The Cy Young Award races are beginning to have a familiar feel: Red Sox ace Chris Sale continues to hold a big lead in the American League, while Jacob deGrom of the Mets edges back in front of Max Scherzer of the Nationals in a close back-and-forth National League contest.
That's the bottom line in our latest poll of MLB.com members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Sale got 30 of 31 first-places votes in the AL voting to maintain a big lead over Justin Verlander of the Astros.
Sale has won the AL poll three straight times after Verlander led the first two. Meanwhile, deGrom collected 20 of 31 NL first-place votes, with Scherzer getting the other 11. Scherzer has led the NL poll three times and deGrom twice.
In a mostly unrelated note, Sale should have earned extra points with one of the best quotes of this season.
"Like Paul Bunyan's ox."
That's the line Sale gave to The Boston Globe when asked how his left shoulder was feeling as he ramps up workouts aimed toward a return from the disabled list in a week or so. Great quotes historically haven't decided Cy Young Award winners, but it can't hurt, either.
Here's why the AL race isn't settled despite Sale leading the voting by a wide margin thanks to a season in which he's leading the AL in virtually every major statistical category.
• Cy Young voting criteria evolving
Sale ranks 19th in innings pitched and has started five fewer games than Verlander (28-23) thanks to two stints on the DL because of an achy shoulder. Sale returned from a two-week stay on the DL on Aug. 12 and pitched five shutout innings against the Orioles, but he hasn't pitched since, and the Red Sox want to be as certain as possible that he'll be good to go for the stretch run and the postseason whenever he returns.
If Sale ends up being sidelined into mid to late September, it probably would open the door for Verlander.
Meanwhile, the NL race could hardly be closer. Scherzer and deGrom are in the top two Wins Above Replacement, strikeouts and strikeout percentage.
deGrom leads in ERA, FIP, WAR and percentage of soft contact induced. Scherzer leads in batting average, WHIP, strikeouts, strikeout percentage. Aaron Nola of the Phillies, who was the only other NL pitcher to receive votes, is also dotted across the leaderboard.
Here's a look at the voting:
- Chris Sale, Red Sox (150 points)
When you've got a Red Sox historical comparison that includes Babe Ruth, you're in good company.
Sale has made just seven starts since June 24, but they've been ridiculously good. Boston won all seven, and he allowed one earned run in 44 innings for a 0.20 ERA. Sale hasn't allowed a home run in 68 innings. The Red Sox haven't had such a run of dominance from a pitcher since Ruth allowed two earned runs in 60 innings in an eight-game stretch (six starts) in 1916.
2. Justin Verlander, Astros (46 points)
Last week, Verlander became the 20th pitcher to record 200 wins in his first 412 career games. That group includes 13 Hall of Famers, including Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson. Verlander has 50 double-digit strikeout games in his career, which is tied for 19th all-time with Johan Santana.
3. Trevor Bauer, Indians (44 points)
Bauer hasn't pitched since Aug. 11 after sustaining a stress fracture in his right fibula. Before the injury, he was having his best season in the Majors, becoming just the 11th Indians 200-strikeout pitcher. Bauer has allowed four earned runs or fewer in 51 straight starts, which is the third-longest streak since 1990 behind Greg Maddux (106) and Jacob Arrieta (52).
- Jacob deGrom, Mets (129 points)
deGrom has allowed three runs or fewer in 23 straight starts, the fifth-longest single-season streak since 1950. He's the fourth NL pitcher with 200 strikeouts and a sub-2.00 ERA through 25 starts, joining a list that includes Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax (1966) and Pedro Martinez ('97) as well as Clayton Kershaw (2014).
2. Max Scherzer, Nationals (108 points)
Scherzer solidifies a Hall of Fame resume virtually every time he takes the mound. In 27 starts this season, he has pitched at least seven innings 15 times and allowed more than two earned runs four times. Scherzer's streak of seven straight 200-strikeout seasons is tied for the second longest in MLB history, trailing only Tom Seaver, who had nine in a row between 1968-76.
3. Aaron Nola, Phillies (36 points)
Nola is off to the best start for a Phillies starting pitcher in 54 years. Through 26 starts, he has allowed 40 earned runs in 169 innings for a 2.13 ERA. In 1964, Chris Short allowed 39 earned runs in his first 26 starts for a 1.85 ERA. Nola's .198 opponents batting average is the second best for a qualifying Phills starter since 1915, when Peter Alexander held hitters to a .190 batting average.
Others receiving votes: None.