NL Cy Young: How does Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen fit in?
At the very least, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Zac Gallen had the best season of his young career.
However, was it good enough to take home National League Cy Young Award honors?
In 31 starts, Gallen posted a 2.54 ERA and a 12-4 record in 184 innings. While he struck out hitters a the second-worst rate of his four-year career, he walked hitters at his lowest clip.
He also had career bests with a 20.3% strikeout-to-walk rate, a .186 batting average against (.237 in play), a 3.05 FIP and a .560 OPS against.
Jayson Stark of The Athletic shared his thoughts on what must be considered in the voting process. However, he didn’t share who his pick is because he’s an NL Cy Young voter.
… volume is going to be a huge topic in this race, too, because nobody in either league has volumized quite like Miami’s Sandy Alcántara.
He has piled up 29 1/3 more innings than anyone else in the league and almost 50 more than an otherwise-exceptional contender like Arizona’s Zac Gallen.
Gallen ranked sixth in the National League in FanGraphs’ wins above replacement (fWAR), 1.4 behind Alcantara. That said, volume plays a huge role in the disparity. On a per 150 inning basis, Gallen posted 3.51 fWAR/150 innings compared to Alcantara’s 3.74.
The Marlins righty still holds the edge, but it’s considerably closer.
The other starters Gallen ranked behind in fWAR are Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes (4.6), Atlanta southpaw Max Fried (5.0), San Francisco lefty Carlos Rodon (6.2) and Philadelphia Phillies righty Aaron Nola (6.3).
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias posted just 3.2 fWAR in 2022, but led the NL with a 2.16 ERA — thus tossing his hat into the metaphorical ring as well.
Alcantara: 2.28 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 8.2 K/9, .588 OPS against, 228.2* innings, 3.74 fWAR/150 innings
Gallen: 2.54 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 9.4 K/9, .560* OPS against, 184 innings, 3.51 fWAR/150 innings
Fried: 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 8.3 K/9, .581 OPS against, 185.1 innings, 4.05 fWAR/150 innings
Rodon: 2.88 ERA, 2.25* FIP, 12* K/9, .571 OPS against, 178 innings, 5.22* fWAR/150 innings
Urias: 2.16* ERA, 3.71 FIP, 8.5 K/9, .599 OPS against, 175 innings, 2.74 fWAR/150 innings
Nola: 3.25 ERA, 2.58 FIP, 10.3 K/9, .603 OPS against, 205 innings, 4.61 fWAR/150 innings
*indicates they led qualified NL starters — at least 162 innings pitched
Gallen definitely deserves to be in consideration for the NL Cy Young Award. However, it appears his case is stronger for being a finalist than winning it outright.
He had a great 2022 campaign, regardless of the voting’s outcome. But it shouldn’t serve as much of a surprise should he finish in the fourth through seventh range when all is said and done.
Alcantara appears as the clear favorite with the perfect balance of volume and production, while Rodon looks to be the most-deserving if sheer dominance is what matters most to voters.
Gallen’s most appealing trait is consistency. He was sixth in fWAR, fifth in K/9, fourth in ERA and seventh in FIP. While he did hold batters to the lowest OPS, consistently being in the fourth through seventh range in metrics doesn’t bode well when it comes to earning the award.
The right-hander was one of the best this season, just not No. 1 when lining up the numbers and innings volume.