Righthander Aaron Nola, who finished third in the NL Cy Young voting a year ago, will start for the Phillies against the Rockies on Saturday afternoon. Sunday, the Rockies will counter with lefthander Kyle Freeland, who finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting a year ago, in the series finale at Philadelphia.
Both have been in an early season funk this year.
They, however, are not alone.
Nola is 3-0, but the 4.86 ERA is reason for concern. Freeland is 2-5 and has a 5.68 ERA. And while reigning NL Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom has a (3-5) record and a 3.98 ERA --not what would be considered Cy Young numbers. The strongest effort by one of the top 10 finishers a year ago belongs to Cubs' lefty Jon Lester, who is 3-1 with a 1.16 ERA. Josh Hader finished eighth a year ago, and is 11-for-11 in saves for the Brewers this year.
And in the AL, the defending winner, Blake Snell of the Rays, is 3-4 with a 3.56 ERA. The most dominating effort among the top 10 from a year ago has been turned in by 2018 runner-up Justin Verlander (7-1, 2.38). The only other top 10 finisher from a year ago still in the American League who even has a winning record is Trevor Bauer of Cleveland, who is 4-2 with a 3.76 ERA.
So who are the early leaders this year? Zach Davies of the Brewers (5-0, 1.54) and Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers (5-1, 1.72) have dominated among starting pitchers in 2019, but don't ignore Padres closer Kirby Yates, who converted his first 17 save opportunities, and has 38 strikeouts and a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings.
Verlander is making his presence felt in the AL (7-1, 2.38), one win behind Domingo German of the Yankees. And the Rays have the top two starters in terms of ERA -- Tyler Glasnow (6-1, 1.86) and Charlie Morton (4-0, 2.32). Don't ignore Tiger closer Shane Green, who is 15-for-15 in saves and has a 1.42 ERA to go with a .147 batting average allowed.
It is worth noting, however, that there have only been two relievers claim a Cy Young -- Dennis Eckersley with the A's in 1992 won the AL award, and Eric Gange with the Dodgers in 2003 was the NL Cy Young Award winner.
And it's not like the defending MVPs are making a strong case to repeat in 2019 -- with the excpetion of reigning NL MVP Chrisitan Yelich, who enjoys life at Miller Park, where he is hitting .406 with 15 home runs and 32 RBI compared to .282 with three home runs and eight RBI on the road.
(Aside: And what's that about the friendly confines of Coors Field?)
The top vote getter from the AL in 2018 having a big-time season in 2019 is Verlander.
Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers is certainly making a strong case for the 2019 NL MVP. Not only does he have 16 home runs, two behind Yelich, but he leads the NL with 42 RBI and he is having an early-season flirtation with hitting .400, carrying a .404 average, 68 poiints better than Yelich. Meanwhile, George Spring is leading the AL with 42 RBI and 17 home runs, and the Astros outfielder is hitting .320.
There has not been a .400 hitter since Ted Williams reached that level in 1941. In fact, there have been only 20 seasons in which a hitter qualified for a batting title since 1942 and hit .366 or better.
Onlty 13 times since 1901 has there been a .400 season, and Rogers Hornsby and Ty Cobb accounted for three of those apiece.
The closest to .400 were Tony Gwynn at .394 in 1994, and Geroge Brett at .390 in 1980.