Wheeler a close 2nd in NL Cy Young voting

November 18th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander said he tried to pitch like Roy Halladay when he tossed a shutout against the Mets on Aug. 8.

It seemed then like Wheeler could become the first Phillies pitcher to win the NL Cy Young Award since Halladay in 2010. It almost happened on Wednesday, but Wheeler finished a close second to Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. Burnes finished with 12 first-place votes and 151 points. Wheeler finished with 12 first-place votes and 141 points. Max Scherzer finished third with six first-place votes and 113 points.

It was the closest NL Cy Young vote since the ballot expanded from three pitchers to five in 2010.

In the end, a few more voters were impressed with Burnes’ MLB-leading 2.43 ERA, strikeout rate (35.6 percent), strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.88) and FIP (1.63). Only Scherzer had a lower WHIP than Burnes (0.94).

But Wheeler made a strong case, especially to those who value innings in an era when pitchers rarely face a lineup a third time. Wheeler went 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA in 32 starts. He led baseball in innings pitched (213 1/3), complete games (three), shutouts (two), batters faced (849) and bWAR (7.6). He led the NL in strikeouts (247). He finished second in the league in fWAR (7.3), FIP (2.59) and xERA (2.78).

Wheeler pitched 46 1/3 more innings than Burnes. In the case of Burnes, who averaged 5.96 innings per start, he would have needed to make eight more starts just to match Wheeler’s workload.

The Athletic’s Jayson Stark crunched some numbers in an Oct. 1 story and found that if Wheeler, Burnes and Scherzer never threw a pitch beyond the sixth inning, Wheeler would have the best ERA of the three:

• Wheeler: 2.32
• Burnes: 2.34
• Scherzer: 2.60

“Why shouldn’t he be Cy Young?” Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto said on the final weekend of the season in Miami. “He’s done everything you could ask from a starting pitcher. He’s taken the ball every five days. He’s pitched the most innings. He’s got the most strikeouts. He leads pitchers in WAR. I just don’t understand how he couldn’t. He’s been a workhorse like nobody else in the league. For me, that’s a clear Cy Young.”

Bryce Harper will learn Thursday night if he is the NL MVP. It is expected to be a close contest against Washington’s Juan Soto.