February 21, 2024

The favorite to win AL Cy Young award? The Twins’ Pablo Lopez, says MLB.com

Here we are on the cusp of a new baseball season and the Twins, or at least one member of them, is on the cusp of a major pitching honor, according to MLB.com, who say the Twins’ Pablo Lopez is the favorite to win the American League Cy Young award in 2024.

After his 2023 campaign, Lopez is certainly pointed in the right direction, setting career marks in innings pitched (194) and strikeouts (234) last season.

MLB.com puts a finer point on his accomplishments.

“No pitcher increased his strikeout rate more from 2022 to 2023 than López (minimum 150 innings in each season), whose 29.2% mark ranked fifth among qualified starters. He went from primarily using a four-seamer and changeup to adding a sweeper to that main mix, and went from a good pitcher with a lot of promise to a Cy Young contender.”

If he does win the award, he would be only the fourth Twins pitcher in team history to earn the citation. The other winners are Jim Perry in 1970, Frank Viola in 1988 and Johan Santana in 2004 and 2006.

A look at their numbers:

-Perry: 24-12, 3.04 ERA, 168 strikeouts in 278-plus innings pitched. His 40 starts also led the American League in 1970, plus he turned in 13 complete games and tossed four shutouts.

-Viola: 24-7, 2.64 ERA, 193 strikeouts in 255-plus innings pitched. He also made 35 starts, completed seven games and had two shutouts.

-Santana, 2004: 20-6, 2.61 ERA, 265 strikeouts in 228 innings pitched. He made 34 starts and had one complete game and one shutout, which shows just how much the role of the starting pitcher has changed since Perry’s days.

-Santana, 2006: 19-6, 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts in 233-plus innings pitched. His 34 starts led the AL that season, plus he turned in one complete game.

Here’s what they had to say about their wins:

-Perry: “This is more exciting than winning two World Series games would be,” said the right-handed pitcher to the Minneapolis Star.

-Viola: “The last year or so has been unbelievable,” he told the Star Tribune. “It’s the kind of year you only dream about, let alone have it happen to you.”

-Santana, 2004: “This is like a dream come true,” he told AP after earning the American League honor Thursday. “I’m a little surprised that I ended up the season where I ended up the season.”

-Santana, 2006: “I wouldn’t say that (this season) was easier, but you have a better idea of what you want to do and where you are in order to win games,” he told the Strib. “I definitely felt more comfortable this year, and it’s a great feeling. It’s a learning process and I am still learning and can get better as the years and the seasons go.”

Extra innings …

-Hall of Famer Frank Robinson had this to say about the Twins’ Perry in 1970.

“Perry is always tough, because he is not going to beat himself,” said Robinson to the Minneapolis Tribune. “If you are going to beat Perry you will have to hit him to win. He is not going to walk himself into trouble. He will be around the plate all the time.”

Sources: MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com, Newspapers.com

COMMENTS

Hi, I’m Rolf Boone, Twins fan.

I became a fan of the Minnesota Twins after a friendly wager in the early 1980s. I survived Ron Davis, the meltdown in Cleveland, Phil Bradley at the Kingdome and then marveled at a rising generation of stars and two World Series wins in 1987 and 1991. Brad Radke made the 1990s bearable, while Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, exit from the game and eventual death made it almost too much to bear. The new century ushered in more talent — Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau — and consecutive seasons of playoff baseball, followed by consecutive seasons of losing baseball. A winning season returned in 2015. So here we are. Go Twins.