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Handicapping the NL Cy Young Race

Can anyone de-throne Mets ace Jacob DeGrom in the Cy Young race?

With roughly two weeks to go in the 2020 MLB regular season, it would take a blowup of epic proportions for Shane Bieber to lose out on his first CY in the American League, but the Senior Circuit's race is much more wide open. The current NL field is essentially a 4.5 horse race with two-time winner DeGrom pacing the pack.

Let's take a look at the top five contenders as we head for the wire:

#5 Max Fried - Atlanta Braves

6-0, 1.98 ERA, 8.46 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, 1.8 fWAR, 2.52 FIP

Fried would fully be in this race had he not gone on the IL back on September 8th with a lower back issue. He's been great this season for the NL East leading Braves and propped up their injury-maligned rotation until he, himself went down. Fried is likely going to steal a few votes, but because he will probably only make one more start this year as a tune-up for the playoffs and has a lower K/9, I have him currently sitting in 5th place.

#4 Corbin Burnes - Milwaukee Brewers

3-0, 1.98 ERA, 13.32 K/9, 3.96 BB/9, 2.2 fWAR, 1.94 FIP

Talk about the difference a year makes. In 2019, Burnes' ERA after 49.0 IP sat at 8.82. This season after 50 IP, he's improved that mark by an astonishing 6.84 runs. He has the best K/9 in the NL and leads all of baseball in FIP and H/9. Despite working the early part of August from the bullpen, Burnes ranks 6th in the NL in total strikeouts and has eclipsed double-digit Ks in three of his last four outings (while allowing just one earned run). Burnes only has 7 starts on the season, but did pitch well out of the bullpen to give him 50 IP through 10 appearances. He beats out several other names for a spot on this list because of his league leading metrics and the fact the's the hottest SP in baseball.

The Brewers are a dark-horse playoff contender at this point as their offense continues to struggle, but if they pass the Cardinals in the NL Central and Burnes has another two dominant starts, he may very well find himself finishing higher than his current 4th place ranking.

#3 Trevor Bauer - Cincinnati Reds

4-3, 1.71 ERA, 12.88 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, 2.1 fWAR, 2.84 FIP

Bauer had a stranglehold on this award prior to three straight losing decisions at the end of August. But his last two starts have him back in the hunt. He does have two complete game shutouts this year, but both have come by virtue of the 7-inning double header. In fact, a whopping five of Bauer's nine starts have come in 7-inning games, which is astonishing when you think about it. Bauer's FIP shows him to be one of the luckier pitchers in contention this year and the Reds are struggling to remain in playoff contention at 23-26. Expect voters to punish players from non-playoff teams more heavily this year with the expanded playoff field.

With only 11 games remaining, expect Bauer to start twice more and potentially improve his position if he can avoid another blowup start. The three losing decisions and lack of playoffs will hurt Bauer compared to the rest of the field if the Reds can't sneak in.

#2 Jacob DeGrom - New York Mets

4-1, 1.67 ERA, 13.17 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 2.3 fWAR, 1.96 FIP

DeGrom has been his usual, steady self in 2020, not giving up more than two earned runs in any of his nine starts. He'll pitch next on 9/16 and then again on 9/21, but if the Mets fall out of the race he's a prime candidate to have his final start skipped. The Mets sit at 21-26 and 2.0 games back currently, but with 13 games remaining against the Phillies, Braves, Rays and Nationals they have a tough road to make up ground.

DeGrom is having another dominant season and would be a worthy three-time award winner but his team hasn't been all that good. Much like Bauer or Burnes, his team will need to make the playoffs if he wants to three-peat for the award.

#1 Yu Darvish - Chicago Cubs

7-2, 1.77 ERA, 11.57 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, 2.2 fWAR, 2.26 FIP

Darvish has been the best pitcher on the team most locked into a playoff spot at this point. The Cubs have basically locked down the NL Central and Darvish's resurgence has played perhaps the most integral role in that.

The HR ball has popped up in his recent outings (3 in his last 4 starts) after allowing just one long ball in his first five games, but he's minimized the damage and continued to strikeout batters at a very solid rate. The seven wins will be looked upon favorably as well, and if he has a realistic shot to pace the NL in both Wins (tied for the lead) and ERA (currently trails DeGrom by 0.10).

It looks like Darvish's award to lose at this point, but with each earned run and loss carrying so much weight, any of these players could walk away with the Cy Young in a few weeks time.

Honorable Mentions:

Dinelson Lamet - Padres: Just missed the cut with "only" a 3-1 record and 2.12 ERA. It's going to be hard to win with your ERA starting with a "2" this year. Lamet also has the Ks and fWAR, but not as strong of a case in terms of record and FIP. He's a hair behind Burnes and Fried, in my opinion.

Zack Wheeler - Phillies: Has only made 8 starts and has a 2.47 ERA. He only has 36 Ks on the season for a career worst 6.35 K/9.

Zach Davies - Padres: Not enough strikeouts and a 3.62 FIP that points to him being not as good as his 7-2 record and 2.48 ERA. Will split some of the NL West votes with Lamet.

Aaron Nola - Phillies: Similar to Lamet and Davies, Nola and Wheeler will split votes and hurt each other's chances. Nola has made nine starts, but also has a mid-2 ERA and a 5-3 record. The 12.3 K/9 looks great, but the 3.11 FIP and ERA keep him off the list at this point in the season.

Clayton Kershaw - He's 5-2, but only has made eight starts. Like Wheeler, that will hurt him. The 3.18 FIP also shows him to be a bit lucky with his 2.28 ERA and with only 1.3 fWAR, he just hasn't been that valuable to the Dodgers this year.

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