By Seth McCaskill
Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers: 16-3, 2.15 ERA, 151 IP, 182 SO, 0.90 WHIP
For the seventh consecutive season, Clayton Kershaw finds himself entrenched in the National League Cy Young race despite missing more than a month because of an injury. To put in context how unbelievable he is, even after that month and a half-long absence, he’s still the league leader in ERA and is top 30 in the NL in innings pitched. As usual, Kershaw has been dominant with his perennially high strikeout rate and low walk rate. He became the third-quickest player to 2,000 career strikeouts, and this future Hall-of-Famer has just as much of a chance at the Cy Young as ever.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals: 14-5, 2.32 ERA, 178.1 IP, 239 SO, 0.87 WHIP
Scherzer has put together a sparkling campaign toward winning his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award, as he has the second-best ERA, the best WHIP, most strikeouts and lowest batting average against in the league. He could have a leg up on his competition because he has been healthy and dominant all season but there is no clear front runner.
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers: 36/37 SV, 1.32 ERA, 61.1 IP, 98 SO, 0.72 WHIP
Although closers normally don’t get a lot of love in Cy Young voting, this year could be different. There is a lack of starting pitching candidates in the NL beyond Kershaw and Scherzer, and another Los Angeles Dodger, Kenley Jansen, is having one of the best seasons for a closer in a long time. Earlier in the season, he ended a streak of 51 strikeouts without a walk June 25, which set an MLB record. Although it would be unexpected for Jansen to win the award, he would be completely deserving if he did, as he is unbelievably valuable to the Dodgers.
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians: 15-4, 2.56 ERA, 175.2 IP, 235 SO, 0.88 WHIP
Indians ace Corey Kluber has somewhat flown under the radar as arguably the best starting pitcher in the American League as Chris Sale has overshadowed him and his ridiculous strikeout numbers. Although he does not have those kind of strikeout numbers, he bests Sale and many other important categories, such as ERA, WHIP and batting average against, while also pitching four complete games, which can sometimes be overlooked stats in the modern strikeout-crazed MLB.
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox: 16-7, 2.76 ERA, 195.2 IP, 278 SO, 0.95 WHIP
Kershaw isn’t the only lefty to achieve an impressive milestone during the 2017 season, as Sale became the only pitcher in MLB history to record 1,500 strikeouts in less than 1,300 innings. He is the premier strikeout artist in baseball, and that’s not at the expense of limiting base runners or runs. He also has a sizable lead over Ervin Santana in the innings pitched department.
Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox: 32/36 SV, 1.50 ERA, 60 IP, 112 SO, 0.67 WHIP
The situation in the American League is similar to that of the NL, as there are only two starting pitchers deserving of first-place Cy Young votes, though a closing pitcher is having a lockdown season deserving of consideration. In this case, it’s Craig Kimbrel, as he has registered a whopping 112 strikeouts in 60 innings, which comes out to 16.8 strikeouts per nine innings, a rate that’s almost unheard of. Throw in his miniscule WHIP, and you have got about as good of a case for a closer to win the Cy Young as you’re going to get.