In the 2022 season of Major League Baseball, there are still a lot of baseballs to be played. This means the major award races in the league are far from clear after five months.
Here are our picks for the Cy Young Award and MVP race in the American League and National League.
Our focus was mainly on the top three contenders in each race, as there are always three finalists for these awards at the end of the year. Because anything is still possible, we also touched on some dark-horse candidates worth watching
As a start, let's grant that the order of these three pitchers is debatable: RHP Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays; RHP Justin Verlander, Houston Astros; LHP Neston Cortes, New York Yankees
When it comes to workload, there is essentially no difference between Gausman and Verlander when they have each pitched 45.0 innings. The earned run averages of these teams differ significantly. Verlander's 1.38 ERA is more than a run below Gausman's 2.40 ERA.
However, in this case, ERA does not tell the whole story. In addition to striking out 18 more batters than Verlander, Gausman has remained virtually untouched by walks and home runs. Only two free passes have been issued to him, and he has yet to be taken deep.
Moreover, Verlander has a 0.64 WHIP, which is AL-best. The Astro's defense, which ranks fourth in inefficiency in turning balls in play into outs like his ERA, also deserves credit for his excellence. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays rank below average.
In the end, we're going with the expected ERA. Gausman is ranked at 2.51, while Verlander is ranked at 2.62.
After his latest dominant performance on Sunday, Cortes currently leads the American League in ERA with 1.35. In addition, he has struck out 49 batters while walking only 11, while allowing only three home runs.
While such numbers might seem unsustainable for a pitcher who only throws in the low 90s, all you have to do is watch the Yankees southpaw pitch to see how he makes it work:
What is Cortes' expected ERA? The number is all the way down at 2.18, placing him in the top five of pitchers who have had at least 50 balls put into play.
Cortes' weakness now, at least, is the fact that he has pitched 'only' 40 innings through seven starts in comparison to Gausman and Verlander. It might not seem like much, but five innings nowadays are the equivalent of a typical start.
Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox is one to watch. It's hard to ignore his AL-leading 58 strikeouts and 2.01 xERA, despite a rough outing against the Yankees on Wednesday, which raised his ERA to 3.55.
Tampa Bay Rays lefty Shane McClanahan has struck out 13.3 batters per nine innings while posting a 2.52 ERA.
In the National League, there is at least one clear choice: RHP Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins; RHP Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers; RHP Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals
Having thrown 43 innings with an MLB-leading 1.05 ERA, Lopez is enjoying the best of both worlds with his workload and with his run prevention in particular. Because it's backed up by an equally impressive 2.36 xERA, it's legit.
The secret weapon of the Marlins ace is certainly becoming less secret with each game he plays. His changeup is downright nasty, with 8-for-64 hits and 26 strikeouts:
Durability is the biggest threat to Lopez's Cy Young bid. In a less pretentious way, he's peaked at 111.1 innings in the past, and therefore has to prove he's capable of much more.
For more stories like this
Explore our website