks second in strikeouts (236) behind Zack Wheeler's 247.

Zack Wheeler, Phillies

2021 stats: 14-10, 2.78 ERA, 247 K's, 1.01 WHIP, 213 1/3 IP (32 starts)

Last time out: 7 IP, 2 ER, 7 K's, 1 BB vs. Braves

Stock trending: Up
Wheeler leads the NL in both strikeouts (247) and innings (213 1/3), but his Cy Young case has lost some steam over the last two months. After putting up a 2.05 ERA in his first 17 starts, Wheeler posted a 4.59 ERA over a 10-start span from July 7-Aug. 30. He rediscovered his early season form in September, registering a 1.47 ERA in five starts. He was originally slated to start the Phillies' season finale on Sunday, but the club opted to give him the day off after being eliminated from postseason contention.

Brandon Woodruff, Brewers

2021 stats: 9-10, 2.56 ERA, 211 K's, 0.96 WHIP, 179 1/3 IP (30 starts)

Last time out: 4 IP, 2 ER, 3 K's, 0 BB vs. Cardinals

Stock trending: Down
Woodruff's Cy Young chances have taken a bit of a hit since the All-Star break. The righty is 2-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 second-half starts -- a significant decline from his 2.06 ERA across 18 starts prior to the break. His overall numbers are still among the best in the NL in many categories, but it also doesn't help Woodruff's case that his own teammate has emerged as one of the frontrunners for the honor.

What's next: Woodruff could make one more start Sunday against the Dodgers, though the Brewers are understandably more focused on prepping their rotation for the postseason at this point -- something that was obvious when Woodruff pitched only four innings in Tuesday's start against the Cardinals.