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A Cy Young Award Tale of the Tape

With Gerrit Cole now officially a Cy Young finalist, let’s see how he stacks up against the other contenders.

New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

MLB award season continued on Monday night with the announcements of the finalists for the MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, and Managers of the Year. Considering the Yankees disappointing 2023 season, there wasn’t a ton to celebrate in that regard. However, the Yankees did get one very notable nominee.

After a stellar season at the top of the Yankees’ rotation, Gerrit Cole was named a finalist for the 2023 AL Cy Young Award.

Cole being named in the final three isn’t exactly a surprise, and in some regards he’s expected to win the award. If you look at betting odds from somewhere, you’re likely to find him as the favorite. However, we won’t know for sure until the official announcement on November 15th. While we wait, let’s look at the tale of the tape between Cole, Kevin Gausman, and Sonny Gray.

In Gausman, Cole will have some divisional competition. Somewhat surprisingly, the two never ended up a head-to-head matchup this year. They both utterly dominated games against the other’s team, putting up ERAs of 0.31 (Cole in 28.2 innings against Toronto) and 0.67 (Gausman in 27 innings against New York) respectively.

Cole has the advantage in a lot of traditional stats, putting up a better ERA in 24 more innings than Gausman, and also winning more games, despite having the hinderance of the Yankees’ offense. In some of the more advanced stats, the gap is a bit closer. While Cole clearly leads according to Baseball Reference WAR (7.5 to 3.4), Gausman actually has a very small edge in FanGraphs WAR (5.3 to 5.2).

That’s likely down to the fact that FanGraphs uses FIP in it’s WAR calculation, and Gausman shone in that regard, because he struck out a ton of batters in 2023. His 237 K’s trailed only Spencer Strider, and was 15 more than Cole despite throwing 24 fewer innings. He struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings compared to 9.6 for Cole.

Gausman does have the distinction of having helped his team make the playoffs, although anyone pinning that difference on Cole is delusional.

Meanwhile, the third nominee in the race is also a familiar face to Yankees’ fans in former Bomber Sonny Gray. The fact that Gray is a Cy Young nominee years after his disastrous Yankee stint isn’t that surprising, but is a bit frustrating. Whatever the reasons are, Gray and the Yankees couldn’t make it work together, but he’s managed to find form elsewhere.

Gray put up a 2.79 ERA and a 2.83 FIP in 209 innings for the Twins. He helped the win the AL Central, and then win their first playoff game and series since 2004 and 2002 respectively, although that won’t have factored into Cy Young voting.

Again, Cole has a decent sized edge in many of the traditional state, with Gray making it a little closer when it comes to the more advanced ones. They’re even according to FanGraphs WAR at 5.3, with Gray’s 2.83 FIP a little better.

Gray also has the accolade of having helped Minnesota make the playoffs. Again, though, that’s in no way shape or form a demerit to Cole’s case. If anything, with his his two complete game shutouts, you could argue that he had more memorable performances even if he wasn’t pitching the Yankees to the pennant.

Baseball Reference

I fully admit to being a bit biased when I write this, but I do find it hard to see Cole not coming out on top when the final results are announced. He’s been excellent in so many years prior, only to just get beaten out when the final results are released. It feels like the narratives surrounding this award could go in his favor. Make no mistake though, Cole absolutely deserves it for an excellent 2023.