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NL Cy Young Favorites Are Standing Out More

The NL Cy Young Award race is starting to take shape. Two months into the MLB season, we have seen some pitchers begin to separate themselves from the pack. While the early pre-season favorites like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have stumbled out of the gate, a few unlikely starters have emerged. Teams like the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves have had solid pitching staffs to start the season. With four months to go, a handful of starters are in contention. However, the pitchers are the early favorites based on the first two months.

Early NL Cy Young Front Runners

Bryce Elder

Despite making his big league debut last season, Elder is still a rookie. With a great staff of pitchers, few had Elder as Atlanta’s best pitcher. In 11 games started, Elder has pitched 65 and 2/3 innings, recording 56 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.157. He is currently the National League Leader in ERA with 1.92 and ERA+ with 232 (the average pitcher at 100). Elder has been stable for 5 to 7 and 1/3 innings this season, producing nine quality starts. Very few pitchers have won the Cy Young with an ERA under 2.00, so it will be interesting to see if he can keep it up.

Marcus Stroman

Stroman might have been a sleeper pick at the beginning of the season, but now he is a favorite. After a great start to the season, he’s elevated his way into the elite pitcher conversation in the National League. In 73 innings pitched for the Cubs, his ERA is 2.59, down significantly from 3.50 last year. That puts him in the top 5 in both categories. He leads the National League in WHIP with 0.986. The only season Stroman finished in the top 10 for Cy Young voting was 2017, where he finished 8th. 

Justin Steele

Like Elder, Steele is still new to this league. In his third season, he has pitched 68 innings with a WHIP of 1.059. The right-hander is third in ERA with 2.65 and 3rd in ERA + with 166. Although he had struggled earlier this month, the left-hander from Mississippi has bounced back in his last few starts. If Steele were to win the Cy Young, he would be just the second Cub to win in 30 years.

Zac Gallen

As someone who finished last year in the top 5 in Cy Young voting, he is back to that same pace this season. In 72 and 2/3rds for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has an ERA of 2.72 and 82 strikeouts. He has only given up two home runs this season, giving him an HR/9 of 0.2. The best in the National League. He is also leading the majors in FIP with 2.09. Of his 12 starts this season, he has given up two runs or less in two of them. Which includes a four-start shutout streak in April. 

Spencer Strider

When fans were thinking of the best starter on the Braves, many thought of Spencer Strider. After two seasons, Strider ended last year with a 2.67 ERA and finished second for Rookie of the Year behind teammate Michael Harris. This season Strider is leading the league in strikeouts (113), hits per 9 (5.7), and strikeouts per 9 (12.9). In 69 and 2/3 innings, he has a 2.97 ERA. He has proved that last season was not a fluke and is ready to be one of the dominant pitchers in the NL East for years to come. 

Clayton Kershaw

Only four players in the history of MLB have won four or more Cy Youngs. Steve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. The left-hander has been off to a great start this season. In 69 and 1/3 innings, he has an ERA of 3.25 and 84 strikeouts. He is currently leading the league in Wins with 7.

However, the biggest thing in the way of the nine-time All-Star from winning his fourth Cy Young Award is his health. It has been four years since the last time Kershaw has thrown over 130 innings. While he is off to a great start, if he can remain healthy, he likely is one of the favorites to win the Cy Young this year. 

Alex Cobb

Alex Cobb has played on four teams in the majors for 12 seasons. Despite this, Cobb has never been an All-Star and has yet to finish in the top 10 in Cy Young voting. However, in 69 2/3 innings pitched, he is fourth in the National League in ERA with 2.71 and 4th in ERA plus with 157. If those hold, that would make this season his best in 10 years. For those looking for an underdog to win this award, look no further than Cobb.

Photo Credit: © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Players mentioned:

Justin Verlander, Max ScherzerBryce Elder, Zac GallenMarcus Stroman, Justin SteeleSpencer Strider, Clayton KershawSteve Carlton, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Alex Cobb


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