Looking at the AL Cy Young race and a new GM report

I was not among the writers assigned to vote for the American League Cy Young Award this year, but that doesn’t keep me from having an opinion on who should win.

First, a quick look at the three finalists. In alphabetical order they are Corey Kluber of Cleveland, Blake Snell of Tampa Bay and Justin Verlander of Houston. Kluber won the AL Cy Young in both 2014 and 2017 and was third in 2016. Verlander won in 2011, finished second in 2012 and 2016 and has been in the top five six times.

Kluber went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA, a WHIP of 0.99 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 6.53. Snell went 21-5 with an ERA of 1.89, a WHIP of 0.97 and a ratio of 3.45. Verlander finished the season going 16-9 with an ERA of 2.52 with a WHIP of 0.90 and a ratio of 7.84.

One argument against Snell is that while Kluber threw 215 innings and Verlander 214, Snell threw just 180 2/3, which will be the lowest total to win the award if he finishes first tonight.

Some voters may put a real premium on innings and that might keep Snell from winning, a year after he went 5-7 with an ERA of 4.04.

But Snell has a few numbers on his side including slash line against:
* Snell - .178/.254/.300 with an OPS against of .554.
* Kluber - .223/.257/.367 with an OPS against of .624.
* Verlander - .200/.242/.360 with an OPS against of .602.

Snell also pitched the best versus 2018 AL playoff teams:
* Snell went 9-2 with an ERA of 2.00 in 12 starts.
* Kluber went 2-1 with a 2.91 ERA in five starts.
* Verlander went 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in six starts.

Snell is my pick for the Cy Young Award. He led the AL in ERA, wins, opponent average and OPS, and posted those strong numbers versus playoff teams. He was tougher to hit via batting average allowed and yielded the fewest homers/nine innings at 0.8 to 1.0 for Kluber and 1.2 for Verlander.

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpgVerlander led the AL in strikeouts with 290 and the majors in WHIP. He has made a case for the innings pitched totals being very significant and he did throw 34 more innings than Snell. That is five to six more starts. Should that make the difference here?

The number of innings pitched does not make the difference for me. Consider that the only other two pitchers in the designated hitter era to post 20 wins with sub-2.00 ERAs were unanimous Cy Young winners in New York’s Ron Guidry in 1978 and Boston’s Pedro Martinez in 2000. And also that the last 10 pitchers to lead the AL in wins and ERA all won.

Does Snell knock off two former Cy Young Award winners tonight on the way to his first?

As for the Orioles: There will once again be no Orioles winner of this award in 2018. The last Oriole to win the AL Cy Young was Steve Stone in 1980. Mike Cuellar was the first when he tied for the award with Detroit’s Denny McLain in 1969. Jim Palmer was a three-time winner in 1973, 1975 and 1976. He finished in the top five eight times. Mike Flanagan won the award in 1979. So four Orioles have won the Cy Young a combined six times.

Is this the guy?: Current Houston assistant general manager Mike Elias is going to join the Orioles as general manager, according to a report from USA Today that hit Twitter just before midnight.

We’ll see if this report proves accurate and the report does not indicate whether Elias would be No. 1 in the baseball operations department or work under or alongside a team president or someone with a similar position.

Elias is a 35-year-old Yale graduate and pitched for four seasons for the Yale baseball team. Before joining Houston, he started his career as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2007.

Here is more on Elias from the Houston Astros media guide:

“Mike Elias was named Assistant General Manager, Player Acquisition in August of 2017, a position in which he leads both the club’s domestic and international scouting efforts. Now in his 12th season in Major League Baseball, Elias has been instrumental in assembling the Astros’ roster and building its top-ranked farm system since he joined the club in January of 2012. As the club’s scouting director, Elias served as one of the major contributors to the accumulation of young talent that has occurred during General Manager Jeff Luhnow’s tenure. His involvement and leadership in the organization’s amateur draft efforts helped to rapidly elevate the Astros’ talent pipeline to one of the best in baseball and furnished key pieces that contributed to the organization’s 2017 World Series Championship.”

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