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Edwin Díaz: Cy Young Award Winner

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A day of appreciation for the young closer who’s already one of the greatest in franchise history

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

“Edwin just lives in the moment. He works hard, but when he’s out there it’s time for him to shine.”

In April of last year I conducted my first “professional” interview with Andrew Lorraine, a current Pirates scout and former coach in the Mariners organization. He was Edwin Díaz’s pitching coach during his 2015 season in Bakersfield and his 2016 stint in AA Jackson, and I have pages of notes of him praising Díaz’s unique mix of “free-spiritedness and ability,” but I don’t know if even Lorraine could have predicted Edwin’s 2018 season.

  • MLB saves leader, earning his 47th yesterday afternoon, and just one ball off from an immaculate inning. Craig Kimbrel is next-closest in saves, with 36.
  • Prior to the All-Star break only Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagné had more saves and strikeouts, back in 2003
  • 103 strikeouts as of August 15
  • The fifth pitcher to record four saves in a four game series
  • The lowest FIP and xFIP of any qualified reliever in baseball
  • A very real chance to break Francisco Rodríguez’s single season saves record and, in terms of dominance, it’s not terribly close

It’s been a season for the record books (and for Scott Servais’ hairstyle), and there are still 40 games left in the regular season.

Earlier this week, Jake Mailhot asked whether anyone wanted to help him write up a piece on Díaz’s potential Cy Young campaign. So many writers jumped in to contribute that Jake, flush with impending-dad wisdom, suggested we transform this lackadaisical off day into something sweeter.

So, welcome to the headquarters of the #Edwin4CyYoung campaign. From historical comparisons to past Cy Young winners, strikeout highlight reels, and everything in between, today is all Edwin, all the time.

Now what needs to happen for Díaz to genuinely have a shot at the Cy Young? First and foremost, Díaz himself needn’t change a thing - he’s on pace to break the single season saves record, and to scrawl his name in the history books a few other times to boot. Realistically, for Díaz to win this award, the Mariners need to make the playoffs, and the BBWAA needs to recognize that we’re now squarely in the Age of the Super Bullpens, and that their voting should reflect this era.

MLB’s description of the award is vague:

BBWAA writers vote for first, second, third, fourth, and fifth place pitchers, within each league, and those placings are each assigned a certain number of points. From there, the points are tallied and the National League and American League pitchers with the highest number of points are recognized with the award.

Traditionally the Cy Young has gone to starters, but there is historical precedent for exceptional relievers to earn the title (more on this in a later piece today). Baseball is currently in the midst of one of its stylistic shifts, and lockdown bullpens are all the rage for teams looking to compete in the postseason. BBWAA writers would do well to acknowledge this new state of the game, and to recognize the almost entirely unique value that Edwin Díaz holds for this team.

For years it has felt as though the Mariners could never quite nail down their timing - we’re seeing this writ large as Félix Hernández falters in the midst of the franchise’s most competitive season in years - but now, with a team so enamored with close games, Díaz’s rise could not be more perfectly timed. Although perhaps it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, isn’t it? Which came first: the Mariners’ proclivity for one-run games, or Edwin’s elite closing ability? They’re 57-3 in games Díaz has appeared in; I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter.

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Is this “campaign” a little silly? Yes. A touch hyperbolic? For sure. But it’s an off day in August, the Mariners are still in contention, and Edwin Díaz has been unfathomably, incandescently superb. We can argue about the legitimacy of his Cy Young candidacy, but there is no question that Díaz has been, and will continue to be, the most important player on this team.