The NL Cy Young race: An eight-way contest

Sep 1, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning in game one of a doubleheader at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 1, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Wade Miley (22) throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning in game one of a doubleheader at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Max Scherzer. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Max Scherzer. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

ERA

Earned run average is the definitive ‘old-school’ assessment tool for pitchers. Thus it can be a big deal to some Cy Young voters.

Not surprisingly, all eight of the candidates rank well in ERA compared with their National League peers. They all are carrying ERAs below 3.00, and several are among the league leaders.

Scherzer is No. 1 in this category. His 2.28 ERA leads the Majors. Max may not have endured a heavy workload this season, but when called on he has excelled. The issue for a lot of voters may come down to how they weigh that tradeoff: Do they prefer a candidate who excels in light work or one who does a bit less well in more substantial use?

If the latter, Wainwright’s candidacy stands to benefit. At 2.98, he ranks last among the eight contenders in ERA…but he’s done so over the aforementioned 184 innings.

Do you prefer a compromise candidate who balances workload with ERA? Then take a serious look at Buehler. At 2.31, he enters play Friday ranked behind only Scherzer in ERA, and behind only Wheeler and Wainwright in workload.

The Brewers starters also stand out in this category. Burnes has a 2.38 ERA and Woodruff is at 2.48.

Wheeler’s ERA may have paid a price for his durability. At 2.91, he ranks ahead of only Wainwright among the eight contenders.

                 Pitcher                 ERA

1              Scherzer              2.28

2              Buehler                2.31

3              Burnes                 2.38

4              Woodruff            2.48

5              Gausman            2.56

6              Miley                    2.89

7              Wheeler              2.91

8              Wainwright        2.98