Mark Clark: Sale, Scherzer should lead in the Cy Young races

Mark Clark: Sale, Scherzer should lead in the Cy Young races

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In the last few weeks, I have given you my opinion as to which players in Major League Baseball will be the winners of the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. This week, I will tell you which players I think will be the front runners to win the Cy Young awards in each league.

Over the course of my life, I have seen some very good Cy Young award winners. Probably the best was the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson. Very few pitchers have been able to put up the numbers like he did. In 1968, Gibson won the National League’s MVP and Cy Young awards while going 22-9 on the mound with a 1.12 ERA in 304.2 innings, with 13 shutouts and struck out 268 opposing batters. He won all 12 of his starts during June and July and recorded eight shutouts while holding opponents scoreless for 47 innings during that streak. Those are some pretty good numbers.

Gibson had quite a run in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the three years 1968-1970, Gibson won 65 games and lost 29 with an ERA in the low 2.00s while throwing over an average of 300 innings per year and striking out 812 batters. He threw 79 complete games during that stretch as well. Think any pitcher today could do that? I don’t.

You may see some impressive numbers from some pitchers this season, but I doubt they will come close to the numbers Gibson posted in any of those three years. Still, there are good pitchers in Major League Baseball and they will shine in 2019.

My first pick for Cy Young winner in the American League for 2019 is Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox. Sale is a perennial Cy Young contender. However, he is still looking for that first one. This may be his year. Sale has come close to winning the award in his first two years with the Red Sox. He almost won in 2017 after striking out 308 batters. He finished as the runner-up. Last season, Sale finished fourth while going 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA with 237 strikeouts while limited in the second half of the season by injuries. Overall, Sale has finished at least sixth in the balloting for the award since 2012, tying him with Clayton Kershaw and Greg Maddox for the longest such streak ever.

Second on my list for the American League Cy Young is Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole. Cole was 1¬5-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 276 strikeouts last season and finished fifth for the award. His biggest hurdle to winning the award is not Chris Sale, but his own teammate Justin Verlander.

Verlander is my third pick for the Cy Young award among American League pitchers. Verlander was second in the voting for the award last season. He was 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA with 290 strikeouts. 

If I went any further than three deep in my predictions, I would toss in Blake Snell, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer. Of course, either of these three could easily surpass the three I predicted as the front-runners.

Over on the other side of Major League Baseball – the National League side – my top pick for the Cy Young is Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Scherzer has won the award in three of the last six seasons. So, picking him is not a big surprise is it? Last season, Scherzer was 18-7 with a 2.53 ERA and a Major League best 300 strikeouts. With those numbers, he finished second for the award behind Jacob deGrom.

Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets is my second pick for the Cy Young in the National League. In 2018, deGrom won the Cy Young with some impressive and not-so-impressive numbers. His 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts in 217 innings was an impressive set of numbers. His 10-9 record was not. In fact, his 10 wins were the fewest ever for Cy Young winners with 30 starts. Still, he has the potential to reach the first set of numbers again this season and improve the number of wins and that is why he is my second pick.

Coming in at No. 3 on my list is Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a rising star at 24 years old. His numbers last season were 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA and 151 strikeouts. His last start in 2018 came in Game 3 of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox when he gave up two hits over seven innings while striking out seven.

If, like I said in my American League picks, I were to go beyond three predictions for the award in the National League, I would toss in Aaron Nola, German Marquez, Noah Syndergaard and Kyle Hendricks. There are a lot of guys that can win this award other than the guys I picked in my top three.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for 

The Citizen of East Alabama.