White Sox’ Dylan Cease Coming Up On Outside Of AL Cy Young Race

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be conducting my final in-season checks of the MVP and Cy Young races in both leagues. Today, we’ll take a crack at the AL Cy race, which we last checked around the All Star break.

As usual, I’ll be doing this utilizing the batted ball-based methods I typically employ here. I take all batted balls allowed by qualifying starting pitchers and apply league average production rates for each exit speed/launch angle bucket. Then I add back the Ks and BBs to determine each pitcher’s “Tru” ERA-, my proxy for ERA-/FIP-. Then that figure is spread across each pitcher’s innings bulk, and the hurlers are ranked by “Tru” Pitching Runs Above Average (TPRAA).

As I see it, there are five legit candidates for the AL hardware, and though the leader is currently the same guy as it was in July, he (and my current #3 candidate) are currently on the disabled list, and my current #2 is flying toward the top of the charts. Here’s my list of current contenders, with three Honorable Mentions thrown in for good measure.


The Astros’ Framber Valdez (13.4 TPRAA) currently leads this group. In my last check of the AL Contact Manager of the Year race, he was the leader, though he has since dropped into 2nd place with an 82 Adjusted Contact Score. He’s an extreme grounder generator, to the extent that he has actually posted a negative average launch angle (-3.8 degrees) allowed thus far.

A pair of Blue Jays, Alek Manoah (11.9 TPRAA) and Kevin Gausman (11.4 TPRAA) are next in line. Manoah was actually in 2nd place in my last Cy check-in, and has basically been a league-average pitcher since the All Star break. Some decline in effectiveness should have been expected, as he is in uncharted territory innings-wise. He does a lot of things well, combining a strong K/BB profile with a high pop up rate and outlier line drive authority prevention (89.6 mph average liner exit speed). Gausman is actually the AL leader in Fangraphs WAR, but they don’t dock him enough for his subpar contact management profile. While his K and BB rates are exceptional, Gausman yields a ton of line drives while inducing very few pop ups for a fly ball pitcher.


#5 – RHP Shohei Ohtani (Angels) – 69 “Tru” ERA-, 18.1 “Tru” Pitching Runs Above Average (TPRAA)

What a season the reigning MVP and one of the two real candidates for this year’s AL MVP is having. While’s he’s actually dropped a notch from 4th since July, I consider him a stronger contender now as he is now more likely to reach the 162-inning ERA title threshold, while the two injured members of the top four might not do so. He’s been an exactly league average contact manager to date (100 Adjusted Contact Score), but when you rack up a 181/33 K/BB ratio over 136 innings, “average” contact management will do just fine. A special, special player that we are privileged to watch.

#4 – RHP Gerrit Cole (Yankees) – 72 “Tru” ERA-, 19.8 TPRAA

Cole doesn’t quite match up with Ohtani in terms of quality, but he’s got all of these guys beat in terms of innings bulk. He moves up from a tie for 5th in July’s rankings – he’s flown a bit under the radar this season, but his inexorable consistency and durability have kept him in the race. Like Ohtani, he’s a league average contact manager (99 Adjusted Contact Score) who relies on an elite K/BB profile for his excellence. Cole allows the loudest fly ball authority of this group (92.1 mph average fly ball exit speed, 126 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Score), but he runs a much higher pop up rate than Gausman to help compensate.

#3 – RHP Justin Verlander (Astros) – 69 “Tru” ERA-, 20.3 TPRAA

Verlander has moved up from a tie for 5th (with Cole) in the July rankings. It must be emphasized that while the veteran has been great this season, he has been nowhere near as great as his actual numbers. He has been very lucky on both fly balls (59 Unadjusted vs. 94 Adjusted Fly Ball Contact Score) and liners (63 vs. 101). He has allowed exactly one double on 79 line drives. In all of MLB, almost 15% of all liners have gone for doubles. Overall, Verlander’s Unadjusted (Actual) Contact Score of 61 is way below his adjusted 86 mark. He currently sits on the DL with 152 innings pitched. He’ll likely make another start or two before the season ends, but it’s hard to see him moving higher on my list.

#2 – RHP Dylan Cease (White Sox) – 67 “Tru” ERA-, 22.1 TPRAA

And here’s the healthy member of the current Top 3. Cease ranked 3rd on the midseason version of this list, but was 5.7 TPRAA behind the leader, who remains on top for now. Cease leads the AL in walks, but that’s it for the negatives. He is 2nd to Cole in strikeouts, and has recently passed Valdez for the lead in the AL Contact Manager of the Year race with an 80 Adjusted Contact Score. He muffles authority across all batted ball types, particularly fly balls (70 Adjusted Contact Score, best among AL qualifiers), the most important type. He also maintains a healthy pop up rate. He’s one typical start from clearing the 162 inning ERA qualification threshold, while it’s uncertain that either #1 or #3 on this list will get there. If I were a betting man, I’d pick Cease to top this list at season’s end.

#1 – LHP Shane McClanahan (Rays) – 63 “Tru” ERA-, 23.4 TPRAA

Well, I assumed all along that things might get dicey for McClanahan as he got into rarified innings-pitched air at this early stage in his career. I just hoped that injury wouldn’t be the culprit. Like Verlander, he sits on the DL but is expected back to make at least a start or two before the playoffs. He’s at 147 1/3 IP, so is very unlikely to qualify for the ERA title. Quality-wise, he’s been the best starter in the AL this season, but his quantity is likely to come up short. McClanahan has totally throttled grounder authority (82 Adjusted Grounder Contact Score), keying an overall Adjusted Contact Score of 91. If he can maintain above average contact manager status with his elite K/BB profile, the sky is the limit.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonyblengino/2022/09/07/white-sox-dylan-cease-racing-up-on-outside-of-al-cy-young-race/