The best pitchers in baseball reside in the National League, which should make the race for the 2021 Cy Young Award fascinating.
Seven of the top 10 pitchers in wins above replacement in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season played their ball in the Senior Circuit. Dating back to the beginning of the 2018 season, seven of the top 11 pitchers by WAR now play for National League teams.
Sustained success begins with pitching, so it’s no coincidence four of the top six teams on the World Series odds list are in the NL, either.
Making an NL Cy Young pick, however, is easier said than done. Here are the current odds, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook.
Jacob deGrom +350
Trevor Bauer +750
Max Scherzer +1000
Walker Buehler +1000
Yu Darvish +1000
Aaron Nola +1200
Blake Snell +1300
Jack Flaherty +1300
Luis Castillo +1600
Stephen Strasburg +2000
Yu Darvish +1000
Davish’s two worst seasons — 2018 and 2019 — are looking like exceptions to the rule, especially after a dominant 2020 campaign in which he finished second in NL Cy Young voting behind Trevor Bauer. After walking the ballpark (nearly five walks per nine innings) in a brief 2018 stint, Darvish threw more strikes in 2019 but paid for it, allowing a league-leading 33 home runs. But he turned it around in the shortened season with career-best figures in both walks and home runs per nine innings. Unsurprisingly, he posted a career-best 2.23 FIP in the process.
While Darvish is “old,” especially by big league pitching standards at 34, he finds himself in the best spot he’s been in since coming to the big leagues. He’s now the Opening Day starter for the San Diego Padres, an exciting team ready to contend for a World Series. The Padres have the talent to be truly elite, which should drive up Darvish’s win total while putting him in a position to pitch in big games, especially in the division against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Those sort of games — going up the likes of Bauer, Clayton Kershaw or Buehler — can help him pick up signature wins, which seem to be important in voting. While the Fathers’ rotation is much improved, it obviously pales in comparison to LA’s, so it’s not like he and his rotation mates will cancel each other out like they might in Hollywood. Getting a bunch of starts in comfy San Diego inside spacious Petco Park also sounds a lot better than taking the mound at windy Wrigley Field.
Age and durability are the main concerns here, but if he can stay on the mound, there’s plenty of value in Darvish — a two-time Cy Young runner-up — finally bringing home the hardware.