The finalists for the Baseball Writers' Assocation of America (BBWAA) awards will be announced on Monday at 6 p.m. ET on the MLB Network, and then you'll have to wait until the week of Nov. 13 to find out who actually won. While we can't know for sure right now who finished atop the balloting (which doesn't take any playoff performance into account, as votes were due at the end of the regular season), it doesn't mean we can't use past results to make an educated guess, especially for the Cy Young Awards.
That's the premise of our Cy Young Predictor, created by MLB.com's Tom Tango. It doesn't aim to say who should win so much as it does attempt to predict who will win, based on the voting patterns we've seen over previous years. Last year, the tool accurately predicted the three finalists in each league. In 2015, it nailed the top five in both leagues in the right order.
The way it works is relatively simple. The formula is (IP/2 - ER) + SO/10 + W, which means that it's based entirely on innings pitched, earned runs, strikeouts and wins. You can, and should, employ more advanced thinking in your evaluations, like FIP or xwOBA. Many voters will. But based on the balloting history we've seen since 2010, plenty of voters will rely on the traditional numbers, and they've done well in the past at predicting the outcome.
Oh, and there's one small loophole to the formula. If a pitcher has more wins and a lower ERA than a pitcher above him, even if he has fewer points, he'll bubble up above that pitcher. File that away. It's going to be important.
For months, this seemed like Sale's award to lose. It seemed like such a given that Sale would win the American League Cy Young Award that the discussion turned more to whether he'd actually have a shot to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award than any worries about this. Kluber, meanwhile, got off to a slow start, carrying a 5.06 ERA when he injured his back and went on the disabled list in May.
Well, the narrative turned. Kluber returned in June and put up one of the most dominant stretches of pitching you can imagine, allowing just a 1.62 ERA in his final 23 starts, striking out 224 hitters. Sale's season, meanwhile, went the other direction; he had a 2.37 ERA through the end of July and a 4.09 ERA over the final two months, though he still whiffed a Major League-best 308 hitters.
Though the recency bias of that surely swayed some votes for Kluber, this is about full-season performance, not just partial-season, and the most advanced metrics have them as being equally as effective. But as the tool suggests, Kluber will win this handily, as Sale's advantage in innings is minimal (only 9 2/3 more) while Kluber's ERA was far lower (2.25 to 2.90) and his 18-4 record looks nicer than Sale's 17-8, too. Wins shouldn't matter all that much, yet as we saw when Rick Porcello beat Justin Verlander last year, they still do.
Behind the obvious big two, Severino's breakout year (2.98 ERA in 193 1/3 innings) makes him a pretty solid candidate for the third finalist spot ahead of another strong campaign from Carlos Carrasco (3.29 ERA in 200 innings, 68 points in the predictor) and Verlander (63 points).
Here's where it gets a little more complicated and goes back to the loophole we noted above. Scherzer accrued the most points this season because he threw 25 2/3 more innings than Kershaw and struck out 66 more hitters, mostly because the Dodgers' ace missed time due to a back injury for the second year in a row. The latest advanced quality of contact metric from Statcast™, known as xwOBA, has Scherzer as being slightly more effective, and he did it against more hitters. His case is a strong one.
But Scherzer had a higher ERA (2.51 to Kershaw's 2.31), and he had fewer wins (16, and six losses) to Kershaw (18, and four losses). Per the rules of the tool, that pushes Kershaw above Scherzer to the top of the list, because again, this is based on past history. It doesn't mean that it will or should happen, just that it could, simply because of those two factors, which voters have proven matter.
Like in the AL, this is a two-man race, as it seems a near-impossibility that this ends up with anyone other than Scherzer or Kershaw atop the list. as Strasburg's extremely impressive season (2.52 ERA in 175 1/3 innings) tops the rebound season of Zack Greinke (3.20 ERA in 202 1/3 innings, 68 points in the predictory) or yet another National, Gio Gonzalez (2.96 ERA, 201 innings, 68 points). An interesting outlier is Kenley Jansen, who had the best season of an already dominant career, but a reliever hasn't finished higher than fourth since 2008.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and the host of the Statcast podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.