The Washington Nationals were the comeback story of the year in the MLB, rallying from a 19-31 record to reach the postseason and win the World Series, but they we’re the only ones to struggle early, find form late, and be rewarded for it.
The other great comeback belongs to Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who was just announced as the National League Cy Young Award winner. In the American League, Astros co-ace Justin Verlander beat out his own teammate for the honor.
It was a year filled with some incredible pitching performances of all different kinds.
In the NL, the 106-win Dodgers had three candidates receive at least a 4th-place vote and the title-winning Nationals had both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg finish in the top five of voting with at least 53 votes each.
In the AL, two Houston stars led the way, but a variety of pitchers followed. 36-year-old Charlie Morton was high on the list right next to 24-year-old Shane Bieber, and even the lowly White Sox were able to hold up Lucas Giolito as a vote-getting Cy Young Award candidate.
So, did the Cy Young Awards end up in the hands of the correct men?
NL Cy Young Winner: Jacob deGrom
The New York Mets started the year as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball, rallied in the second half, and ultimately fell short of reaching October baseball with a record of 86-76. deGrom followed a similar path, but with a more satisfying ending.
On May 18, deGrom was 3-5 with a 3.98 ERA through his first nine starts after having just given up seven runs on nine hits in five innings to the Marlins. Fast forward six months, and deGrom is now the NL Cy Young Award winner with 29 of the 30 first-place votes.
The only other player to receive a first-place vote was Dodgers ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, who finished the year with a record of 14-5 and an ERA of 2.32. Although Ryu was the favorite for much of the year, it wasn’t enough to hold off a surging deGrom.
From the middle of May on, deGrom posted a 1.89 ERA and finished the season with three scoreless outings. In total, deGrom went 11-8 with an ERA of 2.43 and led the NL in WAR and strikeouts while finishing second in ERA and WHIP.
According to the odds, deGrom’s ascent was breathtaking. On July 2nd, deGrom held odds of +3000 to win the Cy Young. At that point, Ryu was the favorite with -130 odds.
From there, deGrom’s odds started shooting down, but it wasn’t until the arrival of October that deGrom achieved odds of -250 and became the favorite to win the award. While the likes of Scherzer and Ryu had great years, deGrom was deserving of another NL Cy Young.
AL Cy Young Winner: Justin Verlander
While deGrom’s victory was interesting because of his comeback story, Verlander’s victory is interesting because he may not have even been the best pitcher on his own team throughout 2019.
The Astros finished with an MLB-best 107 wins, due in large part to the pitching of Verlander and co-ace Gerrit Cole. In the end, those two pitchers were the only ones to receive first-place votes for the AL Cy Young – Verlander received 17 while Cole received 13.
The voting made Verlander the 20th pitcher to receive multiple AL Cy Young Awards, but did he deserve it?
While leading the American League in wins and innings pitched, Verlander ended the regular season with a record of 21-6 and an ERA of 2.58 on top of 300 strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Cole finished with more strikeouts (326) in fewer innings, the AL’s best ERA (2.50), and earned a record of 20-5. Cole also had an incredible finish to the regular season, as he didn’t lose even a single start since May.
In the middle of the season, Verlander was way ahead of Cole, according to the odds. On June 3rd, Verlander was the heavy favorite with odds of +150 to win the Cy Young while Cole held odds of +1600.
Yet Cole’s second-half surge pushed him even with Verlander, and eventually made Cole the favorite with odds of -140 as the season concluded. On October 2nd, Verlander had odds of +100 to win the award.
So, while Cole had better numbers on the season, Verlander was the upset winner of the AL Cy Young Award.