Aaron Boone, of course, is biased. But that doesn't mean he's wrong.
“It’s hard to really put anyone else up against him at this point,” the Yankees' manager said Thursday night of Gerrit Cole’s Cy Young Award candidacy after watching him lower his ERA to an American League-low 2.75 in a 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays.
Cole allowed one run and two hits in eight innings in which he struck out nine and did not walk a batter in improving to 14-4 with an MLB-leading 1.02 WHIP in an AL-leading 32 starts. It marked the 25th time in 32 outings in which Cole, who also leads the AL in innings with 200, allowed two or fewer runs, the most such starts in the big leagues this season.
It also was the 25th time in 32 outings that Cole lasted at least six innings, the most such starts in the AL and the second-most in the majors (behind the Giants’ Logan Webb, who has 26).
So is Cole the lock to win his first career Cy Young Award that pretty much everyone around the Yankees believes he is?
“He kind of has to be, right?” a rival AL scout said. “I would agree [with Boone].”
Twins righthander Sonny Gray and Mariners righthander Luis Castillo are the two other pitchers getting the most mentions as candidates for the award, but their numbers simply don’t compared to Cole’s. Gray, a former Yankee, is 8-7 with a 2.84 ERA in 30 starts covering 174.0 innings. Castillo, a trade target of the Yankees before at least two trade deadlines in recent years, is 14-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 31 starts and 188 1/3 innings.
One rival AL executive said Cole's accomplishment of reaching the 200-inning plateau for a second straight season — and for the sixth time in his career — doesn’t get enough attention.
“Honestly, that’s the biggest number for me,” the executive said. “You just don’t see those kind of innings, and at that level, from too many guys anymore.”
Cole is the only pitcher in the big leagues since 2017 to throw at least 200 innings in five different seasons. He’s the only big-league pitcher since 2015 to record six such seasons.
“He’s just been so good for so long,” pitching coach Matt Blake said.
Jake Bauers, who has spent parts of his career with two clubs that have had their share of standout starting pitchers, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, said of Cole: “He’s almost so good that you can take it for granted.”
He added: “It’s pretty impressive the way he goes out there every five days and immediately gives you a chance to win the game. There’s not many guys like that in this league . . . He’s got four elite pitches, so any time a guy can do that and locate them all, it’s going to be a long night.”
There have been plenty of those for the opposition this season.
“I feel like every single outing, he executes almost every single pitch,” Anthony Volpe said. “It’s been a joy — to play behind, to watch, to be his teammate.”
While Cole has downplayed winning the Cy Young Award, at least publicly, his teammates have not. They are very much aware that Cole, one of the dominant pitchers in the sport the last 10 years, has yet to win a Cy Young (he finished a close second to Astros teammate Justin Verlander in 2019) and will celebrate along with him when he presumably takes home the hardware this November.
“To know that he doesn’t have one is mind-blowing,” Nestor Cortes said. “So I think it’s going to be cool. He’s downplaying it, but I think it’s going to be cool for us to be part of his accomplishment, just witnessing [as teammates] a pitcher that could potentially go on to win three or four Cy Youngs. But I’m glad he’s on the cusp of winning his first one.”