As much as MLB fans would hate to admit, baseball awards are mostly based on favoritism and name recognition. Every now and then you will get a player that came from nowhere and will get a shot at the MVP or Cy Young but for the most part, a pitcher like Felix Hernandez can sport a 13-12 record and still walk away with the award.
Last season I felt that Cole Hamels was a viable mention for the CY Young. MLB experts looked at the numbers of Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians was putting up their impressive numbers, a guy like Hamels would be left out in the cold. But, here’s the best part about sports. You get to do it all over again in a few months.
2017 is the year that Hamels puts his name on the best pitcher in the American League list. However, he will not be the only new ACE fighting for that all-important name recognition. The New York Yankees has one of the best talents in baseball with Masahiro Tanaka who finally showed what he could do playing a full season.
Tanaka pitched 199 innings last season in 30 starts with 164 strikeouts but it wasn’t those states that sold me. 14-4 is the number I look for when giving the nod to any Cy Young candidate. That’s where I believe voters went wrong with King Felix. For all his strikeouts and low ERA, he could barely get over the .500 mark in a season. The same goes for Hamels who finished the year with a 15-5 mark.
Both pitchers are expected to have good seasons but what else will bode well for them is that their respective teams are expected to play just as good. If the Rangers can continue their dominance in the AL West and the Yankees can take advantage of the Toronto Blue Jays losing personal, Hamels and Tanka’s record will start to turn heads. Hamels has been here before in terms of winning and leading a rotation. Now, it’s up to Tanaka to take hold of this golden opportunity that sits before him with the Yankees and their youth movement.
As good as Porcello and Kluber were in 2016, to expect a repeat season is nothing but wishful thinking. Baseball is the same as any other sport. It takes skill but also a bit of luck for everything to go your way. A pitch that was a called third strike can now become the fourth ball, a deep flyout to center could keep carrying for a three-run shot. These are the dynamics of the game and for those same reasons, it’s possible that a 22-game winner can become a 14-game winner and vice versa.
So, while the rest of the league has their eyes set on Kluber or Justin Verlander, be careful and don’t forget to pay attention to what’s going on in New York and Texas.