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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Corbin Burnes.Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Corbin Burnes.Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /

ERA+

This ‘new’ statistic essentially compares a pitcher’s ERA to the league average, and is also adjusted for ballpark. Average ERA+ is always 100, with the best starters each year potentially surpassing 150. (Relievers can go higher.)

ERA+ is not use-dependent, which makes it an excellent counter-balance to WAR in assessing pitcher performance.

As a prototypical ‘new’ stat,’ it is also a closely watched category among Cy Young voters who emphasize SABRmetric tools.

The normalization to a base of 100 also makes it easily expressible in comparative situations…and there is no situation more comparative than awards voting. To state that a pitcher with a 150 ERA + was 50 percent better than the average pitcher is an absolute and irrefutable fact.

The only problem with relying solely on ERA+ is that unlike WAR, it does not factor in usage. Jacob DeGrom has an ERA+ of 366 this season. Too bad he hasn’t pitched a single inning since early July.

This is Burnes’ showpiece category. His ERA+ to date is 178, the best in the Majors so far.

But Burnes has plenty of competition. Scherzer (177) and Buehler (172) are right on his heels, as is his teammate, Woodruff (170).

The category hurts Wheeler, whose 139 ERA+ is good but not in the same ballpark as his competitors for the award. Wainwright, too, has a poor ERA+ by the standards of this group.

Pitcher                 ERA+

1              Burnes                  178

2              Scherzer               177

3              Buehler                172

4              Woodruff             170

5              Miley                     163

6              Gausman             161

7              Wheeler               139

8              Wainwright         131