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Verlander and Cole Are Set to Battle for the AL Cy Young Award for the Astros

Do the Astros have the two best pitchers in the AL? Which is better?

MLB: Houston Astros-Workouts Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Having Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander compete for the Cy Young award will help the Astros win in 2019.

The Houston Astros have 44 games left to finish the regular season with the highest record. Having home-field advantage would mean so much throughout the playoffs, but the Astros have a while to achieve this. After Roberto Osuna imploded in the 9th inning, their record is 77-41. Though they snapped an eight-game winning streak, they still have the second-highest run differential at +184 in the MLB.

Justin Verlander made his 25th start of the season Sunday, failing to pitch a quality start for only the 6th time. He labored through the first two innings after throwing 53 pitches and allowing two runs (four overall). He still managed to strike out 11 hitters, but they made him throw a lot of pitches by fouling the ball a lot. He left the game after five innings, getting the no-decision in a game the Astros lost in the ninth inning.

As the Astros march towards the postseason, many feel like the AL Cy Young award winner will come from Houston. It seemed like Verlander was running away with it, but teammate Gerrit Cole has put up some eye-popping numbers recently.

Since the All-Star break, Cole is 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 56 in 40 innings. Cole won back to back pitcher of the months in June and July. Taking it back to the beginning of June, Cole is 11-2 with a 1.91 ERA while striking out 114 hitters in 85 innings. It makes you wonder if Cole is on pace to surpass Verlander for the Cy Young votes this year.

It’s a close race!

According to Robert Duff, Verlander might still be in the lead, but he’s losing ground. Read his article and see how close the race is. If you compare their stats side by side, they are both close. They both have started 25 games, Verlander has 15 wins compared to Cole’s 14. But wins don’t matter, right? Despite pitching fewer innings, Cole has one more quality start with 20. Cole is also leading with 226 strikeouts compared to Verlander’s 217.

Verlander has five straight starts with 10+ strikeouts. Only two other Astros have done that, JR Richard and Randy Johnson. Verlander has been catching up to Cole, but his ERA took a hit after giving up four runs yesterday. His 2.82 ERA is slightly better than Cole’s 2.87 ERA. As Duff mentioned, Charlie Morton is nipping at their heals as well.

If you are a WAR type of person, Verlander has a 5.0 versus Cole’s 4.1 via ESPN and Baseball-Reference. According to Fangraphs, Cole has a better WAR (4.6) and FIP (3.11) than Verlander’s 4.1 and (3.58) respectively. Verlander’s BABIP is much lower at .218 compared to Cole’s .279, which means the hitters Cole faces are more likely to get hits on balls put in play. It also suggests that Verlander has had the advantage of greater good fortune.

They are at different stages of their career with Verlander being 36 and Cole being 28. Now that the Astros added Zack Greinke and Aaron Sanchez to the rotation, it’s the best in baseball. Believe it or not, with the Astros, Sanchez has a 2-0 record with a 0.82 ERA in his first two starts. One was a six-inning no-hitter and in the other the Astros exploded with a 23-run outburst while Sanchez allowed only one run.

The chase for the Cy Young will be secondary to winning the World Series again in 2019. However, the competitive nature of these two pitchers will help the Astros down the stretch. With all the talent on this team, the Astros are looking like favorites to win it all again in 2019. If they do, one of the pitchers winning the Cy Young will be the icing on the cake.