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Cy Young poll: NL nail-biter between 2 aces

Verlander leads 7th straight AL poll
@RichardJustice
September 16, 2019

Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom? Who ya got in the National League Cy Young Award race? Based on the results of MLB.com's latest poll, it’s between those two aces and couldn’t be much closer in the wake of another deGrom gem on Saturday. Scherzer received 23 of 42 first-place votes,

Max Scherzer or Jacob deGrom? Who ya got in the National League Cy Young Award race? Based on the results of MLB.com's latest poll, it’s between those two aces and couldn’t be much closer in the wake of another deGrom gem on Saturday.

Scherzer received 23 of 42 first-place votes, while deGrom got 19. Scherzer had 165 total points, deGrom 156. Meanwhile, Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t receive a single first-place vote after finishing atop the poll in four of the previous five tallies.

Justin Verlander received 37 of 42 first-place votes to win the American League poll for the seventh straight time. His Astros teammate, Gerrit Cole, got the other five and finished second for the third straight time.

As for deGrom, he was at his 100-mph, knee-buckling, nerve-checking best on Saturday in shutting out the NL’s best offensive team for seven innings in a 3-0 Mets victory over the Dodgers.

In 12 starts since the All-Star break, deGrom has shaken off whatever Cy Young hangover he might have had, fashioning a 1.69 ERA and .089 WHIP while averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Meanwhile, Scherzer has been limited to six starts since the All-Star break by shoulder and neck issues. In those six starts, he has a 4.15 ERA despite back-to-back solid appearances in his most recent turns.

Here’s how close the two are: Scherzer leads in FanGraphs’s calculation of Wins Above Replacement, 6.4 to 6.2. But deGrom leads Scherzer, 6.3 to 5.9, in Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR.

Overall, deGrom has moved in front in ERA (2.61 to 2.65), batting average (.212 to .220) and WHIP (1.01 to 1.03). But the biggest separator could be innings: 190 for deGrom to 159 2/3 for Scherzer.

For this poll, MLB.com asked reporters and editors to rank their top three choices in each league, with five points awarded for a first-place vote, three for second place and one for third.

Here’s a breakdown of the leaders:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Max Scherzer (23 first-place votes) -- He leads the NL in FIP (2.31) and xFIP (2.97) as well as strikeouts per nine inning (12.51). His season started with the Nationals losing eight of his first 10 starts despite Scherzer posting a respectable 3.72 ERA. Considering his BABIP was .365, there clearly was some bad luck in the mix. Since then, he has been as good as ever despite missing almost a month: 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA. The Nationals have won 11 of his last 15 starts.

Jacob deGrom (19 first-place votes) -- His slower-than-expected start mirrors Scherzer’s in some ways. He also turned things around dramatically and is leading the Majors with a 2.09 ERA in his last 21 games. His 138 innings are third-most in this stretch, and his 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings are second in the NL to Walker Buehler’s 11.51.

Hyun-Jin Ryu -- His seven shutout innings against the Mets on Saturday ended a tough stretch in which he had a 9.95 ERA over his previous four turns. His overall body of work could hardly be more solid. He has allowed two earned runs or less in 22 of 27 starts and fell short of six innings only seven times.

Other receiving votes: Stephen Strasburg, Sonny Gray, Jack Flaherty, Mike Soroka, Kirby Yates.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Justin Verlander (37 first-place votes) -- Opponents are hitting .168 against Verlander, which is the lowest by a starting pitcher in the expansion era (1961). His 0.78 WHIP is the second-lowest in a single season, trailing only Pedro Martinez (0.74 in 2000). Verlander is 19 strikeouts from becoming the 18th member of the 3,000 strikeout club. He has pitched 200 innings in 12 of the last 13 seasons and made 30 starts in 13 of the last 14.

Gerrit Cole (5 first-place votes) -- His 11-strikeout start against the Royals on Friday snapped a streak in which he became the second pitcher in history to have at least 14 strikeouts in three straight starts. Martinez was the only other to do it (Sept. 4-15, 1999). He has had double-digit strikeouts in 18 of 30 starts and leads the Majors in total strikeouts (292) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.7). He has not been charged with a loss since May 22. In 19 starts since, he’s 13-0 with a 1.85 ERA. The Astros have won 17 of those 19 starts.

Shane Bieber -- The 24-year-old right-hander and 2019 All-Star Game MVP is the youngest Indians pitcher to pitch 200 innings since CC Sabathia did it at 21 in 2001. He’s the youngest Indians pitcher with 200 innings and 200 strikeouts since Sam McDowell did it at 24 in 1967.

Others receiving votes: Charlie Morton, Mike Minor.

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