The New York Mets have officially played their 60th game of the 2021, marking the length of the 2020 season. 2020 NL Cy Young Trevor Bauer listed his “Mickey Mouse” Cy Young Award winners of the 2021, so here we are. It is time to look at the 2021 MLB Cy Young ladder in both the American League and the National League. If the season ended today, who would snag the league Cy Young Awards?
Stats are accurate as of June 18. The figures in (parentheses) represent the players’ spots in the April rankings.
2021 MLB Cy Young: American League
No.1: Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (New)
The 2012 All-Star is having a phenomenal season so far for the Chicago White Sox. While Lance Lynn has finished in the top-six in AL Cy Young voting in each of the last two seasons, he has been even better in 2021. He leads the AL in ERA (1.51) and ERA+ (276) while posting a WHIP under 1.000. While the peripheral stats do not reflect Lynn’s dominant run prevention, he has been the key man for the AL’s best team. His monthly ERAs have been 0.92, 1.36, and 2.37. While the American League race is currently not as strong as the National League, Lynn is running away with the AL’s Cy Young.
No.2: John Means, Baltimore Orioles (+2)
Like Lynn, John Means is overperforming according to the batted-ball data, but the 2019 All-Star still deserves to be here. He is third in the AL in pitching WAR, ERA, and ERA+. He has one of the lowest walk rates and hit rates in the AL, positioning him with the league’s best WHIP (0.831). While Means is currently nursing an injury, his first 11 starts were nothing short of excellent. He tossed a no-hitter on May 5, and he recorded six other quality starts in the first two months of the season. He will need to recover from his injury, but Means is in a good spot to continue to be on the 2021 MLB Cy Young ladder.
No.3: Kyle Gibson, Texas Rangers (+2)
In an age of strikeouts, Kyle Gibson is pitching to contact to great success. While he only has a 23rd-percentile strikeout rate, he is in the 91st percentile at preventing barreled balls. He is second in the AL in home runs allowed per nine, fueling his second-best ERA and ERA+ in the AL. He leads the AL in pitching WAR, and he has a WHIP of just 1.030. Since his blow-up start on Opening Day, Gibson has twirled an ERA of 1.51 and an opponent’s batting average of .195. In his last 12 starts, Gibson has allowed three runs just once, posting a trio of scoreless outings.
No.4: Liam Hendriks, Chicago White Sox (New)
While Liam Hendriks has blown three saves in 21 chances, he has only allowed runs in five of 31 outings. He has an AL-leading 16 appearances that he allowed zero runs, zero hits, and zero walks, slamming the door for 11 saves in that set. Hendriks had a perfect May, allowing zero earned runs and converting all eight save opportunities. In total, the 2019 All-Star and 2020 MVP vote-getter leads the AL in saves. The batted-ball data supports Hendriks’ dominance as he ranks in the 98th percentile or better in xwOBA, expected ERA, strikeout rate, walk rate, and chase rate. It will be hard for a reliever to win the Cy Young, but Hendriks has been the cream of the crop so far.
No.5: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees (-4)
Sticky stuff notwithstanding, Gerrit Cole‘s first full season in New York is going well. He has a career-low ERA of 2.31, pacing the AL in FIP, walk rate, and strikeouts per walk. He is second in the AL in pitching WAR and fourth overall. Cole is second in WHIP and fourth in strikeout rate in the AL. He ranks in the 90th percentile or better in xwOBA, expected ERA, strikeout rate, walk rate, and chase rate. Cole has had two starts allowing five runs, but he 12 starts allowing two or fewer earned runs including a quartet of scoreless outings. He has struck out 10 or more batters in five starts.
2021 MLB Cy Young: National League
No.1: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets (+0)
Jacob deGrom has effectively broken baseball. His only contemporary is Bob Gibson in 1968, and even then, deGrom’s ERA is half that of Gibson’s modern record of 1.12. Out of 21,749 pitching seasons that featured 67 or more innings, just 14 have had an ERA of 1.00 or below. deGrom’s 0.54 is tied with Zack Britton for the lowest as both pitchers allowed four earned runs in 67 innings. Naturally, deGrom’s peripheral stats are ridiculous as he leads the Majors in FIP, WHIP, hits per nine, walks per nine, strikeouts per nine, and strikeouts per walk.
He is in the 100th percentile of xwOBA, expected ERA, expected batting average, strikeout rate, chase rate, and fastball velocity. deGrom is having the greatest pitching season in MLB history.
No.2: Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (+3)
Let’s pretend that deGrom does not exist for a moment.
Brandon Woodruff is having a terrific season for Milwaukee. He has an ERA under 2.00, the lowest WHIP in the NL by a player not named deGrom, and a 211 ERA+. He ranks in the 93rd percentile in both xwOBA and expected ERA. Out of 17,232 seasons with at least 88 recorded innings, Woodruff ranks third in WHIP, trailing 2016 Clayton Kershaw and 2000 Pedro Martinez. Woodruff went on a 12-start stretch from April 7 to June 11 that he posted a 1.25 ERA and struck out 92 batters in 79 innings.
No.3: Kevin Gausman, San Francisco Giants (New)
The former Baltimore Oriole, Atlanta Brave, and Cincinnati Red is having a masterful season for the San Francisco Giants. Kevin Gausman has a 1.51 ERA, 259 ERA+, and 2.38 FIP, all leading a deGrom-less NL. He has a historically low 0.770 WHIP, and he is striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings. The batted-ball numbers are solid as well as Gausman is in the 88th percentile in xwOBA and expected ERA. It is the first season of Gausman’s career that he has an expected ERA under 3.50 (2.82), and he is a key piece on the team with the NL’s best record.
No.4: Trevor Rogers, Miami Marlins (+0)
After a forgettable 2020 season, Trevor Rogers has become a bona fide ace in 2021. The runaway leader for NL Rookie of the Year, Rogers has a 1.87 ERA through 81.2 innings pitched. He has a 215 ERA+ and 1.016 WHIP. He is also striking out 10.5 batters per nine. Rogers ranks in the 87th percentile in xwOBA and expected ERA. Rogers has yet to allow four runs in a start, and he has posted monthly ERAs of 1.29, 2.34, and 1.89. Rogers may not win the Cy Young in 2021, but he has been a bright spot for a 29-39 Miami Marlins team.
No.5: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (New)
The NL leader in WAR, Zack Wheeler leads the NL in innings pitched and strikeouts. He also ranks among the NL leaders in walks per nine, home runs per nine, ERA, and ERA+. Wheeler has an impressive 2.15 ERA and 183 ERA+. Since shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers on May 6, Wheeler has posted a 1.25 ERA over 57.2 innings. Wheeler has five starts with 10 strikeouts, maxing out with 14 against the Tampa Bay Rays on May 29. Wheeler and deGrom are the only pitchers to have four games with an 80 or better game score.
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