Yu Darvish has pitched like an ace all season, finishing with a strong effort against the White Sox that at least partially negated a trio of less stellar efforts immediately prior. He looked like the clear frontrunner for Cy Young after besting Trevor Bauer and the Reds in Cincy back on August 29, until the results were reversed two starts later back in Chicago. Then you’ve got the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, the NL’s best pitcher two years running and a strong candidate to make it three in a row.
A strong case can be made for each candidate based on the statistics, though a review of peripheral and rate metrics shows Darvish as the clear favorite. As shown in the image below, he leads the pack in innings pitched, FIP, WAR, BB/9, K/BB, and HR/9. Bauer leads in only three categories, deGrom in two. And if it means anything to voters, Darvish led the majors with eight wins.
— 虎 (@ShimazakiTnobu) September 28, 2020
Those numbers all contribute to Darvish’s overwhelming 11.7-point lead in Cy Young Points, a prediction model developed by sabermetrics godfather Bill James and ESPN’s Rob Neyer. The formula works like this: Cy Young Points (CYP) = ((5*IP/9)-ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + Shutouts + ((W*6)-(L*2)) + Victory Bonus of 12 points for leading team to a division title.
Oh, and just in case you’re thinking Darvish is only in first on the basis of the Cubs taking the NL Central, consider that NL East champ Max Fried is in second. Wait, he wasn’t even mentioned earlier.
That’s where things get a little squirrelly, since the CYP formula isn’t exactly accurate when it comes to NL pitchers. While it’s predicted the AL winner correctly in eight of the last nine years, with Dallas Keuchel predicted second in his winning 2015 campaign, its view of the Senior Circuit has been a little blurry.
DeGrom wasn’t even among the top 10 last season and was fifth the year prior, then Max Scherzer was ranked third in 2017. The Mets’ ace is absent from the board again in 2020, with Bauer seventh behind two other Cubs not named Darvish. Most of you could probably guess that Kyle Hendricks (63.5 CYP, No. 5) is one, but would have have figured Jeremy Jeffress (64.4 CYP, No. 4) as the other?
It’s worth nothing, however, that the final CYP total mirrored the eventual NL Cy Young voting in the seven seasons prior to 2017.
In the end, I believe this year’s vote will come down to dueling storylines as BBWAA voters cast their ballots with more emphasis than ever on the tale rather than the tape. Bauer is the polarizing bad boy who infuriates and infatuates, a character media members love because he’s always good for a unique quote. DeGrom has been dominant and winning three straight would be an incredible achievement. Darvish authored a wonderful comeback story and also has a lot more pull from the the West.
That could be a legitimate factor following a season that saw no crossover between divisional groups. While Clayton Kershaw and Dinelson Lamet should garner some votes, it’s possible that voters from the NL West will side with Darvish more than his competitors. It’s also possible that former UCLA standout Bauer will see the same bump, or maybe the opposite will be true since he didn’t necessarily make a lot of friends out there.
All things considered, the feel-good story of Darvish showing his personality and really coming into his own this season could well carry the vote. Now I want to know who you think will win. Not who you think should win, mind you, but who you believe will get the hardware come November when the ballots are released.