Braves: Forget the Rookie of the Year, let’s talk about the Cy Young

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To put it in one word, Mike Soroka’s performance to this date in 2019 has been “elite.” He is having a historic rookie season that the national media doesn’t seem to care about, which bothers me and should tick off the rest of Braves Country. Because of the stellar performance of fellow rookie Pete Alonso, and the hype surrounding DeGrom, Scherzer and even Ryu – it looks as if our Canadian Ace is on the outside looking in for both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. Only one rookie has ever won both, Fernando Valenzuela, and there hasn’t been a more deserving candidate since than Mike Soroka.

While scrolling through Twitter before Soroka’s last start against the Blue Jays, I came across a tweet from MLB Stats that made me realize how incredible he has been. Before his start on August 27th, the righty had thrown a total of 480 sliders throughout the season. Of those 480 sliders, only 13 resulted in a hit, amassing to a slugging percentage of .161. Yeah, I said slugging percentage. That’s unbelievable.

If you look deeper into his numbers, it is even more staggering. In the National League, his ranks include (as of September 2):

1st in HR/9 and HR/FB

1st in ERA+ (similar to wRC+ for a hitter, takes into account outside factors that normal ERA does not)

1st in OPS Against

2nd in ERA and WPA (Win Probability Added)

3rd (tied with Max Fried) in GB%

7th in FIP and fWAR

7th in LOB%

Keep in mind, Soroka just turned 22. Age should not be a factor when determining the Cy Young, but it doesn’t make it any less remarkable. 13 months ago, Mike would not have been able to buy a beer at The Battery. Fast forward a year later, and he finds himself a legitimate contender for the most prestigious pitching award in the world. Wild.

Just as age should not be considered as an advantage towards winning the Cy Young, it also should not hurt his stock. One of the reasons why I think he isn’t getting the same recognition that a veteran, such as Max Scherzer, is receiving with the same numbers is due to his age. As Braves fans, we forget that everyone else does not watch the Braves daily. They do not see his consistency. Instead, they see a 22-year-old rookie having an abnormal year headed straight for regression in 2020.

However, Soroka does not act like a rookie. He has the poise of a 10-year vet. Just take a look at his last start Tuesday against the Blue Jays. He’s roughed up for two runs in the first, and the Jays continued to put the ball in play in the following innings. Instead of having a meltdown as most other rookies would, Soroka made some adjustments and shut the Jays out the rest of the way. In fact, when Snitker made the controversial decision to pull Soroka after the 6th inning, the young righty was sitting at only 79 pitches, a testament to how he battled back from a forgetful first inning. That’s been Soroka’s M.O. all season. He brushes off the inevitable rough patches that occur over 162 games and pitches the same way every time on the mound. As a result, he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs in an outing all year – and he has only done that twice.

Objectively, looking at his season, everyone should immediately put Soroka near the top of the Cy Young conversation; however, you rarely hear his name being mentioned except as a mere formality.

If the season ended today, my vote for the Cy Young would be as follows:

  1. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  2. Mike Soroka
  3. Max Scherzer

I think Ryu has Soroka beat, but it is not an insurmountable lead. Ryu has hit a rut recently, posting an ERA of 7.48 in August. The gap between the two’s ERAs is now just .02. Also, the Dodgers will clinch their division reasonably soon. It will not surprise me if Los Angeles skips a couple of Ryu’s starts in late September. If the Braves are in the middle of a division race, then Soroka might be given more opportunities to close the gap and take the lead. Although, with the way things are trending, Scherzer cannot be counted out either. He’s been on fire in the season’s second half.

In the juiced ball era, what Mike Soroka is doing compared to Pete Alonso is much more recognizable. However, all most people care about is home runs, and Alonso is on pace to smack 50 of them. Even with the balls flying out at a record pace, most baseball voters won’t be able to look past the number 50. But if Soroka can take home the Cy Young, which he is incredibly close to doing despite the hype around the other candidates, that might change things. If not, Soroka will be the only player in MLB history to win the Cy Young but not the Rookie of the Year – something that I don’t ever think will be repeated.

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