The regular season is probably over for Blue Jays‘ ace Robbie Ray. He made his final scheduled start on Thursday against the Yankees. Ray was not his normal self, allowing four home runs in less than six innings, suffering his seventh loss.
Ray and Yankee right-hander Gerrit Cole are the two top candidates for the American League Cy Young Award. The pitchers have been sparring back and forth for control of the award race. trading positions atop several statistical categories.
Could a Special Wild Card Playoff Game Determine the Cy Young Award?
The only way we’ll see Ray pitch again in the regular season is of the Jays have to play a special wild card play-in game. Currently, the Jays are one game behind the Mariners and Red Sox for the second wild card spot. Any game(s) needed to determine a wild card spot would technically be considered regular season games.
As a result, a special game on Monday, say between Toronto and Seattle or Toronto and Boston, would be considered a Game #163. There’s even a scenario where three teams could be tied for one wild card spot or four teams could be tied for two spots. In that case, multiple games would be needed, all considered regular season contests.
If Ray has to toe the rubber for a game to send Toronto to the wild card game, how far would that performance go to determining the Cy Young award? It depends on each voter and how they want to weight one start (even a start so crucial).
Robbie Ray vs. Gerrit Cole, 2021 Stats
Ray currently leads the AL in ERA, strikeouts, Wins Above Replacement by a pitcher, and innings. This table compares the stats of the two Cy Young candidates.
|Robbie Ray||Blue Jays||13-7||2.84||248||4.77||3.68||6.7|
Cole has three more wins, and there are probably still some old-minded baseball writers who like wins when deciding who to vote for. He also has an edge in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which removes all factors outside the pitcher’s control to display his “true” runs allowed in an ERA-style stat.
But Ray will finish the season as the league leader in ERA and K’s, two-thirds of the pitching triple crown. That should mean a lot.
In the last 20 years there have been 19 instances where a pitcher has led the league in at least two of the three triple crown categories (wins, K’s, ERA). Fifteen of those pitchers won the Cy Young Award. The only four who did not win the Cy Young are Max Scherzer in 2018, Clayton Kershaw in 2017, Pedro Martinez in 2002, and dum dum dum dum…Gerrit Cole in 2019.
Fifteen out of 19 is a pretty high percentage, but it’s still possible that Cole could win the award, avenging his 2019 season when he led in two triple crown categories and lost the award to teammate Justin Verlander.