Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Alek Manoah has enjoyed a breakthrough season, one that has seen him named an All-Star and fetch national attention.
He has gone from a young hotshot to undoubtedly one of the best pitchers in the American League. Manoah is among the leaders in several key pitching categories and is a candidate for the AL Cy Young award, the top honor for pitchers.
With just two scheduled starts remaining in the season, time is running out for voters to make up their minds, and more importantly, time is ticking for the men on the mound to make their final claim for the hardware. Here’s how Manoah stacks up against some of his competitors.
Blue Jays: Manoah Mania
When evaluating any pitcher’s Cy Young case, a detailed look at the stats are a good place to start. Pitcher wins have become a devalued stat over the last decade-plus, but they are still considered and it’s worth noting that Justin Verlander, widely thought of as a favorite for the award, leads the league with 17 wins. Manoah is tied for third, along with Dylan Cease, with 14.
Earned run average (ERA) is a huge stat for pitchers and Manoah’s 2.40 mark is fourth-best in the AL, just 0.04 behind the Rays’ Shane McClanahan. It’s close enough that Manoah could lower his number if he pitches well and McClanahan falters a bit. Verlander (1.78) and Cease (2.13) are one-twos, and almost surely won’t be caught.
Durability is an essential factor too and it may be where Manoah can make a strong case for himself. He’s second in the American League with 183.2 innings and has made 29 starts. Manoah is just two frames behind emerging ace Framber Valdez for the most innings pitched, and no one has made more than 30 starts.
Verlander is clearly a frontrunner here, but will voters be hesitant because he’s pitched almost 30 fewer innings than Valdez and Manoah? McClanahan, who beat out Manoah for the right to start the All-Star game, and then promptly fell on his face, is in a similar position with 156.1 innings logged.
When it comes to keeping the ball in the ballpark, Valdez has been the stingiest, with just nine long balls allowed. Manoah isn’t far behind, tied for sixth with fellow candidate McClanahan and former winner Shane Bieber.
Like he did last season, Manoah leads the league in hit batsmen, which doesn’t help his case. He is in the top five in WHIP (1.01) and opponent’s average (.206), capping off his rock-solid candidacy.
Blue Jays: Is Manoah a Cy Young finalist?
Alek Manoah followed McClanahan at the ASG and pitched a clean, memorable inning. He’s consistently been near the top of the leaderboards in the important categories. It’ll be tough for him to win the Cy Young but finishing as a finalist would be a nice feather in his cap and would put him in line for a nice raise when the time comes.
The starts missed by Verlander and McClanahan have already been mentioned but that may not be enough to dissuade voters from casting a ballot with either of their names on it. Blake Snell and Corbin Burnes recently captured the award despite pitching less than a typical workload for a frontline starter.
Cease is second in the league in strikeouts, but also leads in walks allowed. That could give some voters pause. Gerrit Cole leads the league in strikeouts but has also surrendered 29 homers, second only to Jose Berrios.
At the center of the case for Manoah is what goes beyond the numbers. In his first full season, the big right-hander has been an absolute workhorse and a stabilizing presence in a rotation that has often lacked consistency. He’s gone from an intriguing building block to the team’s unquestioned ace and future cornerstone.
Whether or not he wins the award or is even a finalist, Manoah has arrived and is one of the most dominant starting pitchers around. The possibility of him winning the award is exciting. Thinking about how his career will continue over the next decade or so is even more so.