7 Most Improbable Cy Young Seasons in MLB History
Now that MLB's regular season has come to an end and we head into the postseason, it also means it is time for some season awards. The Cy Young Award is given to the top pitcher in each league, and it is not an easy feat. There have only been 16 pitchers who have won multiple Cy Youngs with Roger Clemens winning it a record seven times.
Since there are so few repeat winners, the trophy is basically up for grabs, and one pitcher could come out of nowhere to win. I have come up with the seven most improbable Cy Young winners in baseball history.
7. Cliff Lee
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Why is Cliff Lee on this list? Even though he has been a dominant pitcher the past few seasons, in the years before his Cy Young-winning season he was an average pitcher at best.
He won the American League Cy Young in 2008, but from 2004-2007 he only had an ERA under four in one of those seasons. In 2007 he had a record of 5-8 with an ERA of 6.29.
Then everything seemed to click for him in 2008, when he went 22-3 with an ERA of 2.54. He was soon on to bigger and better things, being traded to the Phillies the next season.
6. Felix Hernandez
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Felix Hernandez is one of the top pitchers in the game today, and if he was on a competitive team, he would be an annual favorite for the Cy Young Award. However, he is on the Seattle Mariners, who have made a nice little home for themselves in the AL West basement.
He finished second in AL Cy Young voting in 2009 before winning it in 2010. The reason it was so improbable for him to win was he actually had a better season in 2009, and many thought if he couldn't win with those numbers, he didn't have much of a chance.
In 2009 he had a record of 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA. In 2010 his win-loss record was average at 13-12, but he had an unbelievable 2.27 ERA.
The Mariners were really bad that year, finishing with a record of 61-101, but Felix did everything he could to get them a win, finishing the year with six complete games, and in the process got himself his first Cy Young.
5. Eric Gagne
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Eric Gagne won the NL Cy Young Award in 2003 with 91 percent of the votes. He finished the year with 55 saves and an ERA of 1.20 and struck out 137 in 82.1 innings of work.
He was the first relief pitcher to win the National League Cy Young Award in almost 15 years, with the last winner being Mark Davis of the San Diego Padres in 1989.
4. Mike Scott
Mike Scott won the NL Cy Young in 1986 and leading up to that season was a very inconsistent pitcher: In 1982 he went 7-13, in 1983 he went 10-6, in 1984 he went 5-1 and in 1985 he went 18-8.
He finally strung together back-to-back quality seasons and won the Cy Young with the Astros in 1986. That year he went 18-10 with an ERA of 2.22, including five shutouts.
The stat that was most impressive was he had 306 strikeouts that season because he only broke 100 strikeouts in a season once before then.
3. Zack Greinke
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Zack Greinke overcame off-the-field challenges earlier in his career to win the Cy Young Award in 2009. Many believed he always had the talent to be a top pitcher, but it took a few years for everything to come together.
Leading up to 2009, Greinke had around a .500 career record with an ERA around 3.50, and he wasn't really considered a Cy Young candidate, especially playing on the Kansas City Royals. He went on to finish the 2009 season with a 16-8 record and an unbelievable 2.16 ERA and WHIP of 1.073.
Like Cliff Lee, he has moved on to bigger and better things and will be pitching in his first postseason this year with the Milwaukee Brewers.
2. John Denny
John Denny was never an All-Star but had one season where everything clicked, winning the NL Cy Young in 1983 with the Phillies. From 1979 to 1983, he went 32-36 with an ERA under four only one season.
Then, in his first full season with the Phillies, Denny went 19-6 with an ERA of 2.37 and a 1.127 WHIP. He won 86 percent of the votes that year to claim the Cy Young Award.
1. Fernando Valenzuela
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There has only been one pitcher in major league history to win both the Cy Young Award and the Rookie of the Year Award in the same year. Fernando Valenzuela accomplished this feat in 1981 and has also won the title of most improbable Cy Young season.
That year he went 13-7 with an ERA of 2.48, which included 11 complete games and an impressive eight shutouts. Valenzuela never won another Cy Young but was a runner-up in 1986.
If he won the Cy Young later in his career, this would've come as no surprise to people considering his six straight All-Star appearances. However, to win it as a rookie is very impressive and something that hasn't been achieved since Valenzuela.