Phillies ace demolishes competition in latest Cy Young poll, Suárez deserves more love

Starting pitching has been a bright spot for the Phillies this season, and the early Cy Young voting reflects that, with two starters in the top five.
May 6, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws
May 6, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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On Tuesday, MLB.com released its updated Cy Young polling, and two familiar faces for Philadelphia Phillies fans are in the running.

With the Phillies sporting a league-leading 31-13 record, the team's starting pitching has played a huge role in that success. That collective success has garnered attention from media outlets across the board, including when it comes to the National League Cy Young Award race.

Left-hander Ranger Suárez received one first-place vote, while Phillies ace Zack Wheeler leads the pack with 19 first-place votes.

Zack Wheeler is leading the way

In the National League, Wheeler is the top first-place vote-getter with 19. Tyler Glasnow (eight votes) of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Shōta Imanaga (nine votes) of the Chicago Cubs are trailing him.

Wheeler has never won the Cy Young, but he came close in 2021 while with the Phillies, finishing second in voting.

In nine starts in 2024, the right-hander has put up a 2.53 ERA, 65 strikeouts, 0.994 WHIP and 2.74 FIP in 53 1/3 innings. He has given up a career-low 6.2 hits per nine innings and has a career-high 11 strikeouts per nine.

Wheeler's last start against the Miami Marlins was his shortest outing of the year — he was knocked out after four innings and six earned runs. In his first eight starts of the season, though, his ERA was a stellar 1.64.

Before the season, Wheeler spoke with Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia about his pitching arsenal and his adjustments to try to win a Cy Young:

According to Baseball Savant, the 33-year-old's 30 percent strikeout rate is a career high. His opponents' batting average of .190 is also the lowest of his career. For the most part, he has been efficient with his pitches, getting a first-pitch strike 67.3 percent of the time, with a 29.4 whiff rate.

Earlier in May, Catcher J.T. Realmuto spoke with Tim Kelly of Phillies Nation about Wheeler's versatility.

"He always had plus stuff, I just feel like he's more of a pitcher now than he was in the past," Realmuto said, per Kelly. "He used to be more of a thrower, and just kind of challenge you in the middle of the zone, and came at you with two or three pitches. Now he's got five or six pitches that he uses on both sides of the plate. He can just kind of toy with the hitters a little more than he used to be able to and kind of mess with their heads."

As good as Wheeler has been, he might not even be the best pitcher currently in the Phillies' starting rotation.

Ranger Suárez deserves more respect

Suárez has been lights-out to start the season.

After Wednesday's win against the New York Mets, the 28-year-old is 8-0 in nine starts with a 1.37 ERA and .076 WHIP. Through 59 innings, he has 58 punchouts and only 10 walks. While striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings, he has walked a career-low 1.5 hitters per nine.

And the starter takes his pitch control seriously:

Heading into Wednesday's matchup, Suárez was in the top two percent of the league in exit velocity (83.2 mph), top four percent in hard-hit percentage (28.2), top seven percent in walk percentage (4.1) and in the top five percent of expected ERA (2.21). His chase percentage, at 32.7, is the highest it's been since the shortened 2020 season, and his first-pitch strike percentage is a career-high 65.3, well above the MLB average of 60.9 percent.

April's NL Pitcher of the Month rode a 32-inning scoreless streak through the majority of the month.

In his seventh year in the big leagues, he has gone at least five innings in each outing. In five of his starts, he has held the opponent to zero earned runs. His second-to-last game against the Miami Marlins was a seven-inning, no-run, three-hit gem. That was after throwing a complete-game shutout against the Colorado Rockies on April 16.

On Wednesday, when the weather was miserable and the overall game was a sloppy one, he only lasted five innings against the Mets. Even then, however, he only gave up two runs, both unearned.

The laid-back lefty was asked about the hot streak he is on, and his response was very matter-of-fact.

"As I said before, this is my job. Every time I step on the mound, I just want to go seven, eight, nine innings. That's every time I go to pitch. I try to go as long as I can every time," he said, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

Teammate Nick Castellanos offered the following analysis on Suárez: "Stud. He works so quickly and every single one of his deliveries on every pitch looks exactly the same. I think that gives hitters a real hard time because they don't know what's coming at them until it's halfway to home plate."

2024 might be the season Suárez finally brings home a Gold Glove, and at this rate, he might have to make room for a Cy Young too.

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