Paul Skenes Chasing History as Potential Rookie Cy Young Award Winner 

  • Skenes was just named to the National League All-Star team
  • His stats are already better than those of most Cy Young candidates
  • Fernando Valenzuela is the only rookie to win the Cy Young
  • Skenes is eighth in betting odds for the NL Cy Young award
Paul Skenes fan
Paul Skenes is hurtling toward history as he chases the Cy Young award in his rookie season. [Image: / Minda Haas Kuhlmann]

History beckons

Pittsburgh Pirates rookie pitcher Paul Skenes is on a fast track to the history books, but will he win the Cy Young Award his first time asking?

 5-0 record, along with a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP

On Sunday, the 22-year-old became the first #1 draft pick in MLB history to be selected to the MLB All-Star Game the same year he was drafted. His big-league stats so far include a flawless 5-0 record, along with a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

With the All-Star Game just eight days from now, Skenes can fast-track his way into the history books if he wins one of the highest individual awards for a pitcher. 

Paul Skenes for the Cy Young?

Skenes, a 6-foot-6 righty from Fullerton, California, was viewed as a no-doubt prospect. He spent two years at Air Force before transferring to LSU, a fateful decision that resulted in him winning the College World Series in his only year down south.

The then-junior went 13-2 with a 1.69 ERA and struck out 209 batters in 122.2 innings.

Skenes started this season in the Minor Leagues before being called up to the Show in May. He made his debut on the 11th and has already logged a total of 59.1 innings. MLB rules stipulate that a pitcher cannot qualify for the league lead in statistics unless they have thrown at least one inning per team game played. The Pirates are 42-47, meaning that Skenes is 29.2 innings off the mark. 

Regardless, his red-hot start has put him right in the mix for the title of best pitcher in the National League. His ERA ranks second, only behind Reynaldo Lopez (1.71), his WHIP is fourth, and he is averaging more strikeouts per nine innings than anyone else.

Skenes’ WAR per game played (.26) is well ahead of Lopez’s league-leading mark (.22)

His wins above replacement (WAR) also ranks ninth among National League pitchers despite him only having ten games played. For comparison, Chris Sale has played the fewest games among players ahead of him in WAR with 16. Taking that a step further, Skenes’ WAR per game played (.26) is well ahead of Lopez’s league-leading mark (.22).

There’s no doubt the talent and early production of the towering rookie. Now, the focus turns to his come-from-behind chase for the Cy Young award.

Looking to the past

Paul Skenes would become the second rookie in MLB history to win the Cy Young award in his debut season, should he accomplish the historic feat.

The only player to have hit this height was Fernando Valenzuela, who won the NL Cy Young as a rookie in 1981. He went 13-7 and had a 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 in what ended up being the only Cy Young-winning season of his career (though he made six All-Star teams).

According to DraftKings sportsbook, Paul Skenes has the eighth-best chance to win the NL Cy Young award at +2800. That translates to a 3.45 percent chance based on implied probability.

The players ahead of him in odds include:

  • Zach Wheeler (+200)
  • Chris Sale (+210)
  • Ranger Suarez (+600)
  • Tyler Glasnow (+1400)
  • Logan Webb (+1700)
  • Reynaldo Lopez (+1800)
  • Max Fried (+2200)

Last year’s NL Cy Young winner, Blake Snell, had stats similar to but still worse than Skenes’. Snell posted a line of 14-9, 2.25 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 11.7 K/9. Gerrit Cole won the 2023 American League Cy Young award after he went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 9.56 K/9.

Over his last five starts, the righty ace has produced an ERA of just 1.39.

Skenes’ meteoric rise was set in stone after he was selected for the All-Star Game. But the scariest part about the young phenom is that he’s only getting better. Over his last five starts, the righty ace has produced an ERA of just 1.39. While it’s a small sample size, those five games still represent half of his MLB career.

The rook is expected on the bump one more time before the All-Star Game against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday, June 11. The second half of the season will be his chance to make a dent in his chase for the Cy Young award.

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