Is Jurrjens A Legitimate Cy Young Candidate?

Hello again everyone from the land of the freeze and the home of the gray (skies), otherwise known as southeast Michigan.

It may have been kind of cold here today, but it sure made you feel warm and fuzzy watching Jair Jurrjens pitch today. He pitched better than the linescore would indicate, throwing a perfect game for five and two-thirds innings. He pitched into the eighth, giving up two runs and three hits in seven and a third innings, with a third run charged to him when an inherited runner scored on a ground-out against Eric O’Flaherty. To underscore how well JJ’s pitched this season, it’s the first time that three runs have scored off him all season. To celebrate his performance thus far, I thought it might be fun to debate if he has established himself as a true Cy Young Award contender.

While I recognize that it’s early and the sample size is small, given the delayed start to his season due to injury, I’m not sure that many people are aware of just how dominant he has been. While he has never been a strikeout pitcher, and still isn’t, he’s been lights-out on just about every other metric. To begin, his WHIP is a minuscule 0.99; wow! His batting average against is only .229, while he’s allowed only 1.5 bases-on-balls per nine innings. Even more impressive, he’s allowed only 1 home run all season, which equates to about one per every five complete games. His ERA is 1.66, which equates to an ERA+ of about 250 (compared to a league-average 100). Since he should get about 24 more starts barring injury, he’s on pace to win 25 games, even after missing the first two weeks of the season.

If JJ pitched in New York, what do you think the hype factor would be? Would there even be a debate as to his Cy Young candidacy worthiness?

The biggest question I have is how much regression should be expected over the rest of the season? Based on his peripherals, I’d argue not as much as you might expect. His BABIP (batting average per balls in play) is .286, which is almost exactly at the “zero luck” line. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.18, almost exactly at his career norm, so there’s no glaring reason to expect his home runs allowed total to explode. His strikeout rate of 5.0/9 innings is actually below his career norm of about 6, so his K rate may actually improve. The only area that looks questionable is his control, as his walk rate is half his career average. But he’s pitching deep into games, which should reduce the uncertainty induced by bullpen appearances by middle relievers.

In summary, my take is that he’s legit, and that we could be on the verge of seeing something special. What’s your take?