Edwin DiazIt’s hard for a relief pitcher to win a Cy Young Award. The last one to do it was Eric Gagne in 2003 and it took him setting a record for consecutive saves to do it. Mariana Rivera, arguably the greatest closer of all-time, never won it and only came in second in the voting once in his 19 year career. Prior to that, the last one had been the great Dennis Eckersley in 1992. The last reliever to even get a first place vote was Zack Britton in 2016.

If Edwin Diaz continues to have the season he’s having, he will be a strong candidate to be the next relief pitcher to win. His season thus far has been extraordinary. He’s striking out nearly 18 batters per nine innings, has a strikeout to walk ratio over 7, a FIP under one and an ERA of 1.44. Those are video game numbers and compare favorably to Gagne’s Cy Young campaign in 2003. Diaz is legitimately having one of the greatest seasons by a relief pitcher in the modern era.

It’s a bit of an anachronism in the modern game that relief pitchers so rarely win Cy Young awards. A closer is arguably as important in today’s game as is the starting pitcher, yet closer’s need to have historic seasons to win the award. Mike Marshall pitched 208 innings over 106 games in 1974. Gagne saved 55 consecutive games in 2003. Britton was one of the last to have a year that looked that good on paper. In 2016, Britton led the league in saves and posted a 0.54 ERA, which garnered him five first place votes and about one-third of the total vote.

What helps Diaz is the relative lack of competition this year. Plenty of pitchers are having great years, but none are having a similarly dominating campaign. Corbin Burnes, last year’s Cy Young winner, is having an excellent year, but is slightly worse than his campaign from last year. Sandy Alcantra is supposedly the front runner for the award, but outside of his 1.88 ERA, he isn’t posting any other numbers that are overwhelmingly dominant. Those are probably Diaz’s two biggest competitors and if Diaz keeps doing what he’s been doing, he might push them aside.

He’s put himself in the conversation with what he’s done since May 27th. On May 24th, Diaz had his worst game of the season, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits and a walk against the San Francisco Giants in two-thirds of an inning. Starting on his next appearance on May 27th, Diaz has made 24 appearances, saved 14 games and allowed 1 earned run, while averaging over 19 strikeouts per nine innings and an absurd SO to BB ratio of nearly 18:1. If he somehow continued that kind of absurdity, his ERA would dip to a number barely over 1.00, which would have to cause voters to notice.

Anyway you spin it, Diaz has been fantastic and deserves as good a chance as any other pitcher to win the Cy Young award.

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