National League Cy Young Voters Mostly Got It Right
Unlike in the American League, where no starting pitcher distinguished themselves above another over the course of the 2016 regular season, the National League was loaded with top-end starters who were having terrific seasons.
Voters had a difficult decision on their hands. Three-fifths of the Chicago Cubs' rotation deserved consideration, as did two-fifths of the Washington Nationals' starting rotation. The San Francisco Giants had two starters who could have taken home the hardware, and the best pitcher in the game -- Clayton Kershaw -- didn't win it because he was hurt for two months.
And that doesn't even take into account the tragic death of another top hurler and the continued heroics of a man named "Thor."
But at the end of the day, the Baseball Writers Association of America got it right with their choice for NL Cy Young in 2016, the Washington Nationals' Max Scherzer. Here is how the voting broke down.
Scherzer was the National League's only 20-game winner this season, going 20-7 with a 2.96 ERA and 3.24 FIP, striking out a career high 11.19 batters per nine innings while walking just 2.21 per nine. Scherzer also turned in the game of the year by a starting pitcher this season, a 20-strikeout masterpiece against his former team, the Detroit Tigers.
This was Scherzer's second Cy Young Award, the first coming with Detroit in 2013. And with his selection, Scherzer joined noted scrubs Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry and Roy Halladay as the only pitchers to win the Cy Young in both leagues. He also became the first pitcher in Washington franchise history (including when the team was the Senators) to win a Cy Young.
Scherzer was the only player listed on every ballot.
Frankly, people don't talk enough about just how great Max Scherzer truly is. Since 2013, only the amazing Kershaw has a better fWAR -- or Fangraphs WAR -- (29.8 to 23.3) and WHIP (0.86 to 1.01). Only two pitchers, Yu Darvish and Jose Fernandez, have averaged more strikeouts per nine than Scherzer's 10.62, and his 73 "wins" and 1,052 strikeouts lead all MLB pitchers over that stretch.
Scherzer is obviously a deserving winner. However, as I mentioned in a piece previewing this award a couple weeks ago, there were three pitchers ahead of him in fWAR who finished beneath him in the voting.
Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard both had fWAR totals of 6.5, and Kershaw's would have obviously been higher had he not missed two months with back issues. And Fernandez's 6.2 fWAR was also better than Scherzer's still-terrific 5.6. However, Scherzer did lead all National League starters in Baseball Reference's WAR totals (rWAR) at 6.2. Kershaw and Johnny Cueto were both at 5.6.
At the end of the day, Scherzer became the obvious choice, but the order of the pitchers below him was extremely interesting, especially Syndergaard, who finished with just one second-place vote, one third-place vote, two fourth-place votes and two fifth-place votes for a measly total of 15 points. That put him in just eighth place.
Syndergaard tied for the highest fWAR in the National League last season, and he was tied for 6th in rWAR (5.3). Thor was 3rd in ERA (2.60), 4th in strikeouts per nine (10.68), tied for 4th in strikeouts (218), 2nd in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.070, one-thousandth of a point behind Scherzer), third in ERA+ (158), and first in FIP (2.29) and home runs allowed per nine innings (0.539).
Seems like he was better than the eighth-best pitcher in the National League. After the vote, Syndergaard took to Twitter to voice some displeasure, but he did not take out the Kate Upton bazooka, instead offering up a more subtle take.
It's OK Kate...I only got 4 votes.....total. Nobody likes me 😭https://t.co/NVkQvZ7sKu
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) November 17, 2016
Frankly, it's insane the guy wasn't one of the three finalists, let alone finishing in 8th place.
However, the Syndergaard "hate" aside, the voters in the National League Cy Young voting did a much better job than the American League voters. Max Scherzer was the most deserving of the many qualified National League candidates this season.