Our 2019 MLB awards preview series continues today, after we looked at rookies on Sunday and managers on Monday. Today, it’s the awards for the best pitchers in each league, and there are some incredible candidates.

We are not sure we are fans of the new reveal system MLB has in place now for the major awards, reducing the field to a short list in advance of the announcements. But it is what it is, so we go with it.

Here are the candidates for the American League Cy Young award and the details:

  • Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros: 20 wins, 2.50 ERA, .895 WHIP, 326 Ks
  • Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays: 16 wins, 3.05 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 240 Ks
  • Justin Verlander, Houston Astros: 21 wins, 2.58 ERA, .803 WHIP, 300 Ks

This list is weird. Morton was a mediocre MLB pitcher until his stint in Houston (2017-2018), and Cole was underachieving with Pittsburgh, before he joined the Astros in 2018. Verlander had hit a late-career lull in Detroit before going to Houston in 2017, and he’s been a completely different pitcher since then at an age when most starters break down.

What is in the water that Houston pitchers are drinking these days?!

Anyway, it’s a shame to see Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers not on this short list instead of Morton, but the Tampa ace also helped his team to the postseason while Minor did not, despite his superior WAR figure (7.6). Voters seem quite inconsistent on choosing when to use sabermetrics in their decision-making processes.

Morton is an afterthought when flanked his former teammates in Houston here, and choosing between Cole and Verlander is like splitting hairs. Verlander came out on top in terms of WAR (7.8 to 6.8), although it’s hard to imagine that WHIP advantage accounted for more than Cole’s edges in ERA and K/9 rate (13.8 to 12.1).

Verlander will probably win, and that’s fine, but if we had a vote, we’d give it to Cole—his numbers seem more “honest” at age 29 than Verlander’s numbers at age 36, you know?

Now, the nominees for the National League Cy Young award and their vitals:

  • Jacob deGrom, New York Mets: 11 wins, 2.43 ERA, .971 WHIP, 255 Ks
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers: 14 wins, 2.32 ERA, 1.007 WHIP, 163 Ks
  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: 11 wins, 2.92 ERA, 1.027 WHIP, 243 Ks

This is an easier decision, overall. Ryu and Scherzer pitched for postseason teams, while the Mets were in contention after a late-summer charge for the wild-card spots—eventually finishing just three games out. So all three guys pitched under pressure this season.

Scherzer had the highest ERA, the highest WHIP, and the second-most strikeouts. Ryu has the most victories, and deGrom probaby had the best overall season, despite the low win total for the “worst” team of the bunch. What about WAR?

deGrom’s number (7.9) dwarfs the numbers for Ryu (5.3) and Scherzer (5.8). It would be surprising if the Mets ace doesn’t win his second straight Cy Young award in our book, as he had the most complete and dominant season of the three candidates.

Stay tuned for Spring 2020 when we start analyzing past award gaffes in MLB!