By: Marc Lam
Ronald C. Modra, Getty Images
In 2018, we are still seeing an evolution in pitching. Relievers are becoming significantly more important and starters are staying out less and less. The Tampa Bay Rays are a great example of this evolution, as they have pioneered the opener, a method where a reliever will begin a game, stay in for an inning or two, and then come out. In the middle of all of this, on a team predicated on relief pitching, there is Blake Snell and his magnificent 2018 season.
Snell’s dominance began this year when he was the number two starter behind Chris Archer, although that changed quickly. While Archer had early season struggles, Snell emerged as a true ace. By the all-star break he had an ERA of 2.09 and was 12-4. Despite him originally being snubbed for the all-star team, he eventually made it as Corey Kluber’s injury replacement. As 2018 went on, Snell’s dominance continued. In 169 innings Snell has a 1.97 ERA with 200 strikeouts and a 0.970 whip. His opponents have a measly .178 batting average against him. These numbers are arguably the greatest in Rays history, even topping David Price’s excellent 2012 Cy Young season. However, are these impressive numbers enough to win him the Cy Young?
For the majority of 2018 Chris Sale has been the front runner for the Cy Young, however with his recent stint on the DL, Sale could potentially lose votes for lack of innings. This should also be accounted for with Snell as well. Snell has only thrown 169 innings, a weak point for some Cy Young voters. In the history of the award no winner has ever thrown less than 200 innings. For some of the older voters this could come into play, but seeing as pitchers are throwing less and less, I think the winner could definitely throw less than 200 innings. Considering the voters love workhorses who throw lots of innings, Corey Kluber and his 203 IP could overtake Snell or Sale, however I think his raw numbers simply do not match up with either. Kluber’s 2.93 ERA and 205 strikeouts are nice, however they aren’t on the same caliber as Sale’s 229 or Snell’s 200, and both have thrown 40-50 less innings than Kluber. Another factor that could play into this is wins. While I believe that wins are completely irrelevant, there are still plenty of voters who value wins a lot. Snell’s 21 wins could sway a lot of voters, and compared to Sale’s 12 wins, this could be one of the deciding factors. Now as far as narrative goes, the Cy Young award is less about narrative than it is about raw stats. It’s not like MVP where if you are leading a great playoff team with a great story you can take the award(I’m looking at you, 2002 Miguel Tejeda). Sale has the better overall narrative, but even so Snell should take it.
Overall, I think Snell beats all of the other candidates for Cy Young. However, since he plays for a small market team in Tampa Bay, it will be hard for him to gain votes over big market pitchers like Sale. Either way, both Snell and Sale are deserving, I just think Snell deserves it a tad bit more.