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#pounditMonday, October 2, 2023

Top five Cy Young contenders in each league

Clayton Kershaw

National League

5) Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Comfortably the NL’s best closer, Jansen has been elite in many ways in 2017. It starts with just seven walks in 63.2 innings of work. There’s also the 1.27 ERA, even lower than his most elite AL counterpart Craig Kimbrel’s. He’s struck out 101 batters as well. It can be tough to make a Cy Young case for a relief pitcher, but it’s pretty easy to make one for Jansen, who has been pitching at an elite level all season long — by any measure.

4) Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Strasburg just saw his streak of 34 consecutive scoreless innings come to an end on Sunday, but that’s just a microcosm of a season that has re-established him as one of the NL’s leading arms. After years of displaying tantalizing stuff but never seeing it quite translate into pure dominance, Strasburg is having one of his finest seasons. He’s posting a career-best 2.60 ERA, nearing the 200 strikeout plateau for the second time, and looks like he may be poised to hit the 180 innings mark for only the third time. Notably, in a year filled with home runs, Strasburg has allowed just 13 of them. Health has been key, but he made a concerted effort to clean up some things before the season. It’s safe to say that has paid off for him.

3) Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks

Arizona’s fortunes are tied tightly to Greinke’s — as he disappointed last season, so did they, and as he has rebounded and recaptured his ace form in 2017, the Diamondbacks have become one of the National League’s better clubs. The 33-year-old has done a fantastic job getting back to his best, leading the NL with 17 wins, posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio better than any he’s put up since he left Milwaukee five years ago, and dropping his ERA to 2.87 while pitching half his games in a hitter-friendly park. Greinke probably won’t win his second Cy Young, but to be back in the conversation after such a poor 2016 is a victory in its own way.

2) Max Scherzer, Nationals

Scherzer may have been the front-runner for this award headed into September, but a couple iffy starts have marred his resume slightly. He still has time to make a strong closing argument if he pitches well down the stretch, and he’s very much still in the picture. Scherzer strikes out 12 batters per nine and has 253 overall, leading the NL, and his 2.59 ERA cannot be ignored either. Last year’s winner has actually improved on his numbers in several ways — a lower WHIP, fewer hits allowed, and a higher strikeout rate. He just hasn’t thrown quite as many innings. He might still win it.

1) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Kershaw is having a down year by his standards and missed the entire month of August with a back injury, and yet he’s still here at the top of these rankings. His 2.26 ERA would be his highest since 2012, but that figure still leads the league. His WHIP would be his highest since 2012 as well, but is still under 1. He’s still striking out well over a batter an inning. He’s allowed more home runs than he ever has before. But it hardly matters when you’re Kershaw — a disappointing season still amounts to 17 wins, an ERA of 2.26, and a 0.926 WHIP. It’ll probably come down to who pitches best down the stretch, but Kershaw is still a nose in front for now.

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