It’s been 18 years since a Toronto pitcher won the Cy Young Award. But that streak might come to an end thanks to the second-half performance of Robbie Ray, a man with two names who sounds like a character from The Hannah Montana Show.
But the left-handed Ray is not a wig-wearing pop singer: he’s the ace of the Blue Jays, who are still clinging to hopes of a wild card spot. Entering games of Tuesday, the Jays are three games behind the Red Sox for the second wild card spot and a place in the playoffs.
Want a reason to bet on the Jays to make the playoffs? Look no further than Ray, who has been brilliant the last six weeks.
Ray Enjoying a Great Second Half of the Season
In his eight starts going back to late July, Ray has averaged close to seven innings per outing with a 1.51 ERA. In that stretch he’s struck out 70 batters while walking only 14, and he’s only surrendered two home runs. Opposing batters are hitting a paltry .176 against him.
In his last four starts, Ray has reached double-digits in K’s, vaulting him over the 200 mark in strikeouts. He’s the first Toronto pitcher to reach 200 K’s since 2011, and just the fifth overall. Impressively, Ray is the first Blue Jay pitcher to have as many as four consecutive games with 10+ K’s, breaking a franchise record held by Roger Clemens.
All those K’s and masterful outings (Ray has 15 quality starts* in his 18 starts since the beginning of June) have propelled the unassuming Ray into the conversation for regular season honors. Only three Toronto pitchers have won the Cy Young: Pat Hentgen in 1996, Clemens in 1997 and 1998, and Roy Halladay in 2003.
*A quality start is at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs.
American League Cy Young Award Odds
Here are current odds from BetMGM:
|Gerrit Cole||Yankees||-275||14-6, 2.73 ERA, 215 K's, SHO||5.6|
|Robbie Ray||Blue Jays||+300||11-5, 2.60 ERA, 212 K's||6.7|
|Lance Lynn||White Sox||+450||10-4, 2.59 ERA, 152 K's, SHO||4.4|
|Carlos Rodón||White Sox||+2000||11-5, 2.41 ERA, 168 K's, SHO||4.1|
|Shohei Ohtani||Angels||+5000||9-1, 2.97 ERA, 135 K's||3.6|
|Hyun Jin Ryu||Blue Jays||+10000||13-8, 3.77 ERA, 127 K's, SHO||3.1|
Cole leads in strikeouts, but Ray is on his heels. The league lead in K’s and ERA may just come down to who has the best final start of the season. Ohtani won’t qualify for the ERA title based on his innings, and possibly the same for Rodón. It will be hard for either of them to get serious first-place consideration if they don’t pitch enough to qualify for rate stats.
Cole has a chance to win the pitching triple crown (lead in wins, ERA, and strikeouts). He currently leads in wins and K’s, and is second to Ray in ERA. But will voters factor the early-season controversy with Cole and use of banned substances? There are theories that he gained a lot of assistance through use of the sticky stuff, and he was named as one of the players who purchased sticky materials from an Angels’ clubhouse employee. Since MLB cracked down on the use of grip-enhancing substances, Cole’s ERA is 3.52. His ERA in his 11 starts prior to that was 1.78.
Can Ray Win Cy Young?
There’s definitely a good chance that Ray could leap in front of Gerrit Cole as the favorite to win the Cy Young. He will make five more starts this season, and if he continues to average about 11 K’s per, he could easily pass the Yankee right-hander for the league lead in that category.
Cole will lead the AL in wins, but that doesn’t matter to voters much. It’s all about ERA, K’s, and to some voters, analytics like Wins Above Replacement are important. Ray easily leads the AL in WAR for pitchers, and if he can capture the ERA or K title, he has an excellent chance to beat Cole for the award. If he wins both categories, he is probably a favorite to take the trophy.
Happily, Jays fans have more than just a Cy Young Award race to keep their interest. The team has 12 games remaining with teams in front of them in their division (namely the Rays and Yankees). On Wednesday, Cole will face the Jays in New York, which will be a task for the righty against the tough Toronto lineup. On Friday, Ray opens a weekend series in Baltimore against the O’s.
Let the wild card and Cy Young races commence.