- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The National League Cy Young Award winner will be revealed Wednesday night. The Washington Nationals have 67 percent of the field, thanks to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg joining Clayton Kershaw as the final three candidates.

The winner will be announced around 6:43 p.m. on MLB Network. A look at the candidates:

Max Scherzer

If Scherzer wins, he will become just the sixth pitcher in history to win the award three times. He won in 2013 while playing with the Detroit Tigers, then again last season, his second with the Nationals. He is one of six players to win the award in both leagues. He also has a 20-strikeout game in his career, plus two no-hitters. Those things don’t weigh into this season, obviously, but show how expansive Scherzer’s pitching resume has become. Even if he wins this season, he would still be four wins behind Roger Clemens, who won the award seven times.

Scherzer’s case in 2017 is again rooted in his constriction of baserunners. He led the league in WHIP (walks, plus hits divided by innings pitched), producing a number relievers would be jealous of, 0.90, that also led the league. He also held hitters to a .178 average, to again lead the league in that category. That’s 21 points lower than last season, a year that Scherzer won award, but was also a down year for Clayton Kershaw, who is again a finalist.

Scherzer also led the league in strikeouts — he was on pace for more than 300 for the first time before small injuries cost him a few starts — and pitched 200 ⅔ innings, which was seventh in the league and well ahead of his competition for the award.

Scherzer has a stout case for the second consecutive season. He is also helped by Kershaw being limited in consecutive years. He’s the favorite to win the award Nov. 15.

Clayton Kershaw

When healthy the last two years, only Kershaw has surpassed Scherzer in dominance. His problem has been staying on the mound.

Last year, he made just 21 starts, which led to Scherzer being a clear winner. This year, he made 27 starts and threw 25 ⅔ fewer innings than Scherzer.

When he pitched, he was his usual self. Kershaw led the league in ERA at 2.31 and ERA-plus at 180. He also had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio at 6.73, well ahead of career mark of 4.18. A hilarious note from 2016 to remember: Kershaw’s strikeout-to-walk ratio was a preposterous 15.64 that season.

Where he severely trails Scherzer is in WAR, according to baseball reference’s measure of it. Scherzer produces a 7.3 WAR, one that may even garner him some MVP votes. Kershaw just 4.6.

A lot of that has to do with Kershaw’s reduced workload. He was just 21st in innings pitched last season. He threw only 42 ⅔ of those after the All-Star break. That reduction in innings again makes Scherzer the favorite. The argument for best pitcher on the planet is still a winnable one for Kershaw. But, this award is based in the math around this season, and it’s hard to see Kershaw’s totals — despite his control when pitching — putting him ahead of Scherzer after all the votes are counted.

Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg’s second half of the season — counter to Kershaw — is where his strength and argument for the award exists. From July 3 forward, despite two stalled starts in that month, no one pitched better than Strasburg. He set a Nationals record after 26 scoreless innings. Strasburg’s scoreless streak eventually ended at 35 innings. His ERA after the All-Star break was 0.86. Opponents hit .171. He struck out 76 in 62 ⅔ innings.

Strasburg led the league in two interesting categories. One was home runs per nine innings, which showed how challenging it was to square up and drive his pitches during a season-long explosion in home runs. The other is fielding independent pitching, which measures a pitcher’s effectiveness in preventing home runs, walks and hit by pitch and causing strikeouts. It’s a category that Strasburg has done well in throughout his career. The last three seasons, Strasburg has allowed an average of just 14 home runs per season. Kershaw has allowed an average of 15 during the same timespan.

That Strasburg carried his high-end pitching into the postseason does not influence the award. Votes are gathered before the playoffs begin. But, that run was enough to make him a finalist for the first time since being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009. He just appears unlikely to win his first Cy Young Award. That, again, is probably going to his teammate.

• Todd Dybas can be reached at tdybas@washingtontimes.com.

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