Cease finishes 2nd in AL Cy Young balloting

White Sox strikeout specialist runner-up to unanimous winner Verlander

November 17th, 2022

CHICAGO -- finished second for the 2022 American League Cy Young Award, with Houston’s Justin Verlander capturing his third career honor, as announced Wednesday night on MLB Network.

Verlander received all 30 of the first-place votes for 210 points, followed by Cease at 97 points with 14 second-place votes, 10 third-place votes, five fourth-place votes and one fifth-plate vote. He recalled watching Verlander pitch for Detroit as a rookie when Cease was around 10 years old, making the results all the more surreal.

“It's one of those things that hasn't even really sunk in yet,” Cease said on a conference call following the Cy Young Award announcement. “Growing up, it's just kind of hard to imagine even being in that position.

“I really loved and watched baseball a lot growing up, so to be sitting here now, it's definitely really surreal. I watched Verlander since I was a little kid, so it almost doesn't feel real.”

The second-place finish should be of no surprise to anyone who watched the White Sox right-hander pitch this past season, with Cease’s statistics on the same elite level as Verlander pretty much across the board. Yasmani Grandal, Cease’s batterymate with the White Sox, predicted Cy Young Award-worthy results for Cease well before this truly ace-like performance.

“I'm glad you brought it up. I guess I told you so,” Grandal said with a wry smile during an interview last Friday. “I mentioned that before: We know exactly where he could be and where he can go.

“It was just a matter of getting him there. And like I said before, sometimes it takes seven years, eight years for a guy to get there. Sometimes it takes them a little bit less. We're just happy that he was capable of doing what he did throughout this year.”

Cease’s most prominent 2022 moment took place on Sept. 3 at home against the Twins when he carried a no-hitter within one out of completion. The usually low-key Cease even pumped up the Saturday night crowd at Guaranteed Rate Field as he walked from the mound to the dugout following the top of the eighth.

“Coming one out away, as tragic as that finish was, it was still special,” Cease said to MLB Network.

Luis Arraez prevented that piece of history with a two-out single in the ninth, but it was just one snapshot from a consistent 32-start body of work. Cease's 227 strikeouts ranked second in the AL behind Gerrit Cole (257) of the Yankees. His 2.20 ERA was second behind Verlander (1.75), with Cease throwing nine more innings and making four more starts than the AL Cy Young winner, while Cease’s .190 batting average against also finished second behind Verlander (.186). Cease's 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings are the fifth-most in a season in club history (his 12.28 mark in 2021 is the club record), and his strikeout total represents the eighth-most in a season in White Sox history.

Toronto’s Alek Manoah finished third in balloting by the 30 Baseball Writers' Association of America voters, with the tabulations leaving Cease short of becoming the fourth Cy Young winner in White Sox history. Early Wynn captured the honors in 1959, followed by LaMarr Hoyt in '83 and Jack McDowell in '93. Lance Lynn finished third for the White Sox in 2021, giving the White Sox three members from their current starting staff to finish in the top six (Lucas Giolito was sixth in ’19). But no White Sox pitcher has finished as high as second since Esteban Loaiza in ’03.

With Cease -- who turns 27 on Dec. 28 -- moving toward his third full season with 90 starts on the résumé, his run of excellence should only be beginning.

“We feel like he can do more,” Grandal said. “I know it's kind of selfish of us to ask more out of him, but that's where we stand. He has such a high ceiling that we think he can be great, so we want him to be great.”

“It really all kind of came together, and by far, it was my most consistent year ever as a professional,” Cease said. “Personal goals are always great and important and can help motivate, but really I just want to continue to produce for my team. I want to take the ball every five days, and I want to go out and put up a quality start every time.”