With September rapidly approaching, it’s time to take stock of the Cy Young Award races in both leagues.
In our latest Cy poll, we asked a panel of MLB.com experts to rank their top three candidates in the American League and National League. Players were assigned a point total on a 5-3-1 scale (5 points for a first-place vote, 3 for a second-place vote, 1 for a third-place vote).
Judging by the results, these races could go down to the wire.
Between the two leagues, 22 pitchers were mentioned at least once, and 11 hurlers received at least one first-place vote. Neither of the leaders had a first-place vote share greater than 54%.
Here are the full results.
1. Gerrit Cole, RHP, Yankees (31 first-place votes)
Cole has finished fifth or better in the voting four times in his career, including each of the past three years, but he’s still looking for that elusive first Cy Young Award. He could be one strong month away from capturing it. Cole had a rough patch just before the All-Star break, but he has recorded a 2.92 ERA over his past six starts -- exactly the same as his ERA on the season. Cole leads the AL in WHIP (0.97), FIP (2.78), K/9 (12.11) and K/BB ratio (6.37) and still ranks among the league’s top 15 in innings despite missing two weeks while on the COVID-19 IL. This is exactly what New York envisioned when it signed him to a $324 million contract after the 2019 season.
2. Lance Lynn, RHP, White Sox (24 first-place votes)
After finishing fifth and sixth in the AL Cy Young race with the Rangers over the previous two seasons, respectively, Lynn seems poised for an even better showing in 2021, and he has a strong case for the crown. The big righty’s 2.20 ERA not only leads the league but is more than a half-run lower than any other qualified AL pitcher’s ERA. Lynn also has the lowest hits-per-nine innings mark (6.68) in the AL and ranks fourth in WHIP (1.05) and ninth in K/9 (9.99).
3. Robbie Ray, LHP, Blue Jays (5 first-place votes)
Fresh off a 14-strikeout gem against the White Sox on Wednesday, Ray has emerged as a serious challenger in this race. He has one more strikeout (192) and a better ERA (2.72) than Cole, and owns the third-best K/BB ratio (5.19) in the AL, which would have been unheard of in the past. Ray had a 4.3 BB/9 over his first seven seasons and is just one year removed from issuing more free passes (45) than anyone in the Majors, after which he re-signed with the Blue Jays on a one-year, $8 million deal. The 29-year-old can test free agency again this offseason, and he might just do it with a Cy Young Award on his résumé if he can keep this up for another month.
4. Chris Bassitt, RHP, Athletics (2 first-place votes)
Bassitt was hit in the face by a line drive on Aug. 17, causing multiple facial fractures that required surgery and halting what was a stellar campaign from the late-blooming righty. It’s uncertain if he’ll pitch again this season, but for now, he has a place among the top five in our poll, and deservedly so. Bassitt ranks fourth or better in the AL in ERA (3.22), WHIP (1.05), innings (151) and K/BB ratio (4.40) and is seventh in strikeouts (154).
5. Shohei Ohtani, RHP, Angels (3 first-place votes)
Ohtani might not throw enough innings to actually win this thing, but the fact that he’s even in the conversation is astonishing considering the offensive load he’s carried for the Angels. The AL MVP favorite has posted a 3.00 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and 127 strikeouts in 105 frames, and he’s actually gotten stronger lately, notching a 2.20 ERA with a 44-to-4 K/BB ratio in seven starts since he walked four batters and allowed seven runs in less than an inning of work against the Yankees on June 30.
Others receiving votes: Carlos Rodón, Nathan Eovaldi, Liam Hendriks, Zack Greinke and José Berríos.
1. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers (35 first-place votes)
While Buehler has been excellent all season, he’s really stepped it up a notch recently, posting a 1.19 ERA in his past nine starts to take hold of the overall MLB lead in ERA (2.02) and surge into the top spot in our NL Cy poll. He also ranks second in the NL in innings (169) and WHIP (0.92) and is tied for third in strikeouts (178). Buehler has thrown at least six innings and allowed no more than two earned runs in 21 starts this season. No other pitcher has more than 16 such starts.
2. Zack Wheeler, RHP, Phillies (19 first-place votes)
If we conducted this poll two weeks ago, Wheeler likely would have taken the No. 1 spot in the NL, but he’s slipped a bit in his past few trips to the hill. In three starts since throwing a two-hit shutout against the Mets on Aug. 8, Wheeler has recorded a 6.53 ERA, and his overall ERA (2.90) is now nearly a run higher than Buehler’s. That said, Wheeler still leads the Majors in innings (176 2/3) and strikeouts (204), so he could leapfrog Buehler if he can close the ERA gap.
3. Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers (7 first-place votes)
The one blemish when it comes to Burnes’ Cy Young candidacy is that he has thrown 36 fewer innings than Buehler and 43 2/3 fewer than Wheeler. But arguably no starting pitcher this season has been as dominant as the Brewers righty, who leads the Majors in FIP (1.65), K/9 (12.18) and K/BB ratio (6.92) and has held opponents to a .524 OPS -- the lowest among hurlers with at least 100 innings.
4. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Giants (2 first-place votes)
When Mets ace Jacob deGrom went on the injured list with right forearm inflammation on July 18, Gausman was seemingly positioned to step into deGrom’s place as the NL Cy Young Award frontrunner. After all, he was coming off a first half in which he recorded a 1.73 ERA and a 4.43 K/BB ratio over 114 2/3 innings. But the veteran has faded in the second half, pitching to a 5.17 ERA with a 2.56 K/BB while averaging less than five innings per start. He’s still having a great run ahead of free agency this offseason, but he has some work to do to overtake the players ahead of him in this poll.
5. Max Scherzer, RHP, Dodgers (1 first-place vote)
Here’s a guy who knows a thing or two about winning Cy Young Awards. Scherzer has three of them, as well as four other top five finishes, and he’s having another Cy Young-worthy season that has gotten even better since he was traded to Los Angeles in July. Scherzer has a 1.55 ERA with 41 K’s and four walks in 29 innings over his first five starts with the Dodgers, and he is the MLB leader in WHIP (0.88) and hits-per-nine innings (5.79) on the year while ranking second in the NL in K/9 (12.09) and second in K/BB ratio (5.70).
Others receiving votes: Brandon Woodruff (1 first-place vote), Jacob deGrom, Charlie Morton, Adam Wainwright, Jake McGee, Josh Hader and Julio Urías.