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NL Cy Young race: Who will separate from crowded field of contenders?

We discuss the NL Cy Young race as the 2023 regular season enters its final week.

Blake Snell of the San Diego Padres stands on the mound after a strikeout in the second inning against the Colorado Rockies on September 19, 2023 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

It’s the final week of the 2023 MLB regular season, and there’s still plenty left to be decided. From coast to coast, teams will be battling out for playoff positioning, but a spot in October isn’t the only thing still on the line — we also have some individual awards to hand out.

In some cases, those awards races were put to bed weeks ago; Shohei Ohtani isn’t even in the Angels’ clubhouse these days but will waltz to a second AL MVP. For others, though, this week is an excellent chance to deliver one heck of a closing argument. Padres ace Blake Snell has been making an excellent one this month, with just two runs allowed combined over his last five starts. Snell has been just about the only constant for the Padres’ rotation this year, and the only pitcher in the NL seemingly immune from the occasional slump or blowup. But with just a few days left to go, how safe is Snell’s second Cy Young Award? And who are the best candidates to snatch it from him at the last moment? Let’s break it down.

Updated NL Cy Young odds as of Tuesday, September 25

Blake Snell -4000 Justin Steele +1500 Spencer Strider +4000
Logan Webb +10000 Zac Gallen +10000 Zack Wheeler +10000
Kodai Senga +15000 Corbin Burnes +15000 Jesus Luzardo +15000

NL Cy Young race: Who will take home the hardware?

Snell’s case starts and ends with two words: run prevention. The lefty’s 2.33 leads not only the NL but all of the Majors, more than a half-run better than second-place Kodai Senga of the Mets (2.96). Snell also leads Senior Circuit in hits allowed per nine — put simply, when he’s throwing strikes, he’s been basically impossible to hit.

Of course, “when he’s throwing strikes” is the rub. Snell also leads the Majors in walks and walk rate, and that’s a big part of the reason why he’s not even in the top 10 in the NL in innings pitched. (Though with two starts left, that could certainly change.) Some may be rubbed the wrong way be the idea of a Cy Young winner who doesn’t even average six innings per start, as Snell is on track to do. Still, it’s hard to see who might take the award from him: Senga has done his best work after everyone stopped paying attention to the Mets, while other contenders like Justin Steele, Spencer Strider and Logan Webb have all faltered to one degree or another down the stretch this season. There are nits to pick in Snell’s profile, but no one has stepped up to give anyone who might be inclined to do so an alternative. If he stumbles this week and Steele pitches Chicago to the postseason, though — and improves on his 3.00 ERA in the process — it could be a different conversation.