My Ballot for the IBWAA: Cy Young
Later today, the BBWAA will announce the AL and NL winners for the Cy Young award. This is how I voted for the IBWAA:
Blake Snell (SDP)
Zac Gallen (ARZ)
Logan Webb (SFG)
Kodai Senga (NYM)
Spencer Strider (ATL)
This year, voting for the National League Cy Young Award was a fascinating ballot to toy with on who should and could go where. There are so many statistics which so many pitchers were able to lead that it made it a tough choice to really feel 100% comfortable with any of the ballots I put together. However, I felt best with the following:
A current free agent, Blake Snell had a fantastic year while finally regaining the stuff that won him the 2018 AL Cy Young Award when he was a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Snell led the MLB in ERA (2.25) and ERA+ (182) while also posting a 14-9 record (.609 WP%) over 32 starts, 180 innings, and throwing 234 strikeouts with a 3.44 FIP and a 1.189 WHIP. All of those numbers were among the best in the NL not to mention an NL-best +6.0 bWAR and a solid +4.1 fWAR.
It is hard to believe that Zac Gallen just finished the 5th season he's played in the MLB and is now arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career. He pitched to the 2nd most innings in the NL (210.0) with the 3rd most strikeouts (220) while also producing to a 17-9 record (.654 WP%) and 3.47 ERA (125 ERA+), 3.27 FIP, and a 1.119 WHIP over 34 starts. He also had a +4.4 bWAR/+5.2 fWAR and was a good follow-up candidate for my ballot.
Logan Webb was a part of a great duo with Carlos Rodon in 2021 and 2022 for the San Francisco Giants and continued to showcase his skills again in 2023. (Unlike Rodon…) Though the Giants did not live up to expectations and they took Webb down to an 11-13 record (.458 WP%), he pitched 33 games to a 3.25 ERA/130 ERA+ and 1.074 WHIP over 33 starts with 194 strikeouts. His crowning mark on the year was an MLB-best 216.0 innings.
Some will look at this article and question why I didn't vote Kodai Senga for National League Rookie of the Year, but placed him 3rd in the NL Cy Young. It's because I'm holding firm that there should be a hitter-only and pitcher-only award for rookies (and for the NL it should be the Christy Mathewson Award, read my article about that here), so I didn't vote for any rookie pitchers. However, Senga does deserve credit for coming into a new league and posting both a sub-3.00 ERA and 200+ strikeouts.
The Atlanta Braves, a few years ago, were all but destined to have another fantastic trio at the top of their rotation to bring up visions of Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz of the late 1990’s. However, injuries to Max Fried, Kyle Wright, and Ian Anderson have left Spencer Strider all alone to lead the staff. Luckily, he’s been up to the task and produced to a 3.85 ERA/115 ERA+ over 186.2 innings with 281 strikeouts over 32 starts with a 20-5 record. His 2.85 FIP and 1.093 WHIP also show that he was even a little unlucky and has plenty of room to improve even more.
Gerrit Cole (NYY)
Sonny Gray (MIN)
Kyle Bradish (BAL)
Shohei Ohtani (LAA)
Zach Eflin (TBR)
In the American League, it was much easier to identify who should be honored as the top pitcher in the league and filling out the remaining 4 slots was a quicker process. For starters, Gerrit Cole was easily the best and it showed with his MLB-best +7.5 bWAR and his +5.2 fWAR was just .1 away from being in a tie to lead the AL. Add in an MLB-best 0.981 WHIP and his AL-leading ERA (2.63), ERA+ (165), Starts (33), Innings (209.0), and Winning Percentage (.789%). Finish it with a 15-4 record and overall and 222 strikeouts and the image is painted and clear: Gerrit Cole is the obvious winner.
Following is a former New York Yankee who, unfortunately, didn’t survive in the big apple but has rebuilt his stature in Sonny Gray. His season stats were great with an 8-8 record (.500 WP%) and 2.79 ERA/154 ERA+ over 32 starts, 184.0 innings, 183 strikeouts, and a 1.147 WHIP. Gray’s crowing achievement this past season was an MLB-best 2.83 FIP.
Kyle Bradish was a huge reason that the Baltimore Orioles were able to take 1st place in the AL East this past season, serving as a sophomore who led his pitching staff. His 12-7 record, 2.83 ERA/146 ERA+, 168 strikeouts, and 1.043 WHIP were all fantastic numbers and somewhat surprising coming from a pitcher who put up an 80 ERA+ in 117.2 innings as a rookie.
It was a shame to see this player stop pitching at the end of August because he was putting up fantastic numbers. It was especially sad to hear he’s not going to pitch in 2024, but he’ll still be the hottest free agent on the market based on his bat alone. Shohei Ohtani had a 10-5 record (.667 WP%), 3.14 ERA/142 ERA+, 1.061 WHIP, and 167 strikeouts in 132.0 innings and 23 starts last season. If he was able to continue his pitching through the last month of the season, he would’ve had the chance to seriously compete for the Cy Young. Consider this a sympathy vote in hopes he’ll return to the mound and his abilities to pitch again in 2025.
Finally, we go back to the AL East again with a surprise candidate in Zach Eflin. After being a back-end/spot starter for most of his career, he signed with the Rays and they were able to tap into some unseen potential. He had an AL-best 16 wins that went with 8 losses (.667 WP%), a 3.50 ERA/119 ERA+ and 1.024 WHIP and 186 strikeouts over 31 starts and 177.2 innings pitched.