Cy Young Rankings: Alcantara, McClanahan take over in different ways

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Welcome to the third edition of theScore's 2022 Cy Young Rankings, where we pick the top five pitchers from each league. Let's look at who's making a strong impression as we near the midway mark of the season.

American League

5. Shohei Ohtani, Angels

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74 2.68 2.52 101/17 1.01 +1100

There could have been at least four other pitchers named here - Martin Perez, Dylan Cease, Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber, maybe others - but we're going with the unicorn. Ohtani isn't a qualified starter as he's thrown only 74 innings, seven short of the current threshold. But it really doesn't matter since his contributions rank him sixth in the AL by FanGraphs' WAR among pitchers with at least 70 IP. Keeping that threshold at 70 frames, Ohtani boasts the third-best strikeout rate in baseball at 34.1% and the second-best strikeout-minus-walk rate at 28.4%. Oh, and not that this matters for Cy Young voting, but he's also hit 18 homers.

4. Alek Manoah, Blue Jays

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100 1/3 2.33 3.32 90/21 0.99 +650

Manoah makes his first appearance in the rankings thanks to steady excellence through the campaign's first half. He's not striking guys out at an elite rate, but he makes up for it by allowing so few baserunners and boasts a stellar 0.99 WHIP - the fifth-best mark in the Junior Circuit. That's helped along by a great 5.3% walk rate while he's given up just 78 hits over 100 1/3 innings. Only Justin Verlander and Shane McClanahan have allowed fewer hits in more innings pitched. Manoah isn't astoundingly dominant, but there's something to be said for a guy who's been almost automatic in helping give his team a chance to win. Manoah has posted a quality start in eight of 10 outings since mid-May. Not bad for a 24-year-old sophomore.

3. Justin Verlander, Astros

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97 1/3 2.03 3.38 90/17 0.83 +250

Somehow, at 39 years old and coming off Tommy John surgery, Verlander is enjoying arguably the best campaign of his career. And, if it keeps up, it'll be hard to deny him his third Cy Young. His 2.03 ERA would be a career-best and sits second in the AL. Even further, Verlander's finished top three in Cy Young voting in every season except one when he's bested this year's 3.38 FIP. Can he keep it up over an entire campaign? That much is unclear, but doubting the eight-time All-Star at this point seems even more foolish.

2. Kevin Gausman, Blue Jays

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88 2.86 1.68 100/16 1.27 +1900

After spending the first month of the season looking like he needed a higher league to play in, Gausman has dealt with some adversity. Recently, that's taken the form of getting drilled in the ankle by a line-drive comebacker. While the righty seemed to avoid serious injury, he may be forced to miss his next start. However, despite those struggles, the head start Gausman gave himself at the beginning of the year has been very hard for any pitcher to overcome. He still boasts the lowest FIP of any starting pitcher. In fact, the former All-Star is the only hurler with at least 40 innings pitched and a sub-2.00 FIP, and he eclipsed that threshold by mid-May. His previous two outings before the injury looked like he was figuring it out again, too. Over his last 13 innings, he's allowed two runs on 15 hits and five walks while racking up 20 strikeouts.

1. Shane McClanahan, Rays

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98 1/3 1.74 2.41 133/17 0.81 +275

McClanahan is quickly becoming the most dominant lefty in the majors, boasting an MLB-best 31.4% strikeout-minus-walk rate. For context, Aaron Nola ranks way back in second place at 25.6%. By Baseball Savant's metrics, the 25-year-old is also in the 90th percentile or better in hard-hit rate, fastball velocity, and whiff rate, as well as expected wOBA, ERA, AVG, and SLG. If there's a knock against McClanahan's game, opponents tend to barrel it up when he does give up a hit. He's allowed 11 homers so far, which is quite a few. However, he prevents the long ball from becoming too problematic by routinely having the bases empty. McClanahan's sterling 1.74 ERA is not only the best in the AL, but it's also the only sub-2.00 mark.

National League

5. Tony Gonsolin, Dodgers

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81 2/3 1.54 3.30 77/23 0.82 +1200

Gonsolin has been a revelation for a Dodgers rotation in desperate need of reinforcements. Entering the campaign as a sixth starter or swingman, it was clear the righty would have to play a key role for L.A. However, injuries to Walker Buehler and some ailments to Clayton Kershaw have quickly exacerbated that need, and Gonsolin has filled in with aplomb. The underlying numbers - a 3.30 FIP, 2.82 expected ERA, and 91.4% strand rate - indicate regression. But an immaculate 10-0 record and MLB-best 1.54 ERA make that moot for now. It's not a stretch to say the Dodgers wouldn't be where they are without the remarkable contributions from Gonsolin.

4. Carlos Rodon, Giants

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91 2.87 2.24 112/30 1.11 +1800

Rodon hit a bumpy patch in May after a strong debut month with his new club. Since the calendar turned to June, the left-hander has made the necessary adjustments to recapture his early form, authoring a 1.98 ERA and 1.82 FIP. His 2.24 FIP and 3.2 WAR still sits atop the NL as a result. He's also limited hard contact, coughing up only four homers all year and sitting in the 86th percentile in barrel rate. Rodon can get a bit wild at times and has issued at least three walks in four of his last nine outings, but that's sometimes the price you pay for an elite whiff rate (30.4%, second in the NL) like he boasts.

3. Zack Wheeler, Phillies

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88 2.66 2.49 99/20 1.07 +1200

Depending on who you ask, Wheeler was robbed of the Cy Young last year. And, honestly, he's not only going to face stiff competition from the guys above him on this list, but Milwaukee Brewers ace and reigning winner Corbin Burnes is breathing down his neck once again. This time, though, Wheeler seems to be taking a page from Burnes' book, pitching less but more effectively. He's certainly not on pace to lead the league in innings again after throwing 213 1/3 last year, but he's making sure those frames are even higher quality than in 2021 by dropping his ERA and FIP by one-tenth. And for that reason, he's fourth in WAR among NL starters despite only throwing 88 innings.

2. Max Fried, Braves

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101 1/3 2.66 2.52 96/16 1.03 +1000

It's pretty special when you get called the best left-hander in baseball by the manager who has Clayton Kershaw on his team, but that's where Fried is in his career. Fried is a bit of a throwback. He's not getting all that many whiffs, but he's missing barrels and frustrating hitters with impunity. He's in the 89th percentile in barrel rate, giving up only 13 barrels this season - the fewest of any NL pitcher with at least 250 batted-ball events, according to Baseball Savant. To that end, he's only coughed up six homers, which is also tied for fewest in the Senior Circuit among pitchers with at least 100 innings thrown. Since the beginning of 2020, Fried has surrendered only 23 homers. For context, 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray coughed up 33 last year alone. Fried is often overlooked, but he's always giving the Braves a chance to win. He's allowed two runs or fewer and thrown at least six innings in 11 of his last 14 games. The league is taking notice.

1. Sandy Alcantara, Marlins

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115 1/3 1.95 3.02 97/30 0.95 +160

Alcantara is accomplishing what seems impossible in the contemporary age as he's dominating while devouring innings. He was one of only four pitchers to eclipse the 200-inning threshold last year. Alcantara was the first to reach the 100-inning plateau this season and is more than 10 frames ahead of anyone else at an MLB-best 115 1/3 IP. Most importantly, Alcantara's doing it with a sub-2.00 ERA. Wheeler, who has also been excellent, would have to throw 27 consecutive shutout innings to catch up. He's recorded nine-inning performances in three of his previous eight outings, flummoxing opponents to a 1.54 ERA and 2.33 FIP in 64 2/3 innings over that span and authoring a 5-1 record for a Marlins club trying to stay in the wild-card hunt.

Cy Young Rankings: Alcantara, McClanahan take over in different ways
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