Jacob deGrom

Mets' Jacob deGrom wins NL Cy Young Award as Phillies' Aaron Nola comes in 3rd

Mets' Jacob deGrom wins NL Cy Young Award as Phillies' Aaron Nola comes in 3rd

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was the landslide winner of the National League Cy Young Award when the results were announced on Wednesday night.

Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals finished second in the voting and Phillies ace Aaron Nola placed third.

DeGrom received 29 of a possible 30 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young winner, received one first-place vote.

Nola received 27 third-place votes, two fourth-place votes and one fifth-place vote to easily outdistance Colorado's Kyle Freeland, the fourth-place finisher in the NL.

DeGrom, 30, had just 10 wins, fewest ever by a Cy Young-winning starting pitcher in a full season, for a Mets club that finished eight games under .500. However, he led the majors with a brilliant 1.70 ERA.

Nola, 25, was the Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2014. He blossomed into an ace in his fourth season in the majors in 2018. He finished second in the NL in ERA (2.37) and third in innings (212 1/3) and WHIP (0.97).

Scherzer, 34, led the majors in innings (220 2/3) and strikeouts (300) in 2018 while recording  a 2.53 ERA, the second best of his career.

Nola became the first Phillie to finish in the top 10 of the NL Cy Young voting since Cole Hamels placed sixth in 2014. The last Phillies to finish in the top three were Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who finished second and third, respectively, in 2011. Halladay won the award in 2010.

Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell won the American League Award over Houston’s Justin Verlander and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

Here's the breakdown of the National League voting, courtesy of BBWAA.com:

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Phillies' Aaron Nola is a finalist for NL Cy Young Award

Phillies' Aaron Nola is a finalist for NL Cy Young Award

The Baseball Writers Association of America has announced the finalists for its major awards and the Phillies are in the mix for one of them.

Aaron Nola is one of three finalists for the National League Cy Young Award, joining Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets and Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.

DeGrom, who led the majors with a brilliant 1.70 ERA, is expected to run away with the award when the winner is announced on Nov. 14. Nola is guaranteed to finish no lower than third in the voting.

Nola, 25, was the Phillies’ first-round draft pick in 2014. He blossomed into an ace in his fourth season in the majors in 2018. He finished second in the NL in ERA (2.37) and third in innings (212 1/3) and WHIP (0.97).

Scherzer won the award the last two seasons. He had previously won the American League Cy Young Award. In 2018, he led the majors in innings (220 2/3) and strikeouts (300).

The Phillies have not had a top-10 finisher in the Cy Young voting since Cole Hamels placed sixth in 2014. The last Phillie to finish in the top three were Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, who finished second and third, respectively, in 2011. Halladay won the award in 2010.

Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell and Houston’s Justin Verlander are finalists for the AL Cy Young Award.

Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich and the Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez are finalists for the NL MVP.

Boston’s Mookie Betts, Anaheim’s Mike Trout and Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez are finalists for the AL MVP.

The NL Manager of the Year Award will go to Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell, Colorado’s Bud Black or Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler seemed to be a strong contender for the award until his team’s collapse over the final two months of the season.

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As Aaron Nola ends dominant season, what is left for him to work on?

As Aaron Nola ends dominant season, what is left for him to work on?

We watched Carson Wentz make The Leap in 2017. Ben Simmons is expected to do the same in his second pro season. In between, Aaron Nola made a leap of his own.

Nola, who ended his season Saturday night with seven shutout innings against the Braves, was one of the 10 best pitchers in baseball this season, no matter how you measure it.

"When I told Nola he was gonna be done for the game, I looked at him and I said that's maybe the best season I've ever seen a pitcher have up close," manager Gabe Kapler said. "And I was with Pedro Martinez, arguably in his prime. I think Nola's season was right up there with Roy Halladay's best, Cliff Lee's best, Steve Carlton's best. A jaw-dropping season."

This is not going to be a deep-dive into Nola's stats. Instead, let's focus on what enabled Nola to make The Leap in 2018 and what he can improve upon for next season, if anything.

What made Nola so unhittable this season was his constant mastery of all four pitches. He had a filthy two-seam fastball and curveball from the day he arrived in the majors. Over the years, he's added some zip to his four-seam fastball and has more confidence in his changeup against hitters from both sides.

Here are some examples.

Nola has multiple curveballs. There is the get-me-over curve for strike 1, the curve that starts at a right-handed hitter's hip before finishing over the plate, and the curve that starts on the outside corner and leaves the zone completely.

And an example of how much the changeup dives.

This arsenal will enable Nola to be one of the best pitchers in the game for a long time. Right now, no pitcher in the National League is a better value. Nola made $573,000 this season, his final pre-arbitration year. His salaries will rise significantly these next three years but he'll still be underpaid until the Phillies sign him to a long-term deal buying out those arbitration years and his first few years of free agency.

Quite frankly, there isn't much more room for growth for Nola. How much lower can the ERA get? Nola's ERA this season (2.37) was lower than Roy Halladay's when he won the Cy Young award here. 

He struck out more than a batter per inning. He became the first Phillies pitcher in 103 years to pitch at least 200 innings with an opponents' batting average under .200.

"As creative as he is and as crafty as he is, I can see him developing another pitch," Kapler said. "That's just more my confidence and my belief in him, that anything's possible rather than him needing it by any stretch. If he goes out and repeats what he did this year, with the stuff he has this year, you can envision 15 years of dominance."

One of the most fascinating elements of Nola's season was his ability to keep the ball in the park despite always being around the plate. Even after allowing nine home runs in five starts from Sept. 2 to Sept. 23, Nola has allowed just 17 in 212⅓ innings. That is not common. 

Here are the top seven pitchers in the majors this season in innings pitched, along with their home run total:

1. Max Scherzer: 220⅔ IP, 23 HR

2. Jacob deGrom: 217 IP, 10 HR

3. Justin Verlander: 214 IP, 28 HR

4. Aaron Nola: 212⅓ IP, 17 HR

5. Corey Kluber: 210 IP, 25 HR

6. Zack Greinke: 207⅔ IP, 28 HR

7. James Shields: 204⅔ 34 HR

"Keep working on my delivery. Keep learning more about the game," Nola said of his goals for next season, adding he'll take a month off when the offseason begins. "There's always room for improvement, every year. Come out next year and keep trying to do it."

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