Dallas Keuchel, Not David Price, Should Win 2015 AL Cy Young Award

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2015

Houston Astros starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel throws against the Los Angeles Angels during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

This much we know: The 2015 American League Cy Young Award will go to a southpaw.

No offense intended to Sonny Gray, the lone right-hander in the trio of finalists, but we're watching a two-man fight between free agent David Price and the Houston Astros' Dallas Keuchel.

And while it might be the undercard to the epic AL MVP clash between Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson, it's a heavyweight bout nonetheless.

We'll find out who wins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. But it says right here, right now, that Keuchel should win, if only by the narrowest margin.

First, let's stack Price and Keuchel's stats next to each other, and throw in Gray's as well:

Cy Young Hopefuls
PlayerIPERAWHIPSO
Dallas Keuchel (HOU)2322.481.017216
David Price (DET/TOR)220.12.451.076225
Sonny Gray (OAK)2082.731.082169
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

Price led the AL in ERA. Keuchel paced the Junior Circuit in innings pitched and WHIP. Overall, the two men produced remarkably similar stat lines.

And they both pitched for teams that qualified for the postseason, a factor Baseball Writers' Association of America voters frequently consider, fair or not.

Price, of course, was dealt at the trade deadline from the Detroit Tigers to the Toronto Blue Jays, and he helped Toronto end a 22-year postseason drought by winning the AL East.

For his part, Keuchel pitched the 'Stros into a wild-card slot after six straight losing seasons in Houston.

If you like WAR, it's close there too. According to Baseball-Reference.com's calculation, Keuchel has the edge, 7.2 to 5.8. But by FanGraphs' measure, Price comes out ahead, 6.4 to 6.1.

Price helped the Toronto Blue Jays end a 22-year postseason drought.
Price helped the Toronto Blue Jays end a 22-year postseason drought.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

And so it goesback and forth, blow for blow. Every time you parse the numbers, the needle nudges one way and then back.

So what's the case for Keuchel over Price? Well, for starters, Price himself took to Twitter to endorse his rival:

But that's as much about humble-bragging as anything ("Clarence," if you weren't aware, is what Price named his 2012 AL Cy Young trophy).

Price can say Keuchel deserves it while hinting at his own success, but that doesn't make it so. Anyway, not to be out-classed, Keuchel promptly returned the compliment:

And remember, the BBWAA awards are all about the regular season, so while we can note that the Jays and Astros both punched October tickets, we can't weigh the fact Keuchel had two dominant postseason starts even as Price wobbled in four appearances.

Really, the pro-Keuchel argument comes down to the freshness factor. Individual awards should ultimately be about performance and stats, with everything else stripped away. But when all else is virtually equal, intangibles come into play.

To put it simply, this feels like Keuchel's time.

You could argue last year was his breakout season, as the former seventh-round pick posted a 2.93 ERA and reached 200 innings for the first time in three big league campaigns. But the Astros were a 92-loss afterthought, and Keuchel didn't even snag an All-Star nod.

This year, Houston broke through. And Keuchel, in addition to starting the Midsummer Classic, became the bearded face of MLB's most surprising contender. As FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan put it in June, "Keuchel is no one's idea of a traditional ace, but the Astros are no one's idea of a traditional competitive team..."

Heck, as the season wore on and his stock soared, Keuchel even challenged James Harden of the Houston Rockets for hirsute supremacy in the Lone Star State.

After what he did in 2015, Keuchel is challenging James Harden for the title of coolest beard in Texas.
After what he did in 2015, Keuchel is challenging James Harden for the title of coolest beard in Texas.Pat Sullivan/Associated Press/Associated Press

OK, so we stopped talking about numbers and started talking about facial hair. Fair point. Again, though, when an award is essentially a toss-up on the stat sheet, you have to test the wind, gauge the moment and decide which guy best symbolizes the game, right now.

Price was superlative, as usual, and someone is about to back a truck full of cash onto his front lawn. If we're looking for the American League pitcher of 2015, however, the guy who'll be shorthand for the season we just witnessed in 10, 15, 20 years, it's Keuchel.

Not by a lot, but by enough to tip the exceedingly balanced scales.

Here's how manager A.J. Hinch summed things up after Keuchel and the 'Stros shut out the Yankees in New York in the AL Wild Card Game, per USA Today's Joe Lemire: "Our best is good enough."

And there's Keuchel's Cy Young case, in five simple words. His best was good enough.

All statistics current as of Nov. 16 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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