Blake Snell of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets were named the best pitcher in their respective league when they were announced as the 2018 Cy Young Award winners on Wednesday.
Snell won the vote ahead of Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians to win the American League trophy.
Per BBWAA.org, Snell led the way with 17 first-place votes and 169 total points. Verlander came in second, receiving the remaining 13 first-place votes and 154 total points.
The Rays southpaw joins David Price (2012) as the only pitchers in franchise history to win a Cy Young award.
DeGrom beat out Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals and Aaron Nola of the Philadelphia Phillies on the National League side.
There wasn't nearly as much drama in deGrom's win as their was with Snell. The Mets right-hander received 29 out of 30 first-place votes and 207 points, per BBWAA.org. Scherzer was a distant second with the other first-place vote and 123 points.
Prior to the voting announcement, both races were defined by favorites who had to overcome a historical bias if they were going to win.
Snell led the AL with 21 wins and a 1.89 ERA, ranked fourth with 11.01 strikeouts per nine innings and tied for sixth with 221 strikeouts. The big question was whether or not voters would penalize him for only throwing 180.2 innings.
For perspective, the fewest innings by a starting pitcher to win the Cy Young award was 198.1 by Clayton Kershaw in 2014. Kluber (215) and Verlander (214) ranked first and second in the AL in innings pitched.
One thing that may have worked in Snell's favor was pitching in the American League East. He went 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 27 strikeouts over 25 innings in four starts against the Boston Red Sox.
Another favorable aspect of Snell's season was keeping the same company as Pedro Martinez during his historic 2000 campaign:
DeGrom was trying to fight the voting block that still favors pitcher wins. The Mets did their ace no favors by giving him 3.53 runs of support per game, second-fewest in MLB after Cole Hamels (3.34). He posted a mediocre 10-9 record but led MLB with a 1.70 ERA, 216 ERA+ and 1.98 fielding independent ERA.
Sarah Langs @SlangsOnSports
Jacob deGrom: MLB-best 1.70 ERA. Mets went 14-18 in his starts & he went 10-9 Lucas Giolito: 6.13 ERA, worst in MLB. He went 10-13 & White Sox were 14-18 in his starts That’s the same number of pitcher wins and same team record... for the best and worst pitchers in MLB.
Per CBS Sports' Dan Budick, history was on deGrom's side to win the NL Cy Young award:
Two of the previous four pitchers on that list won the Cy Young award. Walter Johnson didn't because there was no award yet. Luis Tiant failed to win the honor in 1968 because Denny McLain, who was also named AL MVP, went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA for the Detroit Tigers.
In addition to keeping that company, deGrom also became the seventh player in MLB history to win a Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award:
Per Jeremy Frank of Next Generation Baseball, deGrom's worst month in terms of ERA was better than Scherzer and Nola had for the entire season:
Jeremy Frank @MLBRandomStats
Jacob deGrom’s ERA by month: March/April - 2.06 May - 0.69 June - 2.36 July - 1.74 August - 1.24 September - 1.80 Jacob deGrom’s worst month (by ERA) came in June, when he had a 2.36 ERA. In 2018, Aaron Nola had a 2.37 ERA and Max Scherzer had a 2.53 ERA. https://t.co/wdMwJ86HAk
Even with some potential inherent bias available to the voters, there really was no substantial argument to be made against Snell and deGrom this year.
DeGrom, in particular, became the hard-luck example of why judging pitchers by their win-loss record isn't a substantial way to value their overall performances.
Snell's lack of innings doesn't hide the fact he dominated American League lineups when the Rays put him on the mound.
Both pitchers checked the narrative boxes and were able to let their overall performances do the heavy lifting when it came time to determine the best pitcher in each league for the entire 2018 season.