Phillies pitching coach’s Cy Young prediction gains traction

Back during his late-November introductory press conference, Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham told reporters that one of the things he is most intrigued about his new staff is that it has three starting pitchers — Aaron NolaZack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin — who could become a Cy Young Award winner.

So far, three games into the 2021 season, Cotham’s prediction has only gained traction.

Phillies starters Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Zach Eflin thrived in the sweep.

The trio combined to toss 20 2/3 innings over the three-game series, allowing just 11 hits, three runs (all earned), two home runs, and one walk — while striking out 24 batters — for an 1.31 ERA and 0.581 WHIP ratio.

Wheeler particularly shined in Saturday’s 4-0 shutout win, retiring each of last 17 batters faced in order, while allowing only one hit overall in his eventual winning decision.

MLB innings pitched leaders:

  1. Aaron Civale, 7 IP, 3.86 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
  2. Zach Eflin, 7 IP, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP
  3. John Means, 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.14 WHIP
  4. Zack Wheeler, 7 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.14 WHIP
  5. Kevin Gausman, 6 2/3 IP, 1.35 ERA, 0.60 WHIP
  6. Aaron Nola, 6 2/3 IP, 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP

Thanks to the bullpen throwing 7 1/3 scoreless innings, the pitching staff has surrendered just three runs as a whole. This ties for their second-fewest through three games of any season since at least 1901 (1915, 2 runs; 2021, 3 runs; 1970, 3 runs).

Cotham joins the Phillies after spending the last two seasons as the assistant pitching coach of the Cincinnati Reds. Less than a half-decade prior, the Tennessee native was a major-league pitcher that logged 35 career appearances out of the bullpen for the Reds (2016) and the Joe Girardi-led New York Yankees (2015).

Phillies pitchers have won just seven Cy Young Awards, with the most recent being the late Roy Halladay in 2010. Steve Carlton won four Cy Youngs in 1972, 1977, 1980, and 1982, followed by John Denny in 1983 and Steve Bedrosian in 1987.

Nola came close in 2018, finishing third for the award after going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA through 33 starts. Perhaps, the 2021 season will be the year he, or his teammates Wheeler or Eflin, come away with the hardware.