With the one month left in the season, it is time to look at the 2021 MLB MVP ladder in both the American League and the National League. If the season ended today, who would snag the league Cy Young Awards?
Compared to the last installment in this series, this is the most concrete as there are clear favorites in each league. Odds will be provided for each player.
Stats are accurate as of August 31.
2021 MLB Cy Young: American League
No.1: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees (-160)
While Gerrit Cole’s season has been rocky at times, he still leads the American League in FIP, WHIP, strikeouts per nine, and strikeouts per walk. For the traditional fan, he also has the most wins and complete games in the league. The 2019 Cy Young runner-up is poised to make his fourth-straight top-five finish, his fifth overall. Cole ranks fifth in the AL in WAR including second among pitchers. He is crafting his fourth-straight sub-3.00 ERA season and third-straight sub-1.000 WHIP season. Cole’s stellar ERA+ of 155 ranks third in the AL.
No.2: Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (+200)
Lance Lynn’s Cy Young candidacy is built on his elite run prevention. He has the lowest ERA in the AL at just 2.59. His 166 ERA+ and 6.9 hits per nine allowed also lead the league. He is third among AL pitchers in WAR. He also ranks fourth in WHIP and fifth in strikeouts per nine. Lynn has flirted with the Cy Young Award before, placing fifth in voting in 2019 and sixth in 2020. He was roughed up for seven earned runs in his previous start, capping off an August with a 4.67 ERA. Hopefully, for Lynn and the White Sox, that blowup was just a blip on the radar.
No.3: Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays (+450)
Robbie Ray has almost appeared out of nowhere to lead the American League in strikeouts. He was a 2017 All-Star and seventh-place Cy Young finisher, but his 2021 might just be the cream of the crop. Ray is striking out more than 11 batters per nine for the sixth straight season, further cementing himself as the greatest strikeout artist in MLB history. Believe it or not, Ray has the highest strikeout per nine rate of any pitcher who has thrown 1,000 innings, narrowly edging out Chris Sale and Yu Darvish. He may come up short in the Cy Young race, but striking out more batters than Cole is no small feat.
No.4: Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox (+1500)
As of writing, Carlos Rodon does not qualify for the ERA title, but if he qualified, he would be at the top of the leaderboard. Among starters with 100 innings pitched, Rodon leads the AL in FIP, strikeout rate, and ERA+. Even without the mammoth innings tally that his contemporaries have, Rodon is fourth among AL pitchers in WAR and sixth in strikeouts. He is also fourth in adjusted pitching runs and adjusted pitching wins. He may not win the Cy Young because of innings pitched, but the first-time All-Star will be making his first Cy Young ballot nonetheless.
No.5: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (+2000)
Like Rodon, Shohei Ohtani will have a difficult road qualifying for pitching leaderboards, but he has been excellent on the mound in 2021. All told, Ohtani sports a 3.00 ERA His 6.2 hits per nine allowed edges out Rodon for the best mark among American Leaguers with 100 innings pitched. He is striking out 10.9 batters per nine, and his 154 ERA+ is just a point behind Cole. In his first five starts after the All-Star break, Ohtani twirled a 1.36 ERA. While he did allow four runs in five innings in his most recent start, he still has a 2.13 ERA since the break.
2021 MLB Cy Young: National League
No.1: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers (-115)
Speaking of “since the All-Star break,” Walker Buehler has the lowest ERA in Major League Baseball since the break. His 1.32 ERA over that stretch has fueled an MLB-best 2.02 ERA on the season. Buehler has an exceptional 193 ERA+ across 169 innings for the Dodgers. He won Pitcher of the Month in July, and he ranks second in the NL in WAR. He is second in WHIP and sixth in home runs per nine. Buehler’s 3.04 FIP is fifth in the league. Impressively, Buehler leads the NL in both adjusted pitching runs and adjusted pitching wins.
No.2: Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers (+225)
Corbin Burnes has been a FIP god in 2021. FIP is composed of three main influences: home runs per nine, walks per nine, and strikeouts per nine. Burnes leads the NL in walks allowed per nine, and he leads all of MLB in home runs allowed per nine and strikeouts per nine. As of writing, Burnes’ 1.58 FIP is in the top 10 ever. Of the 26 pitchers to qualify for the ERA title and have a FIP under 1.80, only 1984 Dwight Gooden, 1999 Pedro Martinez, and 2021 Burnes have done so since the Year of the Pitcher in 1968.
No.3: Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (+550)
Zack Wheeler has been an innings gobbler for the Phillies in 2021. Wheeler leads MLB in complete games, shutouts, innings pitched, strikeouts, and batters faced. Despite the massive workload, Wheeler has a 3.01 ERA and 133 ERA+. Additionally, he has a 2.69 FIP that ranks second in the NL. He is third in the NL in WAR, second among pitchers. Wheeler is one of the most walk-averse pitchers in the NL, ranking third in walks per nine allowed. He is 10th in strikeouts per nine, and the first-time All-Star will certainly improve upon his 12th-place finish in the 2020 Cy Young voting.
No.4: Brandon Woodruff, Milwaukee Brewers (+800)
While he would be the runner-up to Cy Young on his team, Brandon Woodruff has had a stellar season. He ranks 10th in the NL in WAR, fourth for pitchers. His 2.38 ERA is third in the league. He ranks sixth in strikeouts with a seventh-place mark in strikeouts per nine rate. He is third in ERA+ with a 176. Woodruff is also third in FIP. While Woodruff made his second All-Star team this season, this will be the first season that he will have earned any votes for Cy Young (barring a disaster).
No.5: Max Scherzer, Los Angeles Dodgers (+1600)
Max Scherzer, not Kevin Gausman, is the NL West pitcher that earns the final spot here. Scherzer has flown under the radar for much of 2021, but his sensational start to his Dodgers career has launched him into fringe Cy Young contention. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has a 1.55 ERA in five starts with the Dodgers, lowering his total ERA to 2.51, the best of his career. Scherzer leads baseball in WHIP (0.879) and hits per nine allowed (5.8). He is ninth in NL pitcher WAR, fifth in ERA, and second in strikeouts per nine.
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