Boston Red Sox left-handed pitcher David Price could emerge as a darkhorse candidate in the American League Cy Young race.
Yesterday, I outlined why Chris Sale warrants consideration for the AL Cy Young award despite a limited workload. If voters do end up holding Sale’s lack of innings against him then a Boston Red Sox staff that ranks second in the league in ERA deserves another contender for the award. I nominate David Price.
Now, before the rather vocal group of Price critics begin to riot, let me preface this by clarifying that I’m not proclaiming that the lefty will win the award. Only that he’s performed admirably enough to receive his fair share of votes.
Price is in the midst of his best season since joining the Red Sox. He’s 15-6, ranks 10th in the league with a 3.42 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, 11th with a 3.93 K/BB ratio, and 12th with a 3.68 SIERA.
Voters for season awards tend to gravitate toward a strong finish and Price has been as good as anyone in the second half. The 33-year old is 5-0 with a 1.56 ERA since the break. He’s holding opposing hitters to a .188 average and has struck out 60 with only nine walks in his last 57 2/3 innings.
Baseball-Reference has Price tied for sixth among AL pitchers with 4.6 WAR. That alone should at least put him in the conversation and his odds rise if we’re going to start eliminating candidates who missed significant chunks of the season.
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If Sale gets ignored due to missing the better part of six weeks with shoulder inflammation then Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer has to be crossed off the list as well. He barely cracks the minimum requirement to qualify for the ERA title with 166 innings and may not make another regular season start as he recovers from a stress fracture in his leg.
Houston’s Justin Verlander has the best mix of elite production and workload. He’s tied for the league lead with 195 innings, second with 258 strikeouts and fourth with a 2.72 ERA. Reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber is right up there with him, although his declining strikeout rate makes him appear less dominant. Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell has better numbers than both of them but won’t come close to their innings total.
That’s your top three candidates, assuming Sale and Bauer don’t make the cut due to their injuries. After that, you have a few darkhorse candidates, led by Houston’s Gerrit Cole. Maybe toss Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger‘s name in the hat. Price also belongs in that tier. Not quite good enough to win the award but he’ll get some votes and could potentially finish in the top-five on the ballot.
Sale has been so dominant on the mound that his limited innings total should be overlooked even if it would be unprecedented. He remains the ace of the Red Sox staff and Price won’t be taking that away from him. However, if the voters leave Sale off their ballot for failing to meet the ERA title requirements then Price could replace his teammate on the Cy Young ballot.