Half of Hyun-Jin Ryu’s name was already printed on the Cy Young Award trophy before surrendring seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings to bump his ERA up to an even 2.00 on the year, opening the door for several candidates — one of those being the Braves sensational rookie Mike Soroka.
The freshly turned 22-year-old doesn’t have the electric repertoire of a DeGrom or Scherzer, who are good for 10+ strikeouts almost every time they toe the rubber. But outside of maybe Ryu, there hasn’t been a more consistent starter from night to night then Soroka. This stat is mind-boggling to me: the most runs Soroka has allowed in an outing all season is four, which he’s done twice. He’s also only failed to finish six innings in five of his 23 starts. Because of this, Soroka is near the top in the two stats that most predict the Cy Young Award winner each year – WAR and ERA. He’s barely behind DeGrom and Scherzer, who are tied for the National League lead in WAR at 5.4. Soroka sits at 5.1 which is well ahead of Ryu’s 4.6. And Soroka is tied for second with Scherzer in ERA (2.41) behind only Ryu (2.00).
Now, outlasting veterans like Scherzer, DeGrom, and Ryu isn’t going to be easy. Winning the most prestigious pitching award in baseball usually isn’t, but with a standout September, Soroka could do something that one other pitcher in the history of baseball has done – win the Cy Young as a rookie. Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers is the only one to accomplish the feat, but he also took home the Rookie of the Year Award. As of now, it looks more likely Soroka wins the Cy Young than the Rookie of the Year, which would be the first and probably last time that ever happens in a game that prides itself on breaking records.
Pete Alonso is on pace to hit 50 home runs and potentially surpass the rookie record of 52 set by Aaron Judge in 2017. While I would say, Soroka has been more impressive, especially if he does enough to win the Cy Young Award; voters might give Alonso the edge because he plays every night. Fernando Tatis Jr. is also having a Ronald Acuña Jr. type rookie campaign, and if I’m being honest, it’s been a little bit better. He’s a fantastic fielder at shortstop, slashing .317/.370/.590/.969 with 22 homers in just 84 games. Over a 162-game season, he’d have a WAR of over eight. He is who I believe deserves the award, even if Soroka does enough to rise above Ryu in the Cy Young race, but unfortunately Tatis is likely out for the rest of the year.
Anytime the Braves have a player up for a prestigious award like a Cy Young or an MVP; it’s a thrill for the fans. But for a rookie, that might not even win the Rookie of the Year Award, to be on the cusp of the Cy Young – this is just downright nuts. Hopefully, Soroka can have his best month of the season in September and accomplish something that has never been done before.