By Hayden Bonine
With a little less than a month to go in the MLB season, the Cy Young candidates enter the home stretch of the regular season. September in the MLB is preparation for the playoffs. Playoff spots are being won or lost and teams begin late-season pushes for the World Series. September is where a championship team gets the ball rolling. These pitchers are relied upon to dominate their starts and propel their team further in the playoff push.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: 13-5, 2.19 ERA, 232 SO, 43 BB
Max Scherzer has been solid for the Nationals throughout the year. His five losses can be attributed to lack of run support, as he has given up about two-earned runs in those losses. His strikeout total is tops among NL pitchers. His ERA is second to only Clayton Kershaw’s 1.95. After Scherzer and Kershaw, the closest ERA for the 2017 season is 2.56. The disparity between Scherzer and the rest of the league is not to be understated. If not for Kershaw’s brilliant pitching in the NL, Scherzer would be a shoo-in for his third Cy Young Award.
Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks: 16-6, 3.08 ERA, 188 SO, 38 BB
Diamondbacks pitcher Zach Greinke has been a staple for Arizona’s rotation and the team’s success. He is tied for the MLB lead for wins with 16. He is also in the top 10 in ERA, walks and strikeouts. Greinke put in yeomen’s work in the month of August, making six starts. Most starting pitchers make four starts per month, so six is a taxing workload on any pitcher. The Diamondbacks will continue to lean heavily on Greinke to start as many games as possible
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: 16-2, 1.95 ERA, 175 SO, 24 BB
With respect to the pair of candidates listed above, the NL Cy Young Award appears to be headed to Clayton Kershaw for the fourth time in his career. To grasp how dominant Kershaw has been, one must look at a date – May 1, 2017. Spanning over five months and 16 starts, Kershaw has not lost since then. That is the epitome of dominance. Naturally accompanying the stat of not losing, Kershaw is tied for the MLB’s highest win total with 16. Continuing the jaw-dropping trend, he holds the league’s lowest ERA, walk total and loss total among qualifying pitchers. Without question, Kershaw is head-and-shoulders above the other pitchers in the MLB this season.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians: 14-4, 2.56 ERA, 222 SO, 33 BB
Corey Kluber has been quietly brilliant this season for the Indians. In his last nine starts, Kluber is 7-1, throwing two complete games. Kluber has hit double-digit strikeout totals five times in those starts. He has been an unsung strikeout king this season, making four less starts than strikeout leader Chris Sale but ranking fourth in strikeouts among MLB starters. His ERA of 2.56 is outstanding and the lowest in the AL. The defending AL champion Indians will need Kluber to continue his hot pitching tear to contend in the weeks leading to the playoffs.
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox: 15-7, 2.85 ERA, 270 SO, 37 BB
The Red Sox are in position to win their division and it is due, in large part, to Chris Sale. He is at the top of the AL, and second in the MLB, in wins. The most attractive stat for casual or hardcore fans is strikeouts. With 270 strikeouts, he has 38 more than the second-place pitcher. Perhaps the most important stats Sale have to offer are his innings pitched and games started. He has pitched a league-leading 189.2 innings and started 28 games. Sale has not missed a start all season. Of the six pitchers on this list, Sale is the only one who can make those claims. When talking about pitchers who always show up for work, in the 2017 season, Sale is as trustworthy as pitchers come.
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox: 32 Saves, 1.55 ERA, 58 IP, 106 SO
Like his teammate Sale, Craig Kimbrel has been solid for the Red Sox all season. His 32 saves may not appear to be an outstanding number, but it is good when paired with the 36 save opportunities Kimbrel has had. That conversion rate is third among all closers in the MLB. In 58 innings pitched, Kimbrel has an astonishing 106 strikeouts. To give a bit of context to that number, Kershaw had 59 strikeouts through 58 innings pitched. Kimbrel is an elite closing pitcher performing magnificently down the stretch.