Top rookies seem set, but Cy Young Award races might be interesting

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The Yankees’ Aaron Judge hits a double against the Astros in Game 4 of the 2017 ALCS. | Al Bello/Getty Images

As the postseason turns to the awards season, there’s nothing more certain than the 2017 Rookies of the Year, but there figures to be some intrigue in the Cy Young Award balloting.

Among rookies, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has an MVP candidate’s résumé with a .284 batting average, 114 RBI and American League-leading numbers in home runs (52), runs scored (128) and walks (127). His 8.2 fWAR at Fangraphs.com towers above the rest of the AL rookie field. Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini are the other finalists.

The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger gestures after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger gestures after hitting a three-run home run against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In the National League, Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger compiled a 4.0 fWAR behind a .267 batting average, 39 homers and 97 RBI. Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, another finalist, is next in line at 3.0. Pirates first baseman Josh Bell is the third finalist.

It would be a shock if Judge or Bellinger came up short in Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting.

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For Cy Young candidates, a by-the-numbers look narrows the AL race to Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 7.3 fWAR) and Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale (17-8, 2.90, 2.45, 7.7). Yankees right-hander Luis Severino also is a finalist.

Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer (16-6, 2.51, 2.90, 6.0) would seem to top the NL list, but teammate Stephen Strasburg (15-4, 2.52, 2.73, 5.6) is right there. Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31, 3.07, 4.6) led the NL in victories, but his 175 innings trail Scherzer by 25‰ and he trails him in the FIP and fWAR metrics, too.

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen (5-0, NL-leading 41 saves, 1.32, 1.31, 3.5) had a big impact, but he isn’t among the finalists.

How will the voters see all that? For a road map, we could turn to the Cy Young predictor first published by Rob Neyer and Bill James in ‘‘The Neyer-James Guide to Pitching.’’

The predictor formula is Cy Young points = ((5*IP/9) – ER) + (SO/12) + (SV*2.5) + shutouts + ((W*6) – (L*2)) + VB. VB is a victory bonus, with 12 points awarded to pitchers on division-winning teams.

Resulting totals aren’t necessarily meant to be an indication of who deserves the award but an indication of whom voters are likely to elect.

Last year, the metric correctly forecast Scherzer and Red Sox right-hander Rick Porcello as Cy Young winners. Since 2010, the only winners not to lead the predictor were Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel in 2015 and Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez in 2010.

For 2017, the formula sees Kluber as an easy winner in the AL with 199.2 Cy Young points to Sale’s 173.7. A subpar finish hurt Sale, who was 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA in August and September.

Among NL finalists, Kershaw’s 181.1 Cy Young points are followed by Scherzer at 173.8 and Strasburg at 160.4. Interestingly, Jansen topped them all at 181.6.

Follow me on Twitter @GrochowskiJ.


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