Blake Snell’s transformation is complete: From high-potential prospect to one of the baseball’s best pitchers. He proved it Wednesday by winning the 2018 American League Cy Young award.
Snell, the Tampa Bay Rays ace, received 17 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America to win the award in a tightly contested race. He beat Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros by 15 points. Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians finished third. Snell also received 11 second-place votes, Verlander received the other 13 first-place votes and another 13 second-place votes.
A 25-year-old lefty, Snell had an across-the-board great season with a 21-5 record and 221 strikeouts and a 1.89 ERA. His 21 wins led baseball and while some might scoff at pitcher wins as a valuable stat, his AL-best 1.89 ERA also showed just how dominant Snell’s season was.
With Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets winning the NL Cy Young award, he and Snell joined Bob Gibson and other exclusive company thanks to their sub-2.00 ERA.
Assuming deGrom wins the NL Cy Young Award, this will be only the third time in history that both Cy winners had sub-2.00 ERAs. (Snell 1.89, deGrom 1.70). The others were 1968 (NL Bob Gibson 1.12, AL Denny McLain 1.96) and 1972 (NL Steve Carlton 1.97, AL Gaylord Perry 1.92).
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 14, 2018
Context is important too: As the Rays tried the “bullpenning” experiment through 2018, Snell was their go-to rotation ace that they could count on. The team won a surprising 90 games in 2018 through a combination of Snell’s performance and the experiment pitching approach.
The AL Cy Young was one of the toughest awards to pick this year, as Snell, Verlander and Kluber each had compelling cases.
Verlander was just as important to Houston’s success as Snell was to Tampa Bay’s. His 16-9 record and 2.52 ERA weren’t as good as Snell’s marks, but Verlander’s 214 innings beat Snell’s 180 2/3 — a point that Verlander supporters emphasized. Verlander also led the AL in strikeouts with 290.
Kluber, who won the award in 2014 and 2017, had another of his characteristically great years. He had a healthy mix of great in every category: A 20-7 record and 2.89 ERA in 215 innings with 222 strikeouts but didn’t stand out in any one particular way.
Still, Snell’s sub-2.00 ERA was the biggest highlight in the bunch. That and his MLB-best win total proved just how historic his 2018 performance was. Now he’s the second Rays pitcher to win a Cy Young award, following David Price in 2012.
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