Blake Snell Wins 2018 American League Cy Young Award
Blake Snell began to show signs that things were beginning to click for him at the end of 2017.
What transpired in 2018, however, went beyond even the loftiest expectations for the young Rays lefthander.
Snell, 25, won the American League Cy Young Award on Wednesday night, receiving 17 of 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writer's Association of America. Astros righthander Justin Verlander finished second in voting and received the other 13 first-place votes. Indians righthander Corey Kluber, last year's winner, finished third.
While the Rays broke from 100 years of baseball convention by turning to the "The Opener"—a reliever to start games before turning it over to a more traditional starter—Snell was their one constant who pitched like a true starter throughout the season. Armed with a fastball that averaged 96 mph and and devastating curveball, slider and changeup, the 25-year-old lefthander went 21-5, 1.89, leading the American League in both wins and ERA. His 5.6 hits allowed-per-nine innings were the fewest in the majors.
It was a long-expected ascension for Snell, who was Baseball America's 2015 Minor League Player of the Year. It took time, though. Despite a successful major league debut, Snell struggled with his control each of his first two seasons and was even demoted back to Triple-A early last year.
But he returned to Tampa Bay and finished strong, going 5-1, 2.84 over his final 10 starts. His performance made him a breakthrough candidate entering 2018, and he delivered.
With the Rays challenging for a surprising wild-card spot, Snell was at his best when it mattered most. He went 9-0, 1.17 over his final 11 starts in August and September, keeping the Rays competitive in the playoff hunt until the final weeks of the season.
Verlander, 35, led the American League in strikeouts (290) and WHIP (0.902) in his bid for his second-career Cy Young Award. He won in 2011 and memorably finished second in 2016.
Kluber, 32, went 20-7, 2.89 and led the AL with 215 innings pitched. He previously won the AL Cy Young Award in 2014 and 2017.