Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Cleveland’s Corey Kluber and Washington’s Max Scherzer are the Cy Young Award winners. The 2017 Cy Young race saw a pair of budding legends put another award in their trophy cases. Kluber beat out Red Sox ace Chris Sale and the Yankees’ Luis Severino for his second American League Cy Young, while Scherzer captured Cy Young No. 3 over Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and his Nationals teammate Stephen Strasburg, claiming the award in the National League.
Kluber and Scherzer combined for 34 wins, the second fewest combined victories by a pair of Cy Young-winning starters in any non-strike season (Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum combined for 31 in 2009).
In a sign of the times, Kershaw is the first pitcher since Mike Boddicker in 1984 to not win the Cy Young after leading his league in both wins and ERA. In fact, Scherzer is the first Cy Young winner who did not finish in the top three in his league in wins since Felix Hernandezin 2010.
But putting wins aside, as many modern Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters do now, the quality of these two pitchers was extraordinary. Kluber recorded the Majors’ lowest ERA, while Scherzer allowed the lowest batting average against of any qualified starter.
Voters rewarded Kluber and Scherzer for their dominant seasons, awarding each winner at least 27 first-place votes for the first time since Kershaw and Scherzer won in 2013. Furthermore, the Indians and Nationals went a combined 41-19 when Kluber and Scherzer took the hill this past season.
As Kluber and Scherzer take another step toward future Hall of Fame consideration, here are some facts and figures you should know about their triumphant 2017 campaigns:
Kluber adds a second Cy Young
• Kluber is the 19th pitcher to win multiple Cy Young Awards, joining a list that already includes fellow 2017 finalists Kershaw and Scherzer. The last AL pitcher to win multiple Cy Youngs was former Twins ace Johan Santana in 2004 and ’06.
Kluber is the first to win multiple Cy Youngs with the Indians, though Gaylord Perry claimed the first of his two awards with the Tribe in 1972.
• Kluber claimed his first Cy Young Award in ’14 by just 10 points over Hernandez, but made 2017 a runaway by capturing 28 of the 30 first-place votes and winning by a 78-point margin over Sale. The 28 first-place votes are the most obtained by a Cy Young winner since Kershaw won the NL Cy Young unanimously in 2014. Scherzer was the last AL pitcher to reach the total, garnering 28 first-place votes in ’13.
• Kluber’s 2.25 ERA was the lowest of any qualified starter in 2017. That made him the first Indians pitcher to lead the Majors in ERA since Mike Garcia (2.36) in 1949.
• If Cy Youngs are won or lost on finishing strong, no one could touch Kluber. Entering June 1, Cleveland’s ace owned a 5.06 ERA and a 25.9 percent strikeout rate as he prepared for his return from the disabled list. From that point on, the righty posted a 1.62 ERA and 36.2 percent strikeout rate that were each the best of any qualified starter in that stretch (min. 100 innings).
The Indians went 13-1 over Kluber’s final 14 starts of the regular season.
• Kluber’s career-best 7.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio led all qualified pitchers in 2017 and was more than two strikeouts better than the 5.27 rate he posted while winning his first Cy Young in ’14. Kluber currently ranks second on the all-time list (dating back to 1901) with a 4.94 K/BB ratio, behind Sale’s 5.12 rate (min. 1,000 innings pitched).
• Kluber’s 29.5 percent strikeout-minus-walk rate (K-BB%) tied Randy Johnson’s 2001 season for the fourth best in modern history. Only Pedro Martinez in 1999 (33.1 percent), Sale this past year (31.1) and Martinez again in 2000 (30.8) have finished better.
• Kluber’s best pitch was probably his curveball, which held hitters to just 26 hits in 249 at-bats (.104 average) and only two home runs.
• Scherzer joins nine other pitchers who have won at least three Cy Young Awards in their careers, including Kershaw. Seven of them — save Kershaw and Roger Clemens — are members of the Hall of Fame. Only four of those legends — Clemens (7), Johnson (5), Steve Carlton (4) and Greg Maddux (4) — won more Cy Youngs than Kershaw and Scherzer.
• Scherzer also became only the 10th pitcher to win a Cy Young in back-to-back seasons, and the first since Kershaw in 2013-14. He is the first pitcher to win multiple Cy Youngs while pitching for the Nationals (formerly Expos) franchise.
• Opponents batted just .178 against Scherzer in 2017, which made history beyond this season. In fact, that mark is the lowest allowed by any NL pitcher over a season that qualified for an ERA title in the Live Ball Era (dating back to 1920). Only four AL starters had ever recorded lower batting averages against in that span:
Lowest opponent batting averages allowed in a qualified season, since 1920
1. Pedro Martinez, 2000: .167
2. Luis Tiant, 1968: .168
3. Nolan Ryan, 1972: .171
4. Nolan Ryan, 1991: .172
5. Max Scherzer, 2017: .178
• Strikeouts were a staple for Scherzer, as he joined Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins (1968-71), Johnson (1997-2002) and Martinez (1997-2000) as the fourth pitcher in Major League history to strike out 250-plus batters in four consecutive seasons.
• Scherzer also joined Dwight Gooden, Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Martinez and Curt Schilling as the only NL pitchers to record 15 games with double-digit strikeouts in a single season.
• Scherzer struck out 268 of the 780 batters he faced for a 34.4 percent strikeout rate that ranked second in the Majors behind Sale (36.2). It’s also the sixth-best single-season rate recorded by any qualified starter in modern history.
• How filthy was Scherzer’s stuff this season? Opponents had trouble touching it even when Scherzer located pitches in places they could do damage. No starting pitcher generated a higher rate of whiffs per swing on pitches inside the strike zone than Scherzer (25.6 percent). His .219 batting average allowed on those in-zone pitches was also best in the Majors.
By Matt Kelly