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2021 Pitcher of the Year: Nominations and ballot

I’ve a feeling there’s a clear favorite here, but let’s see!

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

As noted, there weren’t many obvious candidates here. The highest bWAR by a D-back pitcher, ranked only 60th in the majors this year. Though Arizona was far from alone. Five other teams failed to have a player worth more than 2.5 bWAR this year: the Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Pirates and... wait, what, the Rays? Yep: no pitcher for Tampa this year was worth more than 2.3 bWAR (Tyler Glasnow and Andrew Kittredge). Yet they won more games than any other team in the American League. @Pitching. It’s clearly vastly over-rated.@ [Sorry, sarcasm font doesn’t appear to work too well in the body of stories] Still, startling to think Merrill Kelly would have been the most productive pitcher on the 2021 Rays...

Anyway, here are your five candidates, who along with the utilityman Noah Ward (I’m going to keep using that joke, as long as necessary), will be on the ballot.

Madison Bumgarner

Reports of the death of Bumgarner’s career were clearly premature. After a shocking 2020 campaign, concern was justified, but there were times this year, when we got the Mason Saunders we paid for. Nowhere was this more the case than the night in Atlanta, where he no-hit the future World Series champions for seven innings, a performance among the best of his entire career. Later in the season, there was also a seven-game stretch where Bumgarner was arguably the best pitcher in baseball, never allowing more than two earnr runs in that period, and posting an ERA of 1.93, including a victory over his former team-mates in San Francisco.

Zac Gallen

Gallen had his moments as well. The seven inning one-hitter of Atlanta might have got most attention, but don’t forget August 21, where he tossed seven more shutout innings, against the Rockies in Coors Field, with nine strikeouts and a walk. He certainly deserved a better record than 4-10: that was particularly due to nine no-decisions (including the Coors game mentioned), in which Zac had an ERA of 3.35. His ability to strikeout batters continued to be remarkably consistent: in each of his seasons, Gallen has posted a K-rate of between 10.3 and 10.9 per nine innings. Only five other pitchers (min 70 IP) have been at 10.3 or better each year from 2019-21:

Tyler Gilbert

Of course, Gilbert already has one ‘Pittie on his mantel, having won Performance of the Year in a landslide, for his no-hitter against the Padres. That this came in his first career start as a major-leaguer, with less than a handful of MLB innings under his belt, made it all the more amazing. In just 40 innings, he was worth 1.2 bWAR, the best rate of any pitcher with a meaningful amount of work (sorry, Asdrubal, that excludes your 0.1 bWAR in 1.1 IP!). Gilbert posted a 3.15 ERA. which is among the ten lowest by a Diamondbacks’ pitcher in their first MLB season (min 40 IP). But the undoubted highlight was that amazing night at Chase Field, where he permanently inked his name in franchise history.

Merrill Kelly

There were concerns coming into the season, after Kelly’s 2020 campaign was ended prematurely by thoracic outlet surgery. But he put any concerns over his health there to rest, leading the team in starts, innings pitched and bWAR. He did miss a month after testing positive for COVID in mid-August, but his ERA was almost 4.44 was almost identical to the one in Kelly last full season (4.42 in 2019). Indeed, his fielding-independent ERA of 4.11 was the best of any regular starter for Arizona, ahead of Gallen (4.25), Luke Weaver (4.42) and Bumgarner (4.63). The argument that Kelly is the best free-agent signing of the Mike Hazen era, only gathered evidence this year.

Noe Ramirez

Of all the dumpster-diving pickups made by the Diamondbacks this season, Ramirez was far and away the most successful. He was released entirely by the Angels in mid-May, the D-backs snapping Noe up a couple of days later. He had some moderate track record, with a 108 ERA+ over 211 innings before this season, but far surpassed that for Arizona in 2021. Ramirez had a 2.76 ERA over 32.2 innings, becoming the only D-back reliever with a sub-three ERA (min 30 IP) since 2018. His FIP of 3.48 was more than respectable, and even regression to his career ERA would still make Noe a useful arm out of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in 2022.

Here’s the link, if you can’t use the form embedded below. Results to be announced on Monday. As this will be the last post by me until the other side of the holidays, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas (or whatever!). Have a safe, enjoyable festive season.