Edwin Díaz Deserves Cy Young Consideration

The New York Mets began a five game series against the Atlanta Braves which will define the rest of the season for both clubs. For the Mets, it’s a chance to end the NL East race here and now.

Buck Showalter was sending the moment in the first game of the series. With the Mets up two in the eighth, he went to Edwin Diaz to face the heart of the Braves order.

Showalter has done that previously only to have someone else pitch the ninth. This time was different. This time, it was the Braves in a postseason atmosphere. This time, Díaz was out to pitch the ninth.

Díaz worked around an Eddie Rosario lead-off single and wild pitch. After an Orlando Arica excuse me groundout to end the game, Díaz recorded the first six out save of his career.

That was yet another chapter in Díaz’s dominating season. It’s shaping up to be an all-time great season, and it’s high time we began giving him Cy Young consideration.

In Major League history, nine relievers have won a Cy Young. Bruce Sutter won in 1979 and was considered the first real closer to win. Eric Gagné was the last, and it was on the strength of converting 55 consecutive saves.

As noted by SABR, a reliever winning the Cy Young usually coincides with two primary factors: (1) Lack of dominant starting pitching; and (2) a historic season by a reliever. With Díaz, the second factor is certainly in place.

Right now, Díaz is 2-1 with 24 saves, a 1.44 ERA, 0.893 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 17.9 K/9. From an advanced stat perspective, he has a 278 ERA+, 0.92 FIP, 2.3 bWAR, and a 2.2 fWAR.

Let’s use Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all-time, for some comparison here because it’s illustrative of just how great Díaz has been.

Rivera’s best ever FIP was a 1.88, and his best ERA+ was 316. His best K/9 was 10.9. In essence. All three of these came in different seasons, and Díaz is pitching like this right now.

While that’s outstanding, what really stands out with Díaz is the strikeout numbers.

So far this season, Díaz has struck out 52.1% of the batters he’s faced. There have been 167 unlucky batters to face Díaz this season, and 87 of them have struck out.

That’s in line for the second best single season mark in MLB history, and he’s off the top mark by 0.4%. That record is well within his reach.

Diaz is currently striking out 17.9 batters per nine. That’s in line for the best mark in Major League history. By any strikeout measure, this is a record setting season.

When a reliever has a season like this, they deserve Cy Young attention. Historically, relievers have.

Right now, the consensus is this is Sandy Alcantara’s award to lose right now. One note here is it’s taken Alcantara 158 1/3 innings to post a 5.8 bWAR. Díaz has a 2.3 in 43 2/3 innings. On an inning per WAR basis, Díaz is outperforming him.

That’s not to say Díaz deserves the award over Alcantara or any other starter. The odds are Alcantara deservedly runs away with this award. That said, Díaz merits significant attention for the record setting season he is having, and he should be on the writer’s ballots come voting time.