Starting pitchers, or all pitchers for that matter, across the MLB are facing a bit of a crisis over the course of the past few seasons. Hitters are becoming more powerful, increasing their bat speed and launch angles through analytics to boost their averages and home runs totals.
But pitching is in good hands, as there are great staffs and arms across the league that are helping quell the rise of offense in an act to make people remember that pitchers are important people too. Winning the American League Cy Young award in 2018, Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell is at the forefront of this push.
Leading a resurgent Rays team that exceeded expectations last season and won 90 games against 72 losses, Snell was the team’s ace in the hole. Pitching to a sparkling 21-5 record across 31 starts is one thing, but to do it with a sub-2.00 ERA is another.
The 6-4, 215 lb. southpaw had a 1.89 ERA across a whopping 180.2 innings pitched, a miraculous number that is not commonly seen for that many innings covered. Snell was led by other helping arms in his rotation, but the Rays ultimately fell short in their bid to make the playoffs, not even qualifying for the Wild Card.
Snell, along with four other pitchers, are all leading favorites to be the AL’s Cy Young winning in 2019. Here are the five likely choices for this upcoming season.
Blake Snell, LHP, Tampa Bay
As previously mentioned, Snell is coming off of a career year and he has the tools to repeat as Cy Young winner. Leading the Rays is no easy task, especially with how much their fanbase holds the franchise in disdain, but Snell is doing what he can with what he has, and he is making magic.
While primed for a regression in terms of numbers, Snell can easily hold even at 2018’s numbers or even pass them up, provided his offense picks him in certain situations. Snell may have won last year, but he may not be looked at as a favorite this season.
Chris Sale, LHP, Boston
A run on lefties begins this list but ends with Chris Sale. Dominant since his days as a hard-throwing lefty for the Chicago White Sox, Sale has now moved onto Boston and has anchored down their rotation for a few seasons already, with hope that he has many more there, according to reports.
Sale has been on a run not quite seen by many pitchers across the league, especially for a pitcher who throws so hard. Injuries are easy to fall upon a flamethrower, but Sale has been efficient in keeping up his health while maintaining his performance on the rubber.
While award winners are seemingly dictated by their team’s performance, Snell winning the award last season was one of the first in a while that relied on pure talent from the award winner. Sale can get the award back to what it has been the previous few seasons, as his team will be looking to repeat as World Series champions in 2019.
Trevor Bauer, RHP, Cleveland
Not mentioning Corey Kluber here may be a surprise, but with the constant trade chatter surrounding his name this offseason, it is easy to see that may have affected him in his offseason preparations. Kluber may still face these same rumors during the season, leading to his fellow rotational counterpart to exceed in his place.
Trevor Bauer has been mic’d up in spring training, providing fans and spectators alike a cool insight into the game, something that really was not available to fans before this. Bauer is a fan’s player, reasoning and interacting with fans through Twitter and other social media platforms, but his play is what talks the most for him.
Bauer is ready for a career season, something that could either get him more money from a team looking to cut expensive assets but still compete, or it could earn him a one-way ticket out of town in return for an expensive prospect-laden package to send Bauer to greener pastures, most likely to help a playoff team get back to the promised land.
Helping out an Indians team that is very much in control of winning yet another AL Central divisional title is first and foremost for Bauer, but he can turn his sights to winning a Cy Young award if he were to have a dominant first-half and help his team overcome any resistance from divisional foes.
Justin Verlander, RHP, Houston
The old, steadfast veteran on this list, Justin Verlander somehow just keeps plugging away as the Astros’ ace, helping get them one series away from getting back to the World Series last season, losing to the eventual champions. While Verlander did lose some help in the form of Marwin Gonzalez and fellow starter Dallas Keuchel (presumably), Verlander still has Gerrit Cole to rely on to help bridge the gap to the remainder of the rotation.
Verlander remains one of the most dominant players in this generation, not even when just considering pitchers. His willingness to adapt to varying situations, pitching through difficulties and succeeding wherever he goes is a plus for a player who can go home at night to his supermodel wife and not worry about a damn thing.
He seems to play the game with ease, something that not many are able to do. Acting like he does not have a care in the world while still giving 110 percent is a unique trait of Verlander’s that will never disappear, making him a consistent entry onto this award frontrunner list.
Blake Treinen, CP, Oakland
The lone non-starter on this list, Blake Treinen is attempting to break the mold of relievers being factors in major award races. Never truly competing for an MVP award, Treinen has some of the nastiest stuff out of the pen, even with being stuck on a consistently-underwhelming Athletics franchise.
To boost Treinen’s chances, the A’s must overperform expectations this year, and nothing short of winning their division would be considered helping Treinen’s cause. While the Cy Young award is a performance-based accolade, everyone knows that unless you put out the greatest individual season known to man, your team’s performance will dictate how you fare when it comes time to vote.
Treinen will face an uphill battle due to not being a starting pitcher, but he has the tools to make a run at it. Treinen and Craig Kimbrel both are very efficient closers, but with Kimbrel not having signed yet, house money should be put on Treinen as the reliever with the best chances in 2019.
Overall winner: Trevor Bauer