Major League Baseball will announce the American and National League Cy Young Award winners on Wednesday evening Eastern time, and the two pitchers likely to win for the first time are Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer (who used to pitch for the Indians)
Cy Young Awards | 2020 MLB Expert AnalysisThe other AL finalists with Bieber are the Twins’ Kenta Maeda and Blue Jays’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, both former Los Angeles Dodgers, but Bieber is going to win. In fact, Bieber should be unanimous after becoming the first pitcher since Minnesota’s Johan Santana in 2006 to lead the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts.
After finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting in 2019, Bieber ended up with five scoreless outings in 12 starts (and another with just one unearned run) and double-digit strikeouts in eight starts as he finished 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA and 122 K’s in 77⅓ innings.
Bieber was No. 1 among pitchers in wins above replacement (3.2) as calculated by both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs, and could be the first unanimous winner since Clayton Kershaw won the National League award in 2014. Bieber is looking to join a distinguished list of Indians pitchers to win the award, including Corey Kluber (2014, 2017), Cliff Lee (2009), C.C. Sabathia (2008), Gaylord Perry (1972) and Bob Feller (1940).
Bieber joined Feller as the second Indians pitcher to win the AL Triple Crown. The right-hander tallied 8+ SO in all 12 starts this season, marking the 2nd-longest streak of tallying 8+ K’s to start a season in MLB history behind only Randy Johnson, who did so in 15 consecutive games in 2000.
The 25-year-old finished the year with a 14.20 SO/9 ratio. His 122 strikeouts were the sixth most in MLB history (since 1900) through a pitchers first 12 starts of a season and the most since Arizona’s Curt Schilling in 2002 (123). Cleveland went 10-2 in his starts.
The Indians are scheduled to open the 2021 season on April 1 in Detroit against the Tigers and Bieber surely will be on the mound. He surely can’t wait for that after a disappointing effort in the Wild-Card Round vs. the Yankees.
Bieber was shelled for seven earned runs over 4 2/3 innings as the Indians dropped Game 1 and would go on to be swept. Bieber allowed nine hits — two homers, two doubles – and walked two. The last time Bieber allowed seven earned runs was July 24, 2018, in his eighth career MLB start.
While Bieber will surely be with the Indians to start next season, Bauer probably won’t be with the Reds as he’s a free agent. The other finalists for the NL Award are the Cubs’ Yu Darvish and Mets’ Jacob deGrom, who has won the NL Award the past two years.
All three allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning. All three have nearly unhittable fastballs, with elite spin rates and sub-.200 expected batting averages against. And each ranked in the top 10 among qualified starters in strikeout rate, all clocking in above 30%.
Bauer and Darvish finished with almost identical run averages against (2.10 versus 2.13) while facing the same competition. DeGrom’s 2.78 mark was higher, but voters might determine that he pitched better than that figure when other factors, including his quality of competition, is factored in. Bauer pitched more than six innings in eight of his 11 starts this season. Darvish and deGrom combined for just nine such outings between the two of them.
Bauer led the NL in ERA (1.73), WHIP (0.79) and opponent batting average (.159) as well as ERA+ and shutouts. He posted a 1.29 ERA in September, leading the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Believe it or not, no member of the Reds has ever won the Cy Young. It may seem odd that a franchise that has had players win the National League MVP 12 times doesn’t have a single Cy Young winner. Since the Cy Young has been awarded, the Reds have had three pitchers – Tom Seaver in 1981, Danny Jackson in 1988 and Johnny Cueto in 2014 – put up numbers that would win almost any year, but each time a Dodgers pitcher had slightly better numbers.
The Reds open the 2021 season at home vs. St. Louis on April 1 but it would be an upset if Bauer is on the mound – we think he ends up with the Angels.
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