All statistics mentioned are based on the completion of Sunday’s (8/23) contests.
As the MLB season approaches the 50% completion mark, many fans have kept their eyes on the aces of each staff. Notable American League aces, including Cleveland Indians SP Shane Bieber and New York Yankees SP Gerrit Cole, have generated Cy Young award conversations with their dominant starts to the season. However, even with Bieber and Cole commanding the AL statistical pitching categories, I think neither will win the Cy Young award. Instead, this prestigious award will go to a 33-year-old pitcher for the Texas Rangers.
In the 2018-19 offseason, Lance Lynn landed with the Rangers via free agency on a 3-year, $30 million deal after a horrendous 2018 campaign between the Twins and Yankees. The Rangers took a chance, and it has paid off marvelously.
A Diamond in the Tumbleweed
The Rangers (10-17) have been one of the more underwhelming teams this season (time to start swinging 3-0), but Lynn has been the bright spot in an otherwise substandard pitching staff, which ranks tenth in the AL in runs allowed (147). Lynn has been one of the most dominant starters in baseball this season, logging his first complete game since 2014 against the Rockies at Coors Field on Aug. 14. Lynn is currently ranked fourth in the MLB in ERA (1.37), second in quality starts (5), and sixth in strikeouts (42). He has allowed only 7 runs (6 ER, 4 HR) to score against him across 39.1 innings.
Lynn’s BABIP (.176) and FIP (2.81) suggest he is due for some regression. However, in a short season, that regression may never catch up to him. In fact, his game logs have only shown him improving each outing–Lynn has thrown for five-plus innings and 100-plus pitches while limiting opposing teams to two or fewer runs in all 6 of his starts this season.
SP Shane Bieber (5-0) is the most substantial threat to Lynn in the Cy Young award race. Bieber picked up where he left off last year with an MLB leading 65 strikeouts, 40.2 IP, and 14.4 K/9. He also owns an AL-best 1.11 ERA, trailing only SP Trevor Bauer (0.68 ERA) for the MLB lead. It will be a close sprint toward the end of the season, but if Lynn can maintain his dominance, I think voters will consider him over Bieber or Cole for the AL Cy Young award.
Lance Lynn debuted with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011. The following year, Lynn earned a rotation spot and finished with an 18-7 record and a 3.78 ERA, which warranted his first and only All-Star selection. Lynn’s stint with the Cardinals was a success, although he was never nominated for a Cy Young award or another All-Star selection. Lynn later missed the entirety of the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Consistency was the name of the game for Lynn, who started 30-plus games and pitched 175-plus innings between 2012 and 2017, with the exception of that 2016 season. When it was all said and done, Lynn produced six quality seasons for the Cardinals going 72-47 with a 3.38 ERA in 183 games (161 starts). Lynn was dominant over his 977.2 innings pitched, evident by his 8.5 K/9, 1.28 WHIP, and combined 14.9 WAR.
With only one All-Star appearance and no other accolades to show for his efforts, Lynn surely wasn’t expecting a multi-year contract in the 2017-18 offseason. Ultimately, Lynn inked a one-year, $12 million deal with the Twins, but after struggling to a 5.10 ERA in 20 games started he was dealt to the Yankees.
Enter the Texas Rangers. Lynn signed a deal that would keep him in Texas through his age 34 season. And even in the confines of a hitter-friendly ballpark, Lynn has done his part to keep opposing bats silent.
Is Lynn the first choice for the Cy Young award? It’s difficult to say with half the season left to play. But in comparison to Jacob deGrom’s back-to-back Cy Young award campaign, I doubt the win/loss record will have much impact. Also like deGrom, voters might be more inclined to award the pitcher that did everything in his power to help his team win. If the Rangers do miraculously make the playoffs, it would be all thanks to Lynn, making him the obvious Cy Young choice.
My name is Sebastian and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in journalism and communication, along with a minor in German. I have been in various editorial positions and have contributed articles to The Lumberjack, NAU's student-run newspaper.