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The 2021 IBWAA Awards (My Ballot): NL Cy Young

Over the next two weeks, I am going to be releasing my ballots for the various end-of-the-season awards across Major League Baseball. These are the same ballots/players that I submitted to the IBWAA before the postseason began.

This week we will go through all the National League Awards, continuing with the Cy Young.

 

Preface:

For the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), voters get to vote for the Top-10 players for the MVP, the Top-5 pitchers for the Cy Young, the Top-3 players for the Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and the Top-3 managers for the Manager of the Year awards.

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To me, a reliever really has to shine through the crowd in order to make the Top-5 for my Cy Young voting. And, while I tried to rationalize finding a spot for one of my top relievers of the year, it just wasn’t able to happen given the vast talent seen in both the American and National Leagues. So without further ado, here were my 5 best starting pitchers:

 

Number Five:

Name: Corbin Burnes

Team: Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching Line: 28 G, 11-5 Record (.688 WP%), 2.43 ERA (176 ERA+, 1.63 FIP), 167.0 IP, 0.940 WHIP, 234 K’s (12.6 K/9), 34 BB (1.8 BB/9), +5.7 bWAR/+7.5 fWAR

It may be crazy that I put the guy who not only had the best ERA, FIP, ERA+, and K/9 in the National League but the entire MLB as the 5th pitcher in the NL Cy Young race. And, I’ll grant you that it is a crazy decision. Burnes by all means had an amazing season and he lead all NL pitchers in fWAR. But, to be fair to me and my ranking, he didn’t rank in the Top-10 by the Neyer/James CYP (He would’ve scored 135.3 which is 3 points less than Alex Reyes). I also find it hard to give Burnes the edge here when he is the only pitcher under 175 innings pitched and the only under 30 games started, and he only came up 7th in bWAR for NL pitchers. While his fWAR was great, it also evaluates more “what-if” metrics as opposed to bWAR which evaluates what actually occurred on the field. For that, Burnes is 5th.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Four:

Name: Julio Urias

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitching Line: 32 G, 20-3 Record (.870 WP%), 2.96 ERA (138 ERA+, 3.13 FIP), 185.2 IP, 1.018 WHIP, 195 K’s (9.5 K/9), 38 BB (1.8 BB/9), +4.7 bWAR/+5.0 fWAR

Another leader of some stats across the entire MLB, Julio Urias was the MLB’s only 20 game winner which also helped him take home the best winning percentage of the year at .870. He also was the highest scoring starting pitcher in the MLB by the CYP with 172.4 points. Am I favoring some of the traditional old-school metrics here? Undoubtably, yes. Yet, you can’t discredit what Urias did: a sub-3.00 ERA, a WHIP that was almost at 1.000, and nearly 200 strikeouts. His season was overshadowed by current favorite metrics, but he definitely deserves some notoriety for his 2021 season.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Three:

Name: Walker Buehler

Team: Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitching Line: 33 G, 16-4 Record (.800 WP%), 2.47 ERA (165 ERA+, 3.16 FIP), 207.2 IP, 0.968 WHIP, 212 K’s (9.2 K/9), 52 BB (2.3 BB/9), +6.7 bWAR/+5.5 fWAR

Walker Buehler nearly had the National League’s best ERA, WHIP, bWAR, fWAR, and Winning Percentage. Yet, he came up short in all those categories. Hopefully, leading the MLB in Games Started means something to him! Jokes aside, Buehler was a complete pitcher in 2021 as he put the two things he showed, but not together, well…together. He was healthy all season (like 2019) and showed top-level performance (like 2018). Just 26 years-old, there is plenty of time for Buehler to continue to compete for Cy Young awards and in a season without this tough competition he likely would’ve. To cap it all off, Buehler was 2nd in the CYP ranking at 164 points…so close, yet so far.Embed from Getty Images

 

Number Two:

Name: Max Scherzer

Team: Washington Nationals/Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitching Line: 30 G, 15-4 Record (.78 WP%), 2.46 ERA (166 ERA+, 2.97 FIP), 179.1 IP, 0.864 WHIP, 236 K’s (11.8 K/9), 36 BB (1.8 BB/9), +5.3 bWAR/+5.4 fWAR

I promise my vote was not compromised from a bribe by a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. (If it was, I would’ve likely put one of them first!) However, this 3-time Cy Young award winner again showed why- even as a 36-year-old- he is still one of the games top pitchers. He led the MLB in WHIP. However, this vote is much more valued in what he did for the Dodgers: A 1.98 ERA over 11 starts, a 7-0 record, 0.820 WHIP, and a 208 ERA+. Max Scherzer showed exactly why a team needing starting pitching at the trade deadline should go all-in on the best available. Scherzer didn’t get the Dodgers to win the NL West, but without him they wouldn’t have gotten as close, and he was dominant with them. Embed from Getty Images

 

Number One:

Name: Zack Wheeler

Team: Philadelphia Phillies

Pitching Line: 32 G, 14-10 Record (.583 WP%), 2.78 ERA (150 ERA+, 2.59 FIP), 213.1 IP, 1.008 WHIP, 247 K’s (10.4 K/9), 46 BB (1.9 BB/9), +7.8 bWAR/+7.3 fWAR

Zack Wheeler was the best National League pitcher in 2021. There is no doubt in my mind. He combined a season with nearly the most starts with the NL’s 5th best ERA, 5th best ERA+, and 5th best WHIP while also pitching the most innings, throwing the most strikeouts, and by having the best bWAR across all National League players (including hitters). (Add in that he also had the 2nd best fWAR by NL pitchers). Wheeler is the epitome of having great statistics that show he was fantastic on the field given his tangible performance while having fantastic underlying metrics that aren’t so clearly displayed. I credit players who play more than those who don’t, which is something that I believe many current metrics overlook. He’s not the popular pick by either the traditional metric or the advanced metric crowds, but finds himself perfectly centered between the two, which is why I think he was the best. His stats can please everybody and were exemplary enough to stand-out (or be comparable to) any other NL pitcher in 2021.Embed from Getty Images

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