The Cy Young votes went as expected, with Corey Kluber cleaning up in the American League -- collecting 28 of 30 first-place votes to beat out Chris Sale -- and Max Scherzer winning his second consecutive National League Cy Young Award. The mild surprise was Scherzer received 27 of 30 first-place votes to easily outpoll Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw had led the NL in wins and ERA, usually a combo that will deliver a Cy Young Award, but Scherzer had the edge in innings, strikeouts and WAR. That proved to be the difference-maker for the voters. As more writers become versed in advanced metrics, everybody is looking at the same numbers. That makes for smarter voting but less predictable.
It was a gratifying win for Scherzer and he pumped his fist when he was announced as the winner. He has a baby on the way -- "We may be at the hospital tonight," he said on MLB Network -- and it wasn't the easiest of seasons for him.
He had suffered a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger in the offseason and the injury lingered into spring training. At the time, it appeared he'd miss the start of the season. He made it back to start the Nationals' fourth game.
"I was behind the entire time," he said. "I didn't even think I'd be able to start on time. ... This is time to give thanks to the medical staff. They did such a tremendous job of keeping me on the field."
With Kluber winning his second and Scherzer joining an exclusive club in becoming only the 10th pitcher with three Cy Youngs, it's confirmation that we're in another era of super aces, similar to the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period that featured Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.
Kluber has pitched 200 innings four years in a row. Scherzer has made 30-plus starts every year of his career. Sale is going to win a Cy Young one of these years. Stephen Strasburg, who finished third in the NL voting, is just reaching his peak. Heck, Kershaw is 46-15 over the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA and didn't win the award in any of those seasons.
Scherzer's win, however, makes me realize that it's time we starting thinking of him as an all-time great. I guess I had never thought of him that way before, but the other nine pitchers on that three-time Cy Young list are Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Steve Carlton, Kershaw, Martinez, Sandy Koufax, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer, thank you very much.
Though Scherzer had the finger injury and then a hamstring issue in September, he never has had a major arm injury. He now has had five consecutive seasons where he has finished in the top five in the Cy Young vote. Given his current level of dominance and strikeout rate -- and .178 average allowed in 2017 -- his run of excellence isn't about to end any time soon barring some career-threatening injury. He's signed for four more seasons, and if he averages 15 wins per season, he'll be over 200 career wins to go with those three Cy Youngs.
The twist to Scherzer's durability is that he was once traded for fear that he wouldn't be durable. Under general manager Josh Byrnes, the Diamondbacks drafted Scherzer 11th overall in 2006 out of the University of Missouri. He reached the majors in 2008 and in his first full season in 2009 went 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA over 30 starts and 170 innings, striking out 174.
Even though he finished 12th in the majors in strikeout rate and 15th in strikeout-minus-walk rate, the Diamondbacks traded him that winter as part of a three-team deal with the Tigers and Yankees, with Arizona receiving Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson. Even at the time, critics thought Byrnes flubbed the deal.
"In general, the immediate reaction of the trade is not often a predictor of the outcome," Byrnes said at the time. "We're always balancing short term and long term. I think this was pretty clear in the short term that it strengthened us, and long term we realized there was some degree of risk."
The Diamondbacks worried that Scherzer's violent pitching motion meant he might not stay healthy and develop into a 200-inning workhorse. The Diamondbacks viewed the trade as acquiring eight years of starting pitching -- six of Kennedy and two of Jackson -- for five years of Scherzer. Here's Scherzer making his MLB debut in 2008:
Maybe he has cleaned up the delivery a little bit since then, but it's not dramatically different. The weird part about the trade is if the Diamondbacks had concerns about Scherzer's delivery, then why did they draft him in the first place? And then trade him after a successful debut season in the majors?
While the trade wasn't a disaster for the Diamondbacks -- Kennedy had some good seasons and they flipped Jackson for Daniel Hudson at the trade deadline in 2010 -- it was one reason Byrnes was fired just seven months later (the same day the D-backs fired manager A.J. Hinch).
Anyway, Scherzer has proven that just because you do something different doesn't make it wrong. Kershaw has also flourished with an unconventional delivery. Now Scherzer joins Kershaw on that short list of all-time pitching savants.