Blake Snell is the clear N.L. Cy Young favorite

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In a season filled with disappointment, the biggest bright spot for the San Diego Padres is the renaissance of Blake Snell.

On May 19, Snell just wrapped up his ninth start of the season, where he allowed six runs in four innings of work. His ERA sat at 5.40, and it felt like he was walking every other batter that stepped to the plate. Hitters did not need to bite at his nasty curveball/slider because he was not throwing nearly enough strikes. It was another frustrating outing for him and Padres fans, who were beginning to lose patience with their former ace.

Throughout his Padres tenure, Snell had not performed exactly the way A.J. Preller and Padres fans had expected when he was acquired at the end of the 2020 calendar year. From that point forward, the wild story of Blake Snell’s season took a huge turn.

Fast forward over three months to August 30, and Blake Snell is now the odds-on favorite to win the NL Cy Young award. Let’s break down how this happened by month.

When the calendar flipped to June, Snell began to pitch lights out. He made five starts, tossed 31 innings, allowed only 13 hits (.124 BA against), walked eight, allowed three runs, and struck out 53 batters. He finished the month with a 0.68 WHIP and a microscopic 0.87 ERA. This got his season ERA down to 3.21 and inspired hope amongst Padres fans.

However, that dominant month was only the beginning. With tons of momentum heading into July, Snell continued to roll. Though he struggled with walks, his ERA continued to drop rapidly. He threw 32 innings, allowed 22 hits and 26 walks for a 1.50 WHIP, but seemingly pitched his way out of every jam by striking out 42 batters and only relinquishing two earned runs. His ERA for July finished at 0.56, and his season ERA dropped to 2.50. Towards the month’s end, Snell pitched his way into the Cy Young race and led the MLB in ERA.

With his start on Monday, August 28, being his last of the month, Blake Snell has now left the month of August with the ERA lead that he started it with. Though this month was not as dominant as the previous two, it was still a very good month in the big leagues by any pitcher’s standards. He grinded through 30 innings in five starts, allowing ten earned runs to the tune of a 3.00 ERA. He was still unhittable, only allowing a .168 average against, totaling a 1.13 WHIP and striking out another 37 batters.

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Adding this all up, Snell has put together a masterful season thus far with a 2.60 ERA over 149 innings, striking out 193 batters and only allowing a .192 average against and a 1.26 WHIP.

Comparing these numbers to the other Cy Young contenders, Snell seems like the clear winner.

Spencer Strider currently has the second-best FanDuel odds to win NL Cy Young and owns a 3.46 ERA over 153.1 innings of work with 236 strikeouts, a .204 average against, and a 1.06 WHIP. The strikeouts are impressive, and the WHIP is lower, but Strider’s ERA is close to a point higher than Snell’s, and he has benefited immensely from having the Braves’ prolific offense to fall back on.

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Coming in with the third-best odds for the award is Arizona righty Zac Gallen. The biggest workhorse of the bunch, Gallen has already thrown 173.1 innings to a 3.10 ERA this season, striking out 182 hitters and owing a 1.10 WHIP. He has a clear edge on Snell in terms of innings pitched but still has failed to strike out as many hitters, and his ERA sits a half run worse than Snell’s.

Cubs lefty Justin Steele is the last real contender for the coveted award at this point in the season. In by far the best season of his career so far, Steele has impressed with a 2.69 ERA over 144.0 innings of work, strikeout out 141 hitters, and owning a 1.17 WHIP. Another awe-inspiring season and similar to Snell’s, but the significant deficit in strikeouts to the other contenders makes this season, resulting in a Cy Young, unlikely for Steele.

After looking at the numbers, it is obvious why Snell has become the betting favorite in this race. The only obvious place to point as a potential weakness in Snell’s season would be his higher WHIP than the rest of the field. Last time I checked,d however, the ultimate goal of pitching is to allow as few runs as possible, and despite Snell’s walking problems, he has continually gotten himself out of jams, clearly much better than Strider has. Though these are both good seasons, it is hard to imagine voters not respecting the escape artist Blake Snell has become. Gallen has a case for being the workhorse out of the group, but his strikeout deficit to both Snell and Strider and his significant ERA deficit to Snell make him winning over voters hard to imagine.

Now, to address the elephant in the room: Voters’ continued and constant obsession with team success and individual awards. Every year, voters seem to be affected by pitcher’s records. After looking at all the numbers these guys have put up this season, Snell seems to stand ahead above the rest. However, the Padres’ disappointing season could be why Snell may be robbed. Pitching for arguably the best team in the MLB, Strider owns a robust 15-4 record. Meanwhile, Gallen sports a 14-6 record for a good Diamondbacks team, and Steele holds an impressive 15-3 record. On the other hand, Snell is currently sitting at a respectable 11-9 record.

Pitching is arguably the most strictly individual aspect of baseball. Pitchers cannot determine what their offense does to support them. All they can do is limit the runs scored against the,m, and nobody has been better at that than Blake Snell. The question will be how much voters care about the flashiness of being on a playoff team and owning an impressive record.

With a win, Snell would become only the seventh pitcher in baseball history to win a Cy Young in both leagues. Unfortunately, this ancient mentality could end up costing the best pitcher in all of baseball in 2023 his spot in history.

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