Now that the announcements are official I can explain why I voted the way I did for the 2017 American League Cy Young Award.
Before you ask sarcastically, no I didn’t include any Orioles, who had the worst rotation ERA in franchise history this year.
And, therefore, no, I didn’t include Ubaldo Jimenez, whom I predicted in April would have his best year as an Oriole (historical footnote: He didn’t).
I stayed away from Orioles and, unintentionally, from all relievers, and ended up with the five starters that I thought were the league’s best pitchers in 2017. Frankly, I didn’t think this assignment was that difficult.
Indeed, Cleveland’s Corey Kluber ran away with the award in the AL, garnering 28 of 30 first-place votes. Washington’s Max Scherzer won the NL prize by receiving 27 of 30 first-place votes.
Kluber won his second Cy Young Award while Scherzer won his third, including his second consecutive.
Here’s a little scratch-your-eyes-out tidbit for O’s fans: Scherzer was taken with the 11th pick in the first round of the 2006 draft. Tim Lincecum, a two-time NL Cy Young winner, was taken 10th in that draft. The Orioles selected ninth. They selected New Jersey high school corner infielder/outfielder Billy Rowell with the ninth pick. Rowell never made it above Double-A, where he hit .227 in 41 games.
Three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw was seventh in that draft and stud reliever Andrew Miller was sixth (and solid big leaguer Brandon Morrow was fifth). That’s a whole lot of tremendous pitching in a seven-pick span.
If it’s any consolation for Orioles fans, the club did spend its third-round pick of that draft, the 85th overall, on a high school lefty out of Texas named Zach Britton. That worked out OK.
One other thought about Scherzer and Kluber for all those who stress that the only way to get good starting pitching is to develop your own. Both were traded by their original teams before they could truly establish themselves in the majors. And, strangely, both were a part of separate, three-team deals.
The Indians acquired Kluber from the San Diego Padres and sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals in a 2010 trade deadline swap that also involved Ryan Ludwick and Nick Greenwood.
In a bigger three-team trade in December 2009, the Arizona Diamondbacks sent Scherzer to the Detroit Tigers, with whom he won his first Cy Young Award in 2013. That deal also included the New York Yankees, who acquired outfielder Curtis Granderson from Detroit. Also involved in that blockbuster were Austin Jackson, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, among others.
OK, now to 2017.
When I filled out the five slots on my Cy Young ballot, the first two were no-brainers. Kluber and Boston lefty Chris Sale. I just had to determine the proper order.
It didn’t take me that long. Both were great. Kluber was better in most categories besides strikeouts and innings pitched. It was close, but Kluber was the clear winner for me and I wasn’t alone – the other two first-place votes went to Sale, who landed 28 second-place votes.
So, all of the voters had Kluber and Sale in their Top 2.
My ballot ended up exactly as the overall Top 5 finish did.
New York’s Luis Severino, who burst onto the scene in 2017, was third and Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco was fourth.
Again, close but Severino was slightly better.
My biggest dilemma was for fifth place, or more appropriate, which strong contenders I would leave off my ballot. The fifth-place argument for me was among three pitchers: Justin Verlander, Ervin Santana and Craig Kimbrel.
After crunching the numbers, I dropped Kimbrel, the AL’s best closer. If Britton, according to voters, couldn’t crack the Top 3 last year with the greatest season by a relief pitcher, then Kimbrel probably wasn’t worthy to be Top 5 this year for the same reasons – limited total innings, lesser impact — and against stiffer competition.
That left Verlander and Santana, who was more consistent and threw more innings than Verlander but wasn’t particularly dominant. Ultimately, Verlander’s performance down the stretch in a pennant race (5-0, 1.06 ERA in his last five regular-season starts for the Houston Astros) was the deciding factor for me to give him my fifth-place nod.
Santana ended up seventh in the overall voting with Kimbrel sixth. Toronto’s Marcus Stroman was the only other vote-getter. He ended up in eighth with two, fifth-place votes.
Yes, I double-checked. No Orioles made the cut. Wise guys.