Houston Astros fans look forward to baseball, but are players really competing for a 2020 Cy Young or MVP? Let’s take a look.
Recently, Houston Astros star, Justin Verlander, communicated that he feels recuperated and ready to go. The 2019 AL Cy Young Award winner elected to undergo groin surgery in March to alleviate pain, and may no longer miss a portion of the beginning of the originally scheduled season.
As to if new Houston Astros’ manager, Dusty Baker, will give Verlander the game ball during the team’s regular-season debut, no announcement has been made. Verlander also could potentially feature an innings restriction imposed upon him by the franchise to make sure he does not overexert the area in which he received surgical treatment.
However, assuming Verlander is given the all-clear, what would it take for the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner to earn baseball’s most prestigious single-season pitching honor—besides being voted the MVP—once again? In effect, what would it take to win a shortened season’s Cy Young Award?
Well, for starters, considering a 60-game season, a pitcher in a five-man rotation may have the opportunity to make exactly 12 starts. Perhaps winning nine to 11 games with a sub-3.00 ERA could get the job done for any pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in 2020. Additionally, the rough equivalent of a 300-strikeout season over 162 games translates to 111 strikeouts over a 60-game season. So unless someone like Gerrit Cole punches out 110-plus for the Yankees this season, the race really remains open.
Moreover, a 2020 CY Young Award could go to a reliever who might get lucky capitalizing on his save opportunities. Nevertheless, the margin for error will be slight for starters and relievers, alike, who desire Cy Young consideration. And serving as another interesting nugget to the uniqueness of the upcoming season, no pitcher will be allowed to help his own cause with a bat as all MLB regular-season games will feature a DH in 2020.
Will there be a Cy Young Award in 2020?
While the Houston Astros will begin their official season in July, MLB has yet to make an announcement concerning if players can still earn major personal honors such as Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, or the Cy Young Award. Complicating matters, MLB’s regrouping of teams regardless of traditional league affiliation for the 2020 season creates uncertainty as to the fairness of simply awarding a particular award to one player each in both the AL and NL like usual.
Personally, at this time, I believe MLB will announce an intention to offer such individual awards for the 2020 season for two primary reasons. First, elite competitors are creatures of motivation. Such awards incentivize players to grind through a shortened season not only to win a championship but to prove their individual dominance over their competitors, as well as to gain favor in Hall of Fame voters’ minds.
While naysayers might argue winning an award for exceptional performance in a shortened 2020 regular season remains less of an accomplishment, the counterargument presents itself that all players feature a level playing field to outperform competitors, as all players receive the same amount of regular-season games to demonstrate their on-field mastery.
A second reason that I believe MLB will likely allow such awards for the shortened 2020 season is
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that races for these personal achievements can increase broadcast ratings. Perhaps a team may find itself out of contention, but a pitcher has featured a sub-1.50 ERA all season, or a 2020 hitter freakishly manages to knock out nearly 30 homers in a race to earn an MVP Award on a team with a mediocre record whose playoff hopes wane by the day.
Of note, during the league’s hiatus in March, Will Leitch and Mike Petriello of MLB.com ranked who they felt to be the 20 most likely candidates to win a Cy Young Award in 2020. Their projections, which conveniently rank all AL and NL pitchers together on one master list, provide interesting food for thought.
Leitch and Petriello rank former member of the Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole, as the second most likely player to win a 2020 Cy Young Award, trailing only back-to-back NL Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom.
Meanwhile, they rank Justin Verlander, sixth, and Zack Greinke, 15th, in their 20-pitcher list. Though not what baseball purists might desire for a traditional 162-game season, in a 60-game sprint, anything is possible.