The Case of the 2022 Cy Young Award Finalists

Are there any clear favorites among this year’s Cy Young Award nominees?

In the American League, a future Hall of Famer has returned after missing the entire 2021 season and has only cemented his legacy. In the National League, a surging ace has turned in a season reminiscent of the workhorses of a bygone era.

However, don’t crown them right away. There are four other pitchers who stepped in when their teams needed them most and were virtually untouchable for extended stretches. They still deserve to be here.

Here’s a look at the case of each of the six Cy Young nominees before the winners were announced on Wednesday the MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET.

Justin Verlanderunderstandably, is getting a lot of support for his third BBWAA American League Cy Young, but Cease deserves just as much to win his first AL 2022 ballot. He finished the season like an ace, posting a 10-6 record with a 1 ERA .51 (23 earned runs in 137 1/3 innings pitched), an average of .173 against and 156 strikeouts in his last 22 starts.

Cease has allowed an earned run or fewer 23 times in 2022, tied with Wilbur Wood (1972) for the most in club history. The 23 starts are the most by a Major League starter (non-opener) since Blake Snell in 2018 (also 23). The only starters (non-openers) in AL/NL history with more one or zero earned run games allowed are Sandy Koufax (25 in 1963; 24 in 1966) and Bob Gibson (24 in 1968 ).

The right-hander set an AL/NL record with 14 consecutive starts allowing an earned run or less from May 29 through August 11, producing six earned runs in 82 innings during that streak. There have been nine separate starts where Cease allowed two or fewer hits, including Cease taking a no-hitter on the home end against the Twins on Sept. 3, before Luis Arraezis a two-out single in the ninth inning.

His 2.20 ERA was second in the AL behind Verlander, as was his 0.190 ATS average (0.186 for Verlander). Cease’s 227 strikeouts left him second behind Gerrit Cole‘s 257, while his slider was rated the most valuable throw in baseball with a -36 point value, by Statcast, ahead of Shohei Ohtanithe slider at -28. Opponents had a 0.128 average against Cease’s slider and a 0.209 slugging percentage, again per Statcast. — Scott Merkin

Manoah is struggling against Verlander here, of course, but the 24-year-old star represents a combination of quality and quantity that is becoming rare among starters. The big right-hander’s 2.24 ERA jumps, but doing it over 196 2/3 innings makes him more impressive as he continues to show all the makings of a workhorse starter. Each day Manoah took the mound, the Blue Jays could expire and expect seven innings.

It’s a remarkable rise for Manoah. Even as one of the organization’s top prospects entering 21, he exceeded all expectations and sped up his schedule significantly. The 21-year rookie campaign was impressive as he posted a 3.22 ERA, and a repeat of that would have been considered a success. Manoah found another gear, however, becoming a fan favorite with a boisterous personality on the pitch that made each of his starts a staple. This mentality is also what makes Manoah special on the mound, strengthening in one way or another as soon as a runner reaches base.

It’s also hard to overstate Manoah’s value to his own team last season. The Blue Jays lost Hyun Jin Ryu at Tommy John surgery, Jose Berrios experienced a year of surprising decline, Yusei Kikuchi fell out of rotation, and there was little depth ready to step in. A second drop from Manoah would have sunk this rotation, but instead the big man stepped in alongside Kevin Gausman as a co-ace. He will hold that title for years to come, and there are plenty more Cy Young races to come. — Keegan Matheson

Verlander went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA in 28 starts and was the ace to a 106-win division champion. At 39, he led the American League in wins, ERA, WHIP (.83), opponents’ OPS (.497), opponents’ batting average (.186) and hits per nine sleeves (5.97). His 1.75 ERA was the lowest by an AL pitcher since Pedro Martinez (1.74) in 2000. His 220 ERA+ was the best of his career, surpassing his Cy Young/MVP season with the Tigers in 2011 (172 ).

Coming out of Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2021 (and making just one start in 2020), Verlander had three starts in which he didn’t allow a hit, becoming the No. history to go three no-hitters in at least five innings. in a single season. He hasn’t allowed a homer in his last 10 starts, spanning 58 2/3 innings. He posted the lowest ratio of homers allowed per nine innings (0.62) by a right-hander in the AL. He pitched at least five innings and didn’t allow a run in 10 of his 28 starts (35.7%).

The Astros went 20-8 in games started by Verlander and he was a stoppage in games after an Astros loss. In 12 starts after a loss, he was 9-0 with a 1.11 ERA with 13 walks and 84 strikeouts in 73 innings. — Brian McTaggart

Alcantara’s 2022 season was an anomaly in baseball’s day. His 228 2/3 innings and six complete games were the most pitched in six years. Three of those CGs came against post-season clubs. The All-Star has thrown eight or more frames in 14 of his 32 starts, the most since 14. Alcantara is a unicorn, a true workhorse who expects to go the distance every time he takes the mound.

The 27-year-old right-hander has accumulated the most WAR — via FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference — of the finalists. His ERA (2.28), strikeouts (207) and quality starts (24) were in the NL Top 5. Alcantara threw low contact, as evidenced by his MLB-lowest 14.20 pitches per inning, but he still became the first pitcher in franchise history to record 200 consecutive batting seasons and s is ranked in the 94th percentile for pursuit rate (34.6%). Alcantara can hit triple digits in the ninth inning or trigger his switch, which had a run value of -25, the best in MLB.

If those reasons aren’t enough, why not take the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes‘word for that? “Yeah, he would be the Cy Young for me this year. What he’s done in terms of deepening the plays, getting him started and started, he doesn’t have a lot of explosive outings. He’s going out there and give them seven, eight or nine innings and give them a chance to win.” — Christine DeNicola

Fried was a big reason the Braves enjoyed their first 100-win season since 2003 and claimed a fifth consecutive NL East crown. The southpaw ranked third in the NL in ERA (2.48), ERA+ (164) and FIP (2.70).

It was the second straight year the Braves had benefited from Fried’s reinforcement as the season progressed. The veteran pitcher has produced a 2.15 ERA in his last 17 starts of the season. The only NL pitcher to post a better ERA during that span, which began June 20, was Julio Urias (1.89).

Fried rose to the occasion in some of the Braves’ biggest games in the final two months of the season. He allowed two runs or fewer in each of the five starts he combined against the Mets and Phillies in the final two months of the season. He set the tone during the Mets’ big late-season sweep in Atlanta. He allowed just one run in five innings while battling the flu in that first series. — Mark Bowman

Urías put together one of the most underrated seasons. He didn’t make the NL All-Star team this season, and winning the NL ERA title isn’t as respected as it used to be, although it’s an incredibly difficult feat.

After the All-Star break, Urías, who was understandably upset at not being selected to the team, responded by being the most efficient pitcher in the NL, going 11-2 with a 1 ERA. 26. In his last 14 starts, Urías has allowed two or fewer earned runs in each of them.

Urías’ impact was also felt in an injury decimated starting rotation. At one point, the Dodgers had Tony Gonsolin, Walker Buhler and Clayton Kershaw — three All-Star caliber weapons — on the disabled list. The Dodgers desperately needed someone to step in and be the ace, and it was Urías who answered the call. — Juan Toribio