The White Sox allowed 3.93 runs per game in 2021, with no other American League staff yielding less than four.
So it’s fitting that a South Sider would rank among the three finalists for the AL Cy Young Award, which will be announced Wednesday. Lance Lynn is the chosen one, but there’s barely a hair’s breadth between him and Carlos Rodon by the numbers.
Along with Lynn (11-6, 2.69 ERA), the finalists are the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole (16-8, 3.23) and the Blue Jays’ Robbie Ray (13-7, 2.84).
Cole won the most games in the AL, but ERA and modern metrics such as WAR and fielding-independent pitching (FIP) have influenced selections in recent years.
Among the finalists, Cole leads in Fangraphs’ WAR with 5.3 to Lynn’s 4.2 and Ray’s 3.9 and leads in FIP at 2.92 to Lynn’s 3.32 and Ray’s 3.55. In Baseball-Reference’s WAR, Ray leads at 6.7 to Cole’s 5.7 and Lynn’s 5.4.
Why the difference? The Baseball-Reference version is based on runs allowed, and defense matters. Fangraphs tries to filter out defense, so fWAR is based on FIP. It considers home runs, strikeouts and walks and disregards balls in play.
Rodon (13-5, 2.37, 4.9 fWAR, 5.0 bWAR, 2.65 FIP) has been near their pace, though he had no start longer than five innings after July 18. He might have cracked the top three had injuries not limited him to 132‰ innings. Lynn (157) had the fewest innings among the finalists.
The National League Cy Young finalists are the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer (15-4, 2.46), the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler (14-10, 2.78) and the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes (11-5, 2.43). The majors’ lone 20-game winner, the Dodgers’ Julio Urias (20-3, 2.96), is not in the mix.
By fWAR, Burnes leads at 7.5 to Wheeler’s 7.3, with Scherzer well behind at 5.4. By bWAR, it’s Wheeler at 7.6, Scherzer at 6.0 and Burnes at 5.6.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYERS: Awards are to be announced Thursday, and none of the finalists played for postseason qualifiers.
In the AL, Angels designated hitter/pitcher Shohei Ohtani (third in the AL with 46 homers, 13th with 100 RBI, second with a .965 OPS) ranks 10th among hitters with a 5.1 fWAR. Add 3.0 fWAR as a pitcher, where he was 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA, and his total fWAR shoots up to 8.1, giving him a value edge over finalists Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (6.7) and Marcus Semien (6.6), both of the Blue Jays.
The NL is a jumble, with finalists Bryce Harper of the Phillies, Juan Soto of the Nationals and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres. Harper led NL hitters with a 1.044 OPS and 170 weighted runs created plus, with Soto at .999 and 163 and Tatis at .975 and 156. By fWAR, Harper and Soto were at 6.6 and Tatis at 6.1.
WAR isn’t so precise a measure that MVP should be decided by a few tenths of a game. But if you were to pick an fWAR MVP, it’s not one of the NL finalists. It’s Brewers Cy Young candidate Burnes and his 7.5.