Can Gerrit Cole Make A Cy Young Push?

Gerrit Cole, the staff ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates and one of the best pitchers in baseball, has a chance to launch a late bid for the NL Cy Young Award starting tonight. He gets the national stage, in an ESPN showdown against the Los Angeles Dodgers’ already-canonized lefty, Clayton Kershaw.

It’s a perfect opportunity for Cole—he faces the best lineup in the National League, squares off against the hottest pitcher and faces the team who has Zack Greinke, the current Cy Young frontrunner.

This award is Greinke’s to lose, with his 11-2 record and 1.71 ERA. While I tend to downgrade Dodger pitchers a bit because of the advantageous dimensions of their home stadium, there’s no question that if the vote were held today Greinke would deserve to be a unanimous pick.

But there’s still two months to go, Greinke got dinged a bit in his last start and if there’s any slippage, Cole can make a late push. But he has to beat Kershaw on the national stage.

Between Cole, the two Dodger aces, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Jacob de Grom with the Mets there are five high-quality candidates for this year’s NL Cy Young. Cole leads everyone with 14 wins and his 2.29 ERA is third in the National League, trailing only Greinke and de Grom. Of these five, Cole and Scherzer are the only ones to work their home games in parks that are ideal for pitchers. That has to count for something.

Where Cole needs work, as far as I’m concerned is his innings. He’s currently 11th in the league in innings pitched, although with his start up tonight, he’ll probably be seventh by night’s end if he has anything close to a normal outing. While I don’t have any hard-and-fast rules about Cy Young criteria—every race is different—I would like to see him move into the top five.

Where the Pirate ace is going to need work as far as the people who actually vote is in the number of baserunners he allows. His WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 1.10. This is good, but again, at 11th in the league, it’s not Cy Young-caliber. I personally don’t care—if a guy doesn’t give up runs, gets his innings in and wins games, he can load the bases every inning for all I care. But there is a significant chunk of voters that do care about this stat and Cole isn’t making any friends with his current ranking.

The odds are probably too stacked against Cole to win the Cy Young. Everyone is dependent on a Greinke slide, and Kershaw and Scherzer both have much higher name recognition. But a win tonight would give the Pirate ace a puncher’s chance.

More important is the opportunity that’s ahead for legacy-building in October. Continue reading “Can Gerrit Cole Make A Cy Young Push?” »