The Astros have two staff aces. Most teams scramble for one. They have two. Let that sink in for a moment.
One of them will be a Hall of Famer one day. The other could be on his way.
Either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole will win the AL Cy Young Award for this season, but which one gets the nod?
Normally, the competition for the top pitching prize in baseball is heated if for no other reason than the guys battling for the award are opponents, sometimes rivals. But, neither Verlander or Cole is rooting against the other. They have the same goal: to win a World Series — Cole his first, JV his second. But there is no doubt they have a friendly competition going to see who can be the best American League arm in 2019.
If you think the numbers aren't that close, take a look at this tweet from MLB Astros writer Brian McTaggart.
Cole and Verlander have one start remaining, and wow is this Cy Young race close.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) September 25, 2019
Verlander: 20-6, 2.53 ERA, 33 GS, 217 IP, 133 hits, 42 BB, 288 K's, .172 BAA, 0.81 WHIP
Cole: 19-5, 2.52 ERA, 32 GS, 207 1/3 IP, 138 hits, 46 BBs, 316 Ks, .186 BAA, 0.89 WHIP
Cole leads in strikeouts. Verlander in innings and hits. They are nearly tied in ERA with Verlander getting the slight edge in WHIP and batting average against. They should both finish the seasons with 20 wins and Cole has already set the franchise mark for strikeouts in a season. There's a decent chance Verlander joins him with 300 strikeouts.
So, if you are voting for the award, how to you untangle the numbers?
Honestly, you probably can't. The overwhelming dominance by Cole when it comes to strikeouts really does overshadow the slight statistical edge for Verlander in a few categories.
Gerrit Cole, 91mph Bohemian Rhapsody Slider. ??— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 25, 2019
"Mama, just killed a man..." pic.twitter.com/prxcRbRsGE
Ok, then what?
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In the end, it probably comes down to a combination of Justin Verlander's age and his no hitter. It's difficult to do the things either of these guys has been doing for an entire season. Being this elite for this long is damn near impossible. But, take that excellence and put it in the body of a 36-year-old who routinely goes six or seven innings and is well over the 200 innings mark yet again this season.
Then, tack on his third career no hitter at that age and it appears we have a winner.
It's so close that it is really unfair to give the award to either of them alone. But, if you have to pick a solo artist to stand in the winners' circle, this year at least, it should be Verlander. The fact that is was this close is a testament to the greatness of Gerrit Cole and how re-signing him this offseason, especially given his age, needs to be the Astros top priority, cost be damned.
Regardless of who wins the award, taking the two best pitchers in baseball into the playoffs should be terrifying for other teams. They will have to face both of them.