Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB experts will bring you a weekly Batting Around roundtable breaking down pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. . This week we're going to tackle the NL Cy Young race?
Who is your pick for NL Cy Young?
R.J. Anderson: It's close, but I think I'd go with Justin Steele of the Cubs because he splits the proverbial gap. As I type this, he's a little back of Blake Snell in raw ERA, but he pitches his home games in a far more offensive-friendly environment. Spencer Strider has Steele beat in FIP, but I'm reluctant to use that as the determinant for descriptive honors. (And, besides, Zack Wheeler actually leads the NL in fWAR, if you do want to go that route.) I think there's a case to be made for anyone I mention, and perhaps a few I didn't. But, if I had a vote, I think Steele would be my "just right" candidate.
Matt Snyder: It looked like Zac Gallen was going to make a run after that shutout in Wrigley, but then he was shelled by the Mets and he's now a clear step behind the top three for me. Spencer Strider's commanding lead in strikeouts is very enticing, but that 3.73 ERA is awfully high. Blake Snell walks too many guys. There hasn't been a Cy Young winner who led the league in walks since Early Wynn in 1959 and with so much emphasis these days on not giving away free passes, that doesn't seem right, either. I know Justin Steele doesn't have a big workload, but neither do Snell or Strider. Steele has been among the best at preventing earned runs and home runs while striking out a batter per inning and doing so without walking many. I had him in the lead before Snell's masterful outing Wednesday night. Now I have Snell, due to the lead in ERA and the gap in strikeouts and innings. Will Steele take the lead back after his start on Friday? Possibly. It seems like that kind of race, doesn't it?
Mike Axisa: Snell and Steele have the lowest ERAs in the league by more than half a run, yet they're a good 30 innings behind the league leaders. Strider leads the league in strikeouts by a ton, though he's not even top 10 in innings (which in a way is a feather in his cap because his strikeout rate is insane). If we're going to consider Gallen (second in innings, ninth in ERA), then Logan Webb (first in innings, sixth in ERA) needs to be in the conversation too. Gerrit Cole is the clear cut best pitcher in the league in the AL this year. That guy doesn't exist in the NL this season.
Right now, I'll go with Snell despite the walks and relative lack of innings. He already won one Cy Young while being 30-something innings behind the league leaders, so there's precedent. Snell has been out of this world good the last four months -- he has a 1.33 ERA and .505 OPS allowed in 21 starts dating back to May 25 -- and he's first in ERA, second in strikeouts, and first in WAR (which does the dirty work of adjusting for ballpark, opponent, defense, etc.). For what it's worth, the league leader in Baseball Reference WAR has won 10 of the last 14 Cy Youngs between the two leagues, and was the runner-up in the voting on two other occasions. bWAR is the best single stat Cy Young predictor out there now and Snell leads by nearly a full win. Ask me again in two weeks and my answer might be different, but, right now, I'll go with Snell.