It's still early, only one-third of the way through the marathon of the MLB season, but Toronto Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman is quietly, or maybe not so quietly, inserting himself into the Cy Young conversation.
In another spectacular outing in which he dominated the Milwaukee Brewers (as a pitcher of his caliber should), the Blue Jays' ace did what aces do. He went a season-high 115 pitches deep into the game in a 6 2/3 inning shutout effort. He struck out 11, his fifth time with double-digit punchouts this season, while scattering five hits and walking a pair.
His outstanding performance on Thursday adds another chapter to a season in which the second-year Blue Jay is again pitching at a level that has baseball writers and oddsmakers including him in the AL Cy Young race.
If he's not being included on anyone's list of favorites or contenders for the top pitching award, he should be. Some clever writers and analysts even picked Gausman to take home the award before the season.
Through 12 starts, the lanky right-hander has a 4-3 record, which isn't all that impressive and doesn't come close to indicating how good he has been this year. Luckily, in this day and age of advanced stats, Cy Young voters don't typically look at wins and losses when casting their votes.
What is telling about Gausman's season is where he stands compared to his peers in the value he brings to his team. Before his outing against the Brewers, his AL-leading 2.4 fWAR saw him tied with Nathan Eovaldi of the Texas Rangers.
Unsurprisingly, Gausman has the highest BABIP among this group. His .335 mark is the second-highest in the AL. He's still getting the job done though, despite again allowing more balls in play to go for hits than most qualified starters this year.
How does Gausman compare to other Cy Young contenders?
Gausman holds his own in some of the more popular traditional stats. His 2.76 ERA puts him seventh among AL starters, with the top spot going to the Twins' Sonny Gray and his 1.94 ERA.
Gausman's 1.12 WHIP is good but not elite and ranks 14th. For reference, Shohei Ohtani's 0.95 WHIP is second-best. The Toronto ace will have a hard time getting his WHIP down below 1.00 because of the high BABIP he runs.
His nine quality starts have him tied at the top of the leaderboard, while his six allowed home runs are the fourth fewest.
His 12.00 K/9 sits second to Ohtani's 12.46. However, his AL-leading 100 strikeouts top Shohei's 90 and puts him second in all of the majors, only trailing Braves strikeout artist Spencer Strider. Gausman also ranks fifth with a 5.56 K/BB ratio.
Any way you slice it, Kevin Gausman deserves to be in the Cy Young conversation. If he continues pitching like this, he'll undoubtedly be a favorite when the season wraps up in four months.