It’s about time for the media and the fans to stop being cute with your picks. Gerrit Cole is the Cy Young front-runner. There is no argument anymore against it. Yeah, Robbie Ray is having an awesome season. Holding the record for most Ks through 1,000 innings is awesome, and he should be praised for it. Cole is having a special season though, and the next closest contender, Lance Lynn, is now on the IL.
Whether it’s the Spider Tack, COVID-19, or whatever, Cole is facing this notion around him that his season has been good, but not spectacular. After seven more innings of one-run baseball striking out 15 though, it is clear who the front-runner for this award is. He’s lowered his ERA to 2.73. He regained the strikeout lead with 215. He lowered his WHIP to 0.97. Cole has been absolutely sensational this year. When we needed him most, following four straight losses, he showed up in a $324 million fashion.
Obviously, the stats I just rattled off are absolutely incredible. How do they rank amongst his contenders though? Here is where he stands in the American League as of Sept. 2 on face-value stats.
ERA – 2.73 (3rd)
IP – 155 (4th)
K – 215 (1st)
WHIP – 0.97 (1st)
K/9 – 12 (1st)
BB/9 – 1.8 (5th)
By year’s end, expect Cole to leap a few spots on some of these too. At his current post-COVID-19 rate, he’ll probably pass Ray in ERA, trailing by .02. Cole averages slightly more length per start – meaning he could easily close the four-inning gap in innings pitched. If he maintains his strikeout rate, he’ll run away with that.
My point is this. Even after missing two starts, Cole is in the top five in almost every meaningful pitching stat. Assuming he stays healthy and all factors remain consistent, he’ll end up being the clear-cut betting favorite come season’s end to bring home some hardware for the first time in his career.
Not sold? Look deeper into the analytics stats as well. Nearly all of the advanced and expected metrics also back up Cole as the Cy Young. Again, Lynn being on the IL helps his case, but I still think he’d be the favorite without him.
Cole is leading in these, but he’s also leading sizably. His lead in WAR over Ray is almost two wins. FIP and xFIP are both nearly a run. xERA Cole leads by 0.6. The only stat Cole trails in, he trails Lynn and even that is a razor-thin 0.09.
At face value, this looks like a tight race, sure. However, any sort of dive into the advanced metrics proves that Cole is sneakily dominating the battle.
As if a division race and a playoff spot aren’t enough motivation, Cole has never won a Cy Young award.
Look, I understand Cole is a team-first guy. Individual accolades should not, and don’t mean anything to him. With that being said, you can’t tell me that he’s not hungry for a Cy Young. As it currently sits, he has four top-5 finishes. No matter what he says, subconsciously, he has to know what’s at stake.
Before it’s all said and done, Cole will likely find himself in the Hall of Fame. He’s already at a 31.5 WAR for his career and he is only 30 years old. I understand that WAR is not the end-all-be-all to measure a Hall of Famer, but it gives you a good idea of the company he’ll find himself in if he keeps it up. At Cole’s current pace, he should crack the top 50 in career WAR for pitchers.
Other names around that same level?
Roy Halladay, John Smoltz, Bob Feller, Jim Palmer. All of which, are Hall of Famers. Three of the four won a Cy Young award and the fourth, Feller, played before the Cy Young was an award.
At the end of the day, whether you think individual accolades matter or not, they do play a role in Hall of Fame selection. Cole undoubtedly will win one or more in his career, why not get it out of the way now?