For most of 2017 the American League Cy Young conversation centered around Chris Sale. He came out of the gates white hot, striking out 10+ batters nearly every start for two months. The storyline of Sale starting hot and finishing slow has become an annual tradition since 2012, his first full year as a starter. Think about it. How many times have we said to ourselves "wow so THIS is the year that he puts it together for a full season and is finally going to win the Cy".
But every season ends the same for Sale, who once again faded down the stretch. In August and September he went 4-4 with a 4.09 ERA in 11 starts (meanwhile Kluber went 10-1 with a 1.42 ERA in 12 starts).
Still, Sale's season is worth celebrating. In his first year outside of Chicago the 28-year-old southpaw led the AL in innings (214 1/3), strikeouts (308), FIP (2.45), and K/9 (12.9). His 2.90 ERA was the second best in the AL. The second place Cy Young finish is his best ever, and it marks the sixth straight season he has finished top 6 in the voting. If I was a betting man (which I am) I'd say Sale will eventually get his win, but it'll be tough to do so if it didn't happen in a year he struck out over 300.
Not to be overlooked in the voting is Luis Severino, who posted the lowest ERA by a NYY starter since 1997. Severino was horrendous as a starter in 2016, compiling an 0-8 record with a 8.50 ERA and 7.7 K/9 across 11 starts.
The youngster had success as a reliever though, and it was unclear what his role would be for the "rebuilding" Yankees entering Spring Training. Turns out the team made the right decision. Severino credits the development of a third pitch, his change up, for turning things around. In 31 starts this year Severino went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 10.7 K/9, a drastic improvement from a season ago.
Ultimately he never had much of a chance going up against Sale and Kluber, finishing a distant third in the voting (full results can be found here). At the end of the day 2017 was a monstrous success for the new Yankees ace. He's still only 23 years old. He'll be back here.
So while it's nice to honor Sale and Severino, this award was always going to go to Kluber. His numbers down the stretch, referenced above, were ridiculous. And while games played at the end of the year count the same in the standings as those played in the beginning of the season (when Sale was dominating) it's tough to overlook the fact that Klubot was at his best when the team needed him most.
Overall Kluber led the AL in an insane number of categories, including wins (18), ERA (2.25), complete games (5), shutouts (3), and WHIP (0.87). He also led in ERA+, hits per nine, walks per nine, and strikeout to walk ratio. It was a dominant, masterful season made all the more ridiculous by the fact that he sucked in April and missed all of May. He received 28/30 first place votes, and by any objective measure was overall better than Sale was in 2017.
When he came back form that May injury the movement on his pitches was too much for the opposition to handle. The robot who goes by Klubot has become the third active pitcher (Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer) to win multiple Cy Young awards. He is also the 19th pitcher of all time to win it multiple times.