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2024 Cy Young: Could Gallen Beat Snell?

Spoiler: Yes!

Zac Gallen pitching in 2023 World Series.
Zac Gallen pitching in 2023 World Series.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In this season’s voting for Cy Young, Blake Snell received 28 of 30 first-place votes. One reason could have been that the Baseball Savant summary of statistics was one-sided. Most of their comparisons are in the following table.

Data from Baseball Savant.

Two key statistics from this season, show why Blake Snell was the better pitcher:

  • ERA (2.25 vs 4.47).
  • On Base Percent with Runners in Scoring Position (OBP with RISP) (.251 vs .285).

Whether Snell’s 2023 results are sustainable is questionable for two reasons: He left a lot of runners on base and his BABIP was low. Does that apply to the comparison of Snell and Gallen? Two points:

  • Snell had a higher runners-left-on-base-per-inning-pitched than Gallen for four consecutive seasons from 2020 to 2023 (seems sustainable and does not apply).
  • Gallen had the lower BABIP for four consecutive seasons from 2019 to 2022. Significantly, that patten was broken in 2023 when Snell’s BABIP fell below Gallen’s BABIP (.256 vs .301).

It’s likely that 2024 will be different than 2023. My view is that in 2024 Zac Gallen will out-pitch Blake Snell. Let’s look at six reasons:

Gallen had better statistics over five seasons.

Looking at five statistics chosen by me, in the last five seasons, Zac Gallen had better statistics than Blake Snell. In the table, the better statistics are green. Zac Gallen has a lot more green statistics.

Data from Baseball Reference and Baseball Savant.

Gallen’s and Snell’s expected statistics were a mix of stengths and weaknesses.

However, the comparison was less clear looking at expected statistics (xERA, xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG); From 2019 to 2023 each of Gallen and Snell was more often better in two expected statistics. See the following list for details (data from Baseball Savant).

  • xERA and xwOBA. Gallen was better except for 2019 and 2023.
  • xBA and xSLG. Snell was better except 2020 and 2021.

Gallen is younger with less career innings.

Zac Gallen is nearly three years younger than Blake Snell (next season will be 28 vs 31). Also, Zac Gallen has less career pitches (college, minors, Majors) than Blake Snell (1400.0 vs 1583.2). My view is that more so than Blake Snell, next season Zac Gallen will continue to become a better pitcher.

Gallens’ 2022 season compared to Snell’s 2018 season.

In several ways, Zac Gallen’s 2022 season was comparable to Blake Snell’s 2018 season, when he won a Cy Young for his first time. The expected statistics (xERA, xwOBA, and xSLG) were especially comparable. In 2023 Blake Snell had a second great season, so it’s possible that Zac Gallen will have a second great season in 2024. The comparison of Snell’s 2018 and Gallen’s 2022 is shown in the following table.

Data from Baseball Savant.

Gallen pitched the sixth and seventh innings more often.

Looking at several statistics (BA, OBP, SLG, and wOBA), in 2023 the Diamondbacks relief pitchers were below the league averages of relief pitchers (Baseball Savant). It’s possible that if the bullpen had been better, Zac Gallen would have pitched less often beyond the fifth inning. In 2023, he pitched beyond the fifth inning much more often than Snell:

  • Completed 5 innings: Snell 30 of 32, Gallen 33 of 34 (about the same)
  • Completed 6 innings: Snell 21 of 32, Gallen 29 of 34 (Gallen was significantly more 85% vs 66%)
  • Completed 7 innings: Snell 3 of 32, Gallen 16 of 34 (Gallen very much more (47% vs 9%)

When Blake Snell pitched in the sixth and seventh innings, his OPS was much better than average. That was not true for Zac Gallen.

Brent Strom is a difference maker.

Brent Strom, widely acknowledged as the best pitching coach in the Majors, is a significant plus in achieving Zac Gallen’s goal of being the best pitcher in the Majors.

Brent Strom is one reason that my expectations are high for Zac Gallen.

“Perhaps my expectations for Zac Gallen were too high. His second World Series start was a potential no hitter. It was everything I could hope for, but in the end it fell short of zero earned runs. Because I strongly believe Zac Gallen will pitch better, his performance was most underwhelming.” — Makakilo


Although Blake Snell was the better pitcher this season, there are six reasons to believe that next season Zac Gallen will be the better pitcher. In 2024, Zac Gallen could be a better pitcher than Blake Snell.