Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer are remarkable pitchers. They are similar ages (Scherzer is about 20 months older than Kluber), they're about the same size, they're both power pitchers, and until they were each 28 years old, nobody would have predicted that they would become the dominant right-handed pitchers of
Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer are remarkable pitchers. They are similar ages (Scherzer is about 20 months older than Kluber), they're about the same size, they're both power pitchers, and until they were each 28 years old, nobody would have predicted that they would become the dominant right-handed pitchers of the past five years.
But that is exactly what has happened. Between them, they have won half of the 10 Cy Young Awards given out the last five seasons. On Wednesday, Kluber won his second Cy Young Award decisively, getting 28 of the 30 first-place votes and beating out Boston's Chris Sale in the American League race. And Scherzer won his third award -- and second National League Cy Young Award in a row -- with a surprisingly one-sided vote over the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
:: AL Cy Young Award voting totals ::
That Scherzer-Kershaw race was fascinating ... we'll get back to that in a second.
The rises of Kluber and Scherzer are very different, but as recently as 2012, you would not have bet on either one becoming an awesome force. That year, Kluber was a 26-year-old pitcher who spent most of the season in Triple-A Columbus. He had come over to Cleveland in a 2010 mid-season three-way deal, one in which he was probably the least-known player. His big league future was cloudy at best.
• Previous AL Cy Young Award winners
Scherzer, on the other hand, was already a big league regular; but stardom did not seem his destiny. The righty had been a somewhat prized prospect (he was the 11th pick in the 2006 Draft out of Missouri), but by 2012, he had established himself mainly as a sturdy pitcher but not necessarily a great one. He, like Kluber, had come over in a three-way trade. The Arizona Diamondbacks had traded him away, at least in part because they thought his violent delivery made him an injury risk. Scherzer did not get hurt, but he was only so-so his first couple of years in Detroit.
And then it all changed for both pitchers. Scherzer emerged first, having a fantastic 2013 season, going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and leading the AL in WHIP for the first time. He won his first Cy Young Award.
Kluber followed that in 2014, going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts. He won his first Cy Young Award.
They have been the dominant righties in the game since, and this was probably each of their best season yet. Kluber missed four weeks in May, but still led the AL in basically everything except strikeouts. To be more specific, he led in wins (18), win percentage (.818), ERA (2.25), complete games (five), shutouts (three), WHIP (.869 -- the lowest WHIP in the AL since Pedro Martinez in 2000) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.36-to-1).
Sale had a wonderful season in his own right, striking out an astonishing 308 batters in 214 innings, but he did fade in September, and it's hard to make the argument that he had a season to match Kluber. They were clearly the two best pitchers in the AL, though. The two of them collected all of the first- and second-place votes.
The NL vote, meanwhile, was a a bit more interesting, even though the vote ended up being just as conclusive. Scherzer had a remarkable season. His 5.7 hits per nine innings was the lowest in baseball since, you guessed it, Pedro's 2000 season. He also led the league in strikeouts and WHIP for the second straight season.
:: NL Cy Young Award voting totals ::
But his competition was Kershaw, who missed some time with injury but still managed to lead the NL in wins (18), ERA (2.31) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.73-to-1). Cy Young Award voters have traditionally leaned toward pitchers who lead a league in wins and strikeouts. Only once since voting began has a pitcher who led his league in wins and ERA not won the award. In 1984, Mike Boddicker led the AL in the two categories (20 wins and a 2.79 ERA) and, improbably, lost the Cy Young Award to relief pitcher Willie Hernandez, who somehow captured the voters' imagination (Hernandez also won the MVP Award).
• Previous NL Cy Young Award winners
But despite that voting history, Scherzer not only won the NL Cy Young, he swamped Kershaw in the voting. It seems that advanced statistics were key in the voting. Instead of wins and strikeouts, voters seemed to take a deeper look at the two pitchers. They found that that Scherzer faced somewhat tougher competition, pitched his home games in a more hitter-friendly ballpark and did not have quite as good a defense behind him. Scherzer also pitched 25 more innings than Kershaw, which undoubtedly played in the voters' minds.
When it was all added together, the voters were almost unanimously convinced that Scherzer had the better season. Scherzer got 27 of the 30 first-place votes. I was surprised that it was that lopsided, but I think the voters got both of these right.
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.