Who are the best pitchers?
Major League Baseball enthusiasts know we are among the final games of the season this upcoming week. There are a few division titles and wild cards left to be decided, but we have a good blueprint at most of the teams qualifying for the postseason.
Wrapping up another year of baseball also means award season (and plenty of debate) quickly approaches as the 2017 World Series champion is roughly a month-and-a-half away from being crowned.
Each award outside of the Rookie of the Year is fairly competitive, but I am focusing on who takes the cake as the best hurler in each league today.
I don’t need a lot of time to list the top choices in the American League as there are just two.
Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Boston’s Chris Sale stand alone at the top of the junior circuit podium very much clear of any competitors.
Sale was a slam dunk to win the award earlier this season, while Kluber was dealing with injuries.
However, the Indians’ ace pulled even with his Red Sox counterpart by performing his best impersonation of Jake Arrieta’s 2015 second half.
Kluber is 10-1 since the All-Star break with a 2.08 ERA in 91 innings pitched. He also has struck out 117 batters to just 10 base on balls.
Sale meanwhile is 6-3 with an ERA north of four in the second half of the season, but 17-7 overall. However, he is the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez to strike out 300 or more batters in a season since 1999.
Another impressive fact about Sale is he is top 5 in most major pitching categories in 2017.
So who wins?
While I would love to give this award to Sale (I don’t like players missing time and still being eligible for seasonal awards), I have a feeling Kluber is the pick. Recent history shows the voters can be swayed by second-half performances. Arrieta, mentioned above, won the award over Zack Grienke in 2015 despite the latter’s 19-3 record and 1.66 ERA over an entire season.
The National League conversation is a convuluted place to be at the moment.
Max Scherzer and Gio Gonzalez (Nationals), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) and Zach Greinke (Diamonbacks) are going to make the decision hard for all voters.
Scherzer is the reigning award winner. Gonzalez is having a ridiculous second half, much like Kluber. Kershaw leads the league in wins despite missing almost a month with a back injury, while Greinke has found himself after a down year in 2016.
Teammates usually are hurt when both are battling for the same award, so Scherzer and Gonzalez have some work to do to separate themselves from the pack.
Kershaw takes a big hit by the fact his team went on a crazy run without him even leading the rotation. In my mind if your team goes on a big run without you, how crucial can you be to the team performing well in the first place?
Could the Dodgers just have gotten hot at the right time? Yes. But it doesn’t change the fact the best pitcher in the league wasn’t there to lead the charge.
Which brings me to Zach Greinke, who largely has had a great year with a 17-6 record, 3.18 ERA, and a 5.9 wins-above-replacement score.
Arizona is a dark horse World Series contender and Zach Greinke leading a young pitching staff is a big reason why they are in that position.
So who is the winner?