Snell wins 2nd Cy Young Award, is 7th to earn honor in both leagues

November 16th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- put himself alongside some of the game’s greats by earning his second Cy Young Award.

Snell on Wednesday was named the 2023 NL Cy Young Award winner after his dominant season with the Padres. Pairing that with his 2018 AL honor with the Rays, he became the seventh pitcher to earn the honor in each league. He joins Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer.

Snell, 30, received 28 first-place votes and two second-place votes in the balloting of select members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to claim a landslide victory. San Francisco’s Logan Webb was second, and Arizona’s Zac Gallen finished third.

“It means the work I’m putting in is paying off, it’s working,” Snell said after the voting results were revealed on MLB Network. “… Being able to win another one is a pretty amazing thing.”

Even before the voting results were announced, Snell was keeping some exclusive company with the game’s greats. Snell posted a 1.20 ERA over his final 23 starts in 2023. Only Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson had a better mark over 23 straight starts in a single season -- 0.85 in 1968.

Overall, Snell went 14-9 and led qualified NL starters in ERA (2.25), pitchers’ bWAR (6.0), ERA+ (182) and hits per nine innings (5.75). He issued the most walks in the Majors (99) but overcame that with 234 strikeouts (second in the NL) and a .152 opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position (best in the Majors). Snell is the first pitcher since Early Wynn in 1959 to win a Cy Young Award while leading the Majors in walks.

How did Snell lose his 2018 Cy Young form and then regain it?

“I tried to be a pitcher that I wasn’t -- ‘Oh, I can’t walk guys,’” Snell said. “When I walked more than two, I’d get so mad at myself: ‘You’re better than that. Stop doing this.’ I was more worried about what other people were saying.

“I kind of just looked in the mirror and said, ‘I know how good I am. If I walk guys, that’s OK for me.’ I’m different, and I believe I have such good stuff that one walk is not going to end my success or end the game. By me doing that and understanding that I’m different, but I’m really good at being different, that confidence took over and I became the pitcher that I am today.”

It was a spectacular performance in his free-agent walk year. Though Padres general manager A.J. Preller has indicated a desire to re-sign Snell, the left-hander figures to command a massive contract that might prove prohibitive to a Padres club that has several star players already wrapped up with long-term deals.

This is the fourth straight season a Cy Young winner has been a free agent.

Regardless of what uniform Snell wears come spring, he goes down as the fifth Padres pitcher to win a Cy Young Award, joining Randy Jones (1976), Perry ('78), Mark Davis ('89) and Jake Peavy (2007).

It wasn’t just the mirror that helped change Snell’s view of his pitching style. Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla emphasized that runners on base brought Snell an opportunity to showcase his four-pitch array of swing-and-miss stuff.

"I've got a guy here that has stuff," Niebla told beat reporter AJ Cassavell during the season. "The message is: ‘Go get outs.’ It's not: ‘Don't walk people.’ Walks are part of the game, and you have the stuff to be able to pitch through walks. We're not going to talk about walks. We actually laugh about walks."

Opponents hit .255 against Snell’s fastball, .079 against his curve, .185 against his changeup and .123 against his slider.

“He’s probably got the best stuff in the game,’’ Giants catcher Patrick Bailey said after facing Snell in September. “Really good breaking ball, really good changeup, really good fastball.’’

Snell’s changeup hadn’t been so effective since his first Cy Young season.

“I’ve always said I’m at my best with my changeup,’’ Snell said late in the season. “It’s everything to me. The last couple of years, I was trying to throw my slider, and it’s never really been me. I’ve always been a changeup guy.

“So being able to get that back and work the slider when I need to -- the curveball, fastball have always been there. I do my best pitching when I have those.’’

He now has two trophies to prove that true.