Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Michael Fulmer is now a front-runner for the Cy Young Award as his stats rank at the top of the American League in many categories.
The remaining 40+ games will decide who takes the award home this season, and Fulmer’s chances may depend on how much he pitches in August and September.
The AL Cy Young is a wide open race right now with about 13 candidates including Fulmer, Alex Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Cole Hamels, Corey Kluber, Jose Quintana, Chris Sale, Zach Britton, Danny Duffy, and Danny Salazar, and Marco Estrada.
Why Fulmer Should Win
Of all of these pitchers, Fulmer’s name consistently appears at the top of each statistical category where others fall off in certain places.
Fulmer is 10-3 on the season with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. While Fulmer does not have the wins to appease some old-school thinkers, the rest of his stats should win both the old and new-schoolers. If Fulmer did win the award, he would be the first ever rookie to win the American League Cy Young
His 2.25 ERA is the best in the AL my more than half a run over Sanchez, Quintana, and Hamels. His WHIP of 1.02 is second in the AL behind only Kluber who has a 1.01 WHIP with Estrada, Sale, and Porcello rounding out the rest of the top five.
According to Baseball Reference, Fulmer is the Major League leader in WAR for pitchers at 5.1, ahead of Max Scherzer, Hamels, Kershaw, and deGrom, and that WAR is good for ninth of all players.
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Fulmer ranks second among American League pitchers in BABIP, behind only Estrada. His FIP is sixth in the American League, behind Kluber, Sanchez, and Quintana among pitcher in Cy Young discussion.
Finally, Fulmer’s K/9 are not the highest among the candidate as he pitches more to contact than most. He is tenth in hard-hit-ball percentage which keeping the rest of his numbers low.
Keeping an Eye on the Innings
The biggest obstacle in Fulmer’s path is his innings. His career high prior to 2016 was 124.2 innings last season. If the Tigers increase his innings by 40%, he would pitch 174.5 innings; an increase of 50% would be 187; an increase of 60% would be 199.4 innings.
After Fulmer’s complete game, he sits at 120 innings with 45 games remaining, or nine to 10 starts barring skips. If Fulmer averages six innings per start every five days, he will finish the season with 174-180 innings. This is actually low for a Cy Young candidate.