The two pitchers with the lowest ERAs in MLB earned the highest honors bestowed to their position, as San Diego Padres’ Blake Snell and New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole received the Cy Young Awards for their respective leagues Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Snell’s 2.25 ERA led MLB while Cole, who played in one more game, was a close second with a 2.63
- The two were also among the top five pitchers in total strikeouts: Snell (No. 3) recorded 234 over 180 innings, and Cole (No. 5) tallied 222 over 209 innings.
- This marks Snell’s second Cy Young Award; he earned his first in 2018 while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. Cole is a first-time recipient.
- Snell is the seventh pitcher to win a Cy Young in both leagues. The six others are Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer.
How Snell won his second Cy Young
By leaning into his extremes. Snell, historically and effectively wild, became the first major-league pitcher to win an ERA title while walking at least five batters per nine innings. There was some luck involved — Snell also led all qualifying pitchers with an 86.7 percent strand rate — but for an entire summer, no starter was more unhittable or more adept at escaping traffic.
Snell’s rediscovery of a true four-pitch mix helped. So did what he described as an early-season shift in mindset. Instead of worrying about mounting walk and pitch totals, he sought to place added emphasis on pure run prevention. It seemed to work: Over his final 23 starts, Snell logged a 1.20 ERA. — Dennis Lin, Padres staff writer
Blake Snell pitched the Padres past the Dodgers. It might have been the last time
Snell’s free-agent outlook
Can Snell sustain the good fortune he had against baserunners in 2023? Are you content to pay handsomely for only five or six innings — albeit often-dominant innings — every five days? How much of a premium should Snell earn for his proven ability to silence elite offenses? These are some of the questions front offices must ask themselves this offseason.
Even if he isn’t the safest bet for a megadeal, Snell should end up doing just fine for himself. He doesn’t give up much contact, he doesn’t serve up many home runs and, on a related note, he might have the best stuff of any left-hander in the game. Eleven months ago, fellow lefty (and fellow Scott Boras client) Carlos Rodón signed a six-year, $162 million contract with the Yankees. For Snell, that feels like a potential baseline. And with Shohei Ohtani and Julio Urías currently sidelined from pitching, a $200 million deal feels attainable. — Lin
Cole was “the standard” for an ace
From Cole’s first outing of the season on Opening Day — striking out 11 and holding the San Francisco Giants to six scoreless innings — to his last — a two-hit shutout against the Toronto Blue Jays — he was spectacular. He led the American League in ERA, innings pitched, games started, quality starts, ERA+, WHIP and hits per nine innings pitched.
For someone on a $324 million contract, Cole somehow felt underrated coming into the 2023 season. After he gave up a career-high 33 home runs in 2022, there wasn’t much buzz surrounding Cole at the start of the year. But the No. 1 thing he felt like he needed to change last offseason was minimizing slug, and he did just that. Cole finished tied for third in the American League in HR/9 and ninth in hard-hit percentage.
Internally, the Yankees felt disappointed that they wasted such a dominant year from their ace in their worst season since 1992. But there was no question that Cole gave the Yankees their best opportunity. They went 23-10 in his 33 starts and 59-70 in every other starter’s outings.
“He’s the benchmark right now,” Yankees captain Aaron Judge said in October. “He is the standard for what you look for in an ace.”
And now Cole joins Roger Clemens, Ron Guidry, Sparky Lyle, Whitey Ford and Bob Turley as the Yankees’ Cy Young winners. — Chris Kirschner, Yankees staff writer
Inside Gerrit Cole’s dominant, AL Cy Young-worthy season for Yankees
(Photos: Orlando Ramirez and Brad Penner / USA Today)