Padres’ Dinelson Lamet is a 2020 NL Cy Young Award front-runner

Padres Dinelson Lamet

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres have a diverse young pitching staff that is getting a ton of attention nationally. 

Dinelson Lamet’s hot start in 2020 is putting him in the National League Cy Young Award conversation.

The Cy Young Award is given to the best pitcher in each league. Jake Peavy, in 2007 is the last San Diego Padres pitcher to win the award.

Lamet debuted in 2017 but missed all of 2018 and the first half of 2019 with an elbow strain that required Tommy John surgery.

When Lamet returned, he started slowly in July with a 5.09 ERA in his first five starts. When August came around, Lamet improved and showed his promise. He ended the year with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.

While those numbers are suitable for a pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery, little expected him to become a Cy Young candidate the following season.

So far, in five starts during 2020, Lamet is dominating opposing hitters.

In 28 ⅓ innings, Lamet struck out 36 batters and has a 1.59 ERA to go along with a .812 WHIP.

All of those stats are amongst the league’s best, but how does he compare to the rest of the league?

The goal of pitching is to allow the least amount of runs as possible, while also working deep into ball games. That’s why having a sound ERA is crucial and often one of the most important stats when judging who the Cy Young Award winner is.

Lamet’s 1.59 ERA ranks third in NL, only behind Max Fried’s 1.24 ERA, and Trevor Bauer at .68. The leaderboard is packed, though. There are seven qualified pitchers within one ERA of Lamet, and another two unqualified starting pitchers who fit the bill but haven’t pitched enough innings on the season.

WHIP is also a significant pitching stat used to compare Cy Young Award candidates. WHIP measures that amount of batters that reach base against you via a walk or hit every inning. Fortunately for Lamet, hitting a batter does not harm your WHIP, as he leads the NL in hit batters.

Nonetheless, Lamet sits in third for NL WHIP out of all starting pitchers. Only Aaron Nola(.65) and Trevor Bauer(.75) are in front of Lamet. Similar to ERA, the leaderboard is also crammed. Seven other NL starters have a WHIP below one, which is considered elite.

Strikeouts and innings pitched aren’t typically valued as much as ERA and WHIP in the Cy Young conversation, but it’s still cool to see where Lamet stacks up.

Lamet is proficient in making hitters swing and miss, which is a big part in striking batters out. His 36 strikeouts rank fifth in the NL, trailing Aaron Nola( 37), Max Scherzer (39), Trevor Bauer(41) and Sonny Gray (45).

In terms of innings, Lamet isn’t as highly ranked as some of his stats, as he ranks 23rd in the NL. His reputation does not involve working deep into games, so the fact that he is highly ranked this year shows how much he is improving. His ranking will rise following his start Thursday.

That’s how good Dinelson Lamet is, but why is he experiencing a career year?

In the past, Lamet suffered from a lack of control and command when he walked batters. He walked 4.25 batters per nine innings in 2017, and 3.70 batters per nine innings in 2019.

With Lamet’s electric fastball and disgusting slider, the only way for him to get better is to walk fewer batters. He’s done that so far in 2020. His BB/9 is down to 2.54 through five starts this season.

With his lack of walks, Lamet can throw his slider more because he is falling behind fewer batters than in previous years. In fact, he is throwing the slider more than his fastball in 2020. According to FanGraphs, Lamet is throwing his slider 51.3% of the time, which is up from 40% in 2017 and 43.9% in 2019.

Lastly, his average fastball velocity increased over the offseason. According to FanGraphs, Lamet is averaging 97.2 MPH on his fastball in 2020. This is one mph faster on average than his average fastball velocity in 2019.

Given that Lamet’s average slider velocity is 86.6 mph, there’s a drastic difference between his fastball and offspeed velocity. He even threw a fastball that registered at 100 mph earlier this year.

The secret is out; Dinelson Lamet is amongst the league’s best pitchers.

He is slowly emerging as the ace of the San Diego Padres, and they need him to keep pitching well if the Padres want to make their first postseason appearance since 2006.

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