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Gerrit Cole finishes runner-up to Robbie Ray for AL Cy Young Award

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For the second time in three years, Cole fell short of winning his first career Cy.

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a disappointing conclusion, Gerrit Cole turned in a pretty special season for the Yankees. Tasked with being the ace of a rotation that needed someone to provide innings, Cole stepped up with a 3.23 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 1.059 WHIP in 30 starts. After a blip up in 2020, he brought his home run rate back to his 2019 form, led the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio at 5.9, and in 181.1 innings, struck out 243 — the second-most in franchise history behind only Ron Guidry’s otherworldly 1978.

Nonetheless, Cole’s numbers were topped in numerous voter-friendly categories across the board by surprise Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray. The Toronto southpaw led Cole in ERA (2.84), ERA+ (154), strikeouts (an MLB-best 248), WHIP (1.045), innings (193.1), and Baseball Reference WAR (6.7). The all-around package was enough for Ray to beat Cole for the AL Cy Young Award as well, which was just announced on MLB Network. Ray received 29 of the 30 first-place votes, with Cole nabbing the lone outlier (from MLB.com’s Jason Beck) and all remaining second-place votes.

Make no mistake: It was a terrific season and one that could’ve won Cole his first career Cy in other years. However, the cloud of the Spider Tack/sticky stuff scandal hung over his season, and it’s impossible to ignore how his numbers changed after MLB cracked down on foreign-substance enforcement at the beginning of June. Through the end of May, he had a 1.78 ERA and 1.77 FIP in 70.2 innings; afterward, he posted a 4.15 ERA and 3.66 FIP.

It shouldn’t be overlooked that from mid-July through early-September, Cole did recapture some of that earlier form, beginning with a dominant shutout over the Astros that stood as the highlight to his season:

Alas, a hamstring injury in September derailed Cole’s comeback, and he wasn’t the same pitcher when he returned to the mound for his final four starts (and the AL Wild Card Game blow-up). It was at that point that Ray put a little distance in a close Cy Young race and really made Wednesday’s announcement not much of a surprise.

It’s the second time in three years that Cole has finished runner-up for the Cy Young, as he was also passed over in favor of Houston teammate Justin Verlander in 2019. Cole also finished top-five for the Cy in 2015 with the Pirates, 2018 with the Astros, and 2020 with the Yankees. Much like fellow 2010s ace Chris Sale though, pitching’s ultimate honor has continued to elude him. The Yankees themselves have not had a Cy Young winner since Roger Clemens in 2001.

There’s always 2022, I suppose.