MLB revealed the Cy Young Award winners for each league in a live broadcast on Wednesday night, and there were no big surprises: New York Yankees workhorse Gerrit Cole finally got over the hump in the AL after years of near-misses, while Blake Snell took home NL honors to become just the seventh pitcher to win the award in each league.
For Snell, it’s the exclamation point on a walk year that figures to make him a whole lot of money in free agency this winter. For Cole, meanwhile, it’s both recognition of his yeoman’s work for an otherwise-rudderless Yankees team and also some long overdue validation for a generational talent.
The 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner is Gerrit Cole! pic.twitter.com/eytKsQYECA— MLB (@MLB) November 15, 2023
For years, Cole’s been among the very best — if not, statistically speaking, the best — pitcher in baseball. And yet, for years, he narrowly missed out on his position’s top honor: The righty was a runner-up to teammate Justin Verlander while with the Astros in 2019 and to Robbie Ray while with the Yankees in 2021, in addition to three other top-five finishes. So perhaps it’s fitting that it was a year in which he wasn’t quite at his world-destroying peak that he finally takes home the hardware.
Cole’s fastball velocity and K rate were both down in 2023, but the 33-year-old found a way to keep churning through quality starts regardless, leading the AL in both ERA (2.63) and innings pitched (209) while leading the Majors in WHIP (0.981). He wasn’t as overwhelming as he was at his Houston peak, but in a year in which several other contenders — the Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman, the Mariners’ Luis Castillo, the Astros’ Framber Valdez, the Twins’ Sonny Gray and Pablo Lopez — stumbled at various points, Cole was the epitome of steadiness, consistently producing six or seven innings of work, every five days, for a Yankees team that desperately needed every one of them just to stay afloat in the AL East.
Hard as it is to believe, Cole is the first Yankee to take home a Cy Young since Roger Clemens did so way back in 2001. He’s also just the sixth Yankee to win the award at all, after Clemens, Ron Guidry (1978), Sparky Lyle (1977), Whitey Ford (1961) and Bob Turley (1958). Gray, who posted the AL’s second-lowest ERA, finished in second place, with Gausman — the league’s strikeout king with 237 in 185 innings — finishing in third.
Sonny Gray finished in a clear second place in AL Cy Young Award voting to unanimous winner Gerrit Cole. Highest finish by a Twin since Kenta Maeda finished second in 2020.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) November 15, 2023
Pablo López also earned down-ballot votes to finish in seventh overall. pic.twitter.com/cFwwmYY9Bn
Unlike Cole, Snell had already bagged a Cy Young Award with the Rays back in 2018. The lefty has gone through plenty of ups and downs in the years since, struggling both with his command and his ability to stay healthy. But in his final year before free agency, he finally put it all together, throwing enough strikes to let his untouchable stuff shine.
A monster season for Snellzilla.— MLB (@MLB) November 15, 2023
For the second time in his career, Blake Snell takes home a Cy Young Award. pic.twitter.com/czUQrjtsUz
And I do mean untouchable: Snell not only struck out 234 batters in 180 innings, but he led the Majors in hits per nine with a measly 5.75 — for comparison, the next-closest NL pitcher was Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes at 6.552.
Snell’s 2023 season got off to a bit of a rocky start — he held a 4.50 ERA at the end of May — but once the calendar flipped to June, he took off, pitching to a 1.23 mark over his final 22 starts while never allowing more than three runs in any of them. Spencer Strider was the most dominant at his peak, and innings-leader Logan Webb was the league’s preeminent workhorse; in the end, though, Snell’s run prevention was simply too overwhelming to ignore, even if he also led the league in walks and rarely lasted more than six frames.
Snell becomes the fifth Padre to win the award, after Jake Peavy (2007), Mark Davis (1989), Gaylord Perry (1978) and Randy Jones (1976). He’s also just the seventh man to pull it off in each league, joining Perry, Clemens, Max Scherzer, Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Pretty good company. Things were very tight between fellow finalists Gallen and Webb for second place, with the Giants righty ultimately prevailing.