Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Yu Darvish is as dominant as they come. He is top ten in almost every conceivable pitching category but can he win the Cy Young? Darvish certainly has some competition at the top for the Cy Young. Felix Hernandez, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Hiroki Kuroda, Bartolo Colon and our very own Derek Holland all have the type of numbers to compete for the award.
Some of these guys are not likely to be real contenders for the award despite their numbers. Sanchez, Iwakuma, and Holland are all the second best pitchers on their respective teams, although Derek was a higher WAR than Yu, so they are not going to get real consideration despite strong numbers on the year. Chris Sale plays for a terrible White Sox team and sports a losing record. It is not fair but he is not going to be a candidate. Hiroki Kuroda has a nice ERA, average against and WHIP but his FIP, xFIP, WAR and K/9 (per Fangraphs) are all outside of the top ten. He does not seem like a real Cy Young candidate because he lacks the peripherals and wins. Bartolo Colon is as good as anyone this year but you have to wonder if his PED suspension last year will eliminate his candidacy.
That leaves us with King Felix, Mighty Max and Yu. We know what the Cy Young voters love, Wins (and losses), ERA, strikeouts and a good story. Both Hernandez and Scherzer have more wins than Yu. Scherzer has a nice story line of 13 straight wins to open the season and a 15-1 record currently. Recall the Rangers handed Scherzer his first loss 7-1 on July 13th. Hernandez has 11 wins against 4 losses on a losing team. This is unfortunate for Yu, as at times he has had little run support. Remember his 1-0 loss in Cleveland July 27th?
What about a good story line? Darvish already has 186 strikeouts on the season and has an outside shot at getting 300 strikeouts. Yu has 10 or 11 starts left so he needs to average around 11 strikeouts a game to finish the season. This is possible but would be an extraordinary feat. If Darvish can generate a story line around even approaching 300 strikeouts it would help his candidacy immensely.
Allow us to compare these three on what I think are the relevant catergories; K/9, ERA, FIP, xFIP, WAR, WHIP and average against.
Felix has the lead in ERA, FIP, xFIP and WAR. He has been superb limiting runs. Max leads in WHIP but no other category. He is third in ERA and xFIP including being behind Yu by 0.35. Darvish leads in K/9 and average against.
Darvish has a strong ERA (2.66) and xFIP (2.64), both are better than Scherzer’s (3.01 and 2.85) although Scherzer has the better FIP. Darvish also has more strikeouts and a higher K/9 than Scherzer. Max has the lower WHIP, 0.92 compared to Yu’s 1.02. Darvish has the lower average against (.187 to.195). I have to pencil Darvish in over Scherzer despite the wins and the story. Yu Darvish is more dominant than Max Scherzer. He gives up fewer runs and gets more strikeouts.
If we compare Felix to Yu the decision is considerably tougher. Felix has better ERA, FIP and xFIP (2.30, 2.45, and 2.59). Hernandez has bested Darvish in limiting runs. However, Darvish has significantly better peripheral numbers, a much lower average against (0.184 to 0.235), slightly lower WHIP (1.02 to 1.06) and much higher K/9 (12.07 to 9.30). This all points to Darvish being more dominant and harder to hit than Felix.
I certainly have my favorite. I’m an unabashed Yu Darvish fan. (Don’t tell me you have never had a man-crush on a pitching ace.) I would choose Darvish if the vote was today but I would expect the voters to choose Hernandez based on his dazzling ERA. If Darvish can close the gap in the win category, maintain his strikeouts and stay close in the ERA hunt he will have a great chance to take home the Cy Young award.