There’s no clear front runner for the American League Cy Young Award. If the season ended today, more than three pitchers would have first place. But, let’s talk about Shane McClanahan first. He was an early favorite for the prestigious award before the All-Star break. Since then, he was moved to the 15-day IL last week. It seems he may be out well beyond those 15 days as manager Kevin Cash said it’s “highly unlikely” he will return this season. It certainly destroys his Cy Young case, but he gives other contenders a chance to keep it going. Here’s what the race looks like now.
Editors note: Statistics are through August 9
AL Cy Young Race Candidates
Kevin Gausman has the lowest Run Support Average in the American League this season (3.45)
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) August 3, 2023
Gausman is a significant reason why the Toronto Blue Jays starting rotation has been consistent. He’s the Fangraphs leader in pitcher WAR with 4.1 in the AL. But, he’s given up 44 earned runs through his 21 starts in 127 2/3 innings. 21 of those runs have come over his last three appearances. It should be noted that Gausman had been exceptional between his two rough starts. He went 6-2 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 113:25 K:BB across 85 2/3 innings during that stretch. Then, he posted 11 games with one earned run or fewer walked, and seven with ten-plus strikeouts. He’s on pace for the best season of his career as he has a strong chance for a top-five Cy Young voting finish. His 3.04 ERA trails only the 2.81 mark he posted in the 2021 season.
After throwing a no-hitter last week, Framber Valdez has already given up 5 runs through 2 innings.
It’s been pretty common for pitchers to struggle following a solo no-hitter.
Carlos Rodón was the last pitcher to win his next start following a no-no in 2021. pic.twitter.com/Xq98qm5JGn
— Chris Jastrzembski (@Chris_Jast) August 8, 2023
Valdez continues to headline the Houston Astros rotation and has the stuff to be considered one of the league’s top starters. He Valdez doesn’t rack up strikeouts, but he can average half an inning more per start. He has worked at least six innings in 16 of his 21 starts while giving the Astros a chance to win. Valdez found himself throwing a no-hitter against the Cleveland Guardians on August 1. However, he fell back to Earth in Baltimore, tying his season highs in runs and hits allowed. Outside of the no-no, Valdez has allowed four or more runs in four consecutive starts. He’s struck out fewer than five batters three times during that stretch.
Most starts this season allowing 3 or less runs:
21 — Sonny Gray
20 — Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell
19 — CLARKE SCHMIDT pic.twitter.com/7PSCKjhwag
— YankeesMuse (@YankeesMuse) August 9, 2023
Cole is still looking for his first Cy Young win. The six-time All-Star has finished in the top-ten of AL Cy Young voting six times, including each of the last five years. He’s even putting up quite the performance for an inconsistent New York Yankees team. He’s carried the team on his back while giving up 15 home run balls over 150 1/3 innings. Last year in 219 innings, he gave up 36, including three in the postseason. Cole still holds an excellent 2.75 ERA and 1.04 WHIP on the campaign. He’s punched out 160 batters over the course of the season. Although, he lags behind in most advanced metrics, ranking seventh in xERA (3.65), eighth in FIP (3.38), ninth in K%-BB% (20.1%), and eleventh in xFIP (3.70). He might be the favorite of the average voter, but some might be inclined to vote for someone else.
AL Cy Young Award Honorable Mentions: Luis Castillo, Félix Bautista, Nathan Eovaldi, Sonny Gray
Photo Credit: © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports