—If the season ended today (thank goodness it doesn’t and we still have 5+ more months of baseball) then there’s no question Gerrit Cole would be the American League Cy Young favorite. Even if he pitched in the NL he would win the award, which is another way of saying he’s been the best pitcher in baseball this year. Through seven starts he has thrown 50 2/3 innings and struck out 77, good for a 13.7 K/9 rate!! He also has a 1.42 ERA that is supported by a league leading 1.54 FIP. Those numbers are eye popping. Last year he had an ERA over 4 and struck out less than a batter per inning. Cole has been so jaw dropping unbelievable that Trevor Bauer thinks the Astros are cheating. Houston looked like they won the Cole trade back in January when they gave up nearly nothing to acquire him, but now the best team in baseball getting so much better just seems downright unfair.
—Speaking of being the best pitcher in baseball, it’s now becoming fair to wonder whether or not Clayton Kershaw still is. It’s been a small debate at times over the past couple of years, but this feels different. I highly recommend reading this Ringer article as to why, but I’ll do my best to summarize it. What’s most striking in the piece is the fact that Kershaw has yet to throw a fastball at least 94 mph this year. Before 2018 he had managed to throw at least 96 in every season. His overall numbers right now look fine (2.86 ERA, 9.8 K/9), and Kershaw can still be very good if not great, but his FIP is the highest it has been since his rookie year. After giving up a career high 23 homers last year, he's already allowed seven through seven starts. Yesterday he went on the DL with a biceps issue. It isn't expected to be anything too serious, but it marks the third straight year Kershaw has been placed on the DL. The Dodgers are currently 15-19 and in fourth place in the NL West. It's time to start worrying a bit.
—The other star pitcher in LA, Shohei Ohtani, took the mound on Sunday for the first time since April 24th. The 23-year-old two way phenom rebounded from a couple of subpar outings to throw six innings of two-run ball while striking out six. While his 4.10 ERA on the season doesn’t scream ALL-STAR, Ohtani has now thrown three quality starts across five appearances. He’s also showing an elite ability to miss bats with nearly 11 K/9. Oh, and he’s been awesome at the plate as well. In 64 plate appearances he is batting .339 with a 1.018 OPS and four home runs. He'll DH some more this week before his next start on Saturday versus the Twins.
—Ohtani’s main competition for the American League Rookie of the Year award, Gleyber Torres, also has himself a day on Sunday. The 21-year-old became the youngest Yankee to ever hit a walk-off homer when his three-run shot in the ninth helped NYY sweep the Indians. Incredibly, it was the team’s 15th win over their past 16 contests. The Bombers now have the second best record in all of baseball, just one game behind the rival Red Sox. What’s scary about this team is Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t even been GIANCARLO STANTON yet. The lineup is ruthless. The bullpen is absurd. And the organization has so much young talent they can trade for an ace starter come July. Madison Bumgarner anyone?
—Yet despite what Ohtani and Torres did, it was Max Scherzer who made the biggest headline on Sunday. The three time Cy Young winner recorded 19 outs against the Phillies, 15 of which were strikeouts, an MLB record. It was his fifth 15+ strikeout game of his career. He now leads baseball in wins, strikeouts, and is fifth in ERA. With Kershaw’s “best pitcher alive” status currently up in the air, it’s Scherzer who has the best claim to the throne at the moment. I’ve talked before about how he’s already on the HOF track (3 Cy Youngs, two no-hitters, and could end up with 200 wins, 3K strikeouts, 60+ WAR). But if he wins a FOURTH Cy Young this year we might have to start talking more seriously about him as an all time great.