White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease earned his status as one of the five finalists for the American League Cy Young award announced Monday.
But the name most likely to be called when the winner is announced Nov. 16 is Justin Verlander of the Astros.
Also named as an AL finalist was the Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah. NL finalists are the Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara, the Dodgers’ Julio Urias and the Braves’ Max Fried. Ballots were cast after the regular season.
At 14-8 with a 2.20 ERA that ranked second among AL qualifiers, Cease put up strong numbers across the board. He kept pressure off his defense with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. That was third in the AL, and Cease was seventh in fielding independent pitching at 3.1. He tied for fifth with 4.4 Fangraphs wins above replacement.
Verlander’s regular-season numbers look even better.
Verlander won 18 games to lead the AL while losing four. His major-league-leading 1.75 ERA is the sixth-best of the 2000s. While Verlander, with 9.51 strikeouts per nine innings, didn’t fan as many as Cease, he walked fewer at 1.49 per nine vs. 3.82 for Cease.
That helped Verlander to a 2.49 FIP, third in the AL, and a league-leading 6.1 FWAR.
In earlier times, leading in victories alone would have put Verlander in the strongest position. That shows up on the Cy Young Predictor posted at ESPN.com. The major-league victory leader, the Braves’ Kyle Wright with 21, didn’t make the NL Cy Young finalists.
The predictor was published by Bill James and Rob Neyer in their 2004 book, ‘‘The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers.’’ Pitchers earn Cy Young points by the formula ((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.
By that formula, AL leaders are Verlander (190.6 points), the Astros’ Framber Valdez (168), the Guardians’ Emmanuel Clase (162.8), Manoah (157.3) and Cease (145.1).
In the NL, the Braves’ Wright tops the list at 178.7, followed by Urias (169.1), Braves reliever Kenley Jansen (159.1), the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin (157.3) and Alcantara (153.3).
The formula isn’t designed to find the best pitchers. It’s designed to model voter behavior.
Voter behavior is changing, and it might be that multiplying victories by six is too much. We’ve seen Jacob DeGrom get the award while winning 10 in 2018, when Jon Lester, Miles Mikolas and Max Scherzer each won 18. DeGrom did it again while winning 11 in 2019, when Stephen Strasburg won 18.
Last year, the NL award went to Corbin Burnes, who won 11 while Urias won 20.
To today’s voters, run prevention matters as much as the record. In a late-season poll posted at MLB.com, the leader was Alcantara. In both leagues, the three finalists were the top three in ERA. Manoah’s 2.24 trailed only Verlander and Cease, while NL leaders were Urias at 2.16, Alcantara at 2.28 and Fried at 2.48.
In the AL, there seems no doubt. Cease was terrific, but Verlander had the Cy Young season.