Should Gerrit Cole or Nathan Eovaldi WIN the 2021 Cy Young Award?
In the era of Spider Tack and putting sticky stuff on the baseball, the 2021 American League Cy Young Award has been anything but a sure thing.
And yes, I know that Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and Red Sox No. 1 starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (ee-VAUL-dee) are both the top 2 pitchers in the AL for Wins Above Replacement.
But for everything good happening to each American League East star pitcher, there’s still plenty of doubt and suspicion that each guy manning the pitching rubber is actually playing by the rules.
Take this press conference for example. If Cole wanted to prove to the fans and media that he’s not using Spider Tack, he certainly needs to fire his publicist (Insert press conference footage).
Is Cole still using Spider Tack? I personally highly doubt it due to Major League Baseball and their personnel in New York City cracking down on the cheaters. But, until late June, his numbers were arguably the best in the American League.
And honestly, they still are, even with the Spider Tack controversy.
Insert the middle of August, and Cole is still one of the best pitchers in baseball according to Fangraphs. If you go to Fangraphs.com, you’ll notice that Cole and Eovaldi are currently neck-and-neck for the WAR crown. As for Fielding Independent Pitching, which accounts only for pitching statistics and takes different ballparks into account, they’ve both been amazing pitchers according to the sabermetric statistic. Each pitcher has a FIP below 3.
Keep in mind that Cole and Eovaldi never once admitted to using Spider Tack. Cole’s press conference was an absolute disgrace, but he never said word-for-word verbatim that he knowingly used Spider Tack on the baseball.
But the spin rates don’t lie. According to the Associated Press, his curveball spin rate was as high as 2,825 revolutions per minute on May 22nd. As MLB continued to crack down on spider tack, pine tar, and other ways to cheat on the mound this season, Cole’s breaking ball spin rate was down to 2,695 RPM on June 17th.
That’s a major drop to his spin rate, and it just shows you how Cole might have very well been cheating early on this season to get an unfair advantage.
What’s the conclusion here? Once MLB personnel started to crack down on Spider Tack, Cole’s baseballs became easier to hit. Less revolutions per minute means the ball has less top spin on it and can be read easier by the hitter. In essence, less topspin and backspin means the curveball can hang more and doesn’t break as easily.
What helps Cole winning the Cy Young is the steroid era. Prior to the BALCO investigation in 2003, MLB star players such as Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Sammy Sosa won the MVP Awards even despite suspicion that they only did so through the usage of performance enhancing drugs.
Is Spider Tack a PED? It’s not, but it still gives the opposition an unfair chance of competing with you. Remember: There isn’t any cause-and-effect relationship between steroids and improving your hand-eye coordination. This just means that steroids didn’t help Barry Bonds supposedly hit 73 home runs during the 2001 regular season. Rather, they gave him extra testosterone and boosted his performance during the grueling 162-game season.
Spider Tack is a whole other animal to think about because it drastically changes how a pitcher can dominate through a controlled substance. What helps Gerrit Cole’s case is he was an ace in Pittsburgh and some great years in Houston. Was Cole using Spider Tack with the Astros in 2018 and 2019? I’ll let you decide, but until Cole admits to using the substance, his 2018 and 2019 Astros statistics should most likely be taken as fully legitimate.
I bring up Spider Tack and steroids because MLB has never taken away an MVP or Cy Young Award due to a player allegedly destroying the integrity of the game. Remember: Pete Rose was banned from baseball, but his hit records and MVP Awards are still considered part of baseball lore.
Rose got to keep his MVP trophy. Even former steroids-accusing pitcher Roger Clemens doesn’t have a legal asterisk to his Cy Young accomplishments. So if steroids and betting on baseball are part of the game, shouldn’t Spider Tack?
It’s hard to completely blame Cole and Eovaldi since MLB was so late to the game. Did Cole and Eovaldi know what they were doing was wrong but did it anyway? Most likely. I mean, they’re intelligent adults. They must’ve known the possible repercussions for their actions and that what they were doing was against league policy.
But if MLB was continuing to have a blind eye to Spider Tack, why not use it? The same thing goes for the Houston Astros and the whole trash can fiasco. You can hate on it all you want, but if the Astros knew that the commissioner’s office wouldn’t punish them during the season, why not try and get away with it? It doesn’t make what the Astros did right, but the old saying goes, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” In layman’s terms, this actually translates to, “If you can get away with cheating, some people will do it.”
What hurts Eovaldi is he was just a perfectly average pitcher prior to the 2021 season. In fact, he was borderline dreadful during the 2019 campaign: He only made 12 starts due to his awful performances on the mound, recording a 5.99 Earned Run Average.
However, his 2018 season was very good, especially in the postseason where he pitched in 6 games (2 of them starts). His Walks Hits Per Innings Pitched was just .81, and he held opposing hitters to a .185 batting average against.
His 2020 season was also fine: 9 starts and an ERA under 4 at 3.72. Still, it wasn’t anything to write home about.
But now, in 2021, Eovaldi is suddenly the second-best pitcher in the American League? And the only person ahead of him is the highest paid pitcher in all of professional baseball? Something smells fishy here, and it’s not the undercooked salmon I ate last night.
Interestingly enough, Eovaldi throws a majority of four-seam fastballs and cutters. Four-seam fastballs don’t usually have as much bite to an opposing hitter as curveballs do. Bite means getting the hitter to think the ball will land in the strike zone until it dies out of the hitting zone at the last second. The best pitches are those that get the batter to “bite” at a 2-strike pitch that seems like it will paint the corner, when in reality, it will become a strikeout pitch out of the zone.
I bring this up because if Eovaldi really wanted to cheat, wouldn’t he want to use Spider Tack on his curveball and use the curveball most of the time?
Not necessarily because Eovaldi has a very good cut fastball.
Cutters are known to jam hitters on the hands, AKA an inside deceptive pitch, which is why Eovaldi throws this pitch about 31 percent of the time.
Cutters are harder to locate than curveballs, though, which makes using Spider Tack so appealing to Eovaldi. If he can change the trajectory of the ball, the downward spin action of the cut fastball could land in the dirt and near the hands instead of the batter being able to fight it off.
It’s pretty crazy to think how hard it was (and maybe still is) for batters to put the ball in play against the menace known as Spider Tack.
Anyway, the title of this video is trying to answer the question, “Should Gerrit Cole or Nathan Eovaldi win the 2021 Cy Young Award?”
Regardless of the suspicion and stats that prove both pitchers most likely used the substance at some point this season, it’s hard for MLB to set a new precedent. Clemens continued to pitch well after BALCO and the Mitchell Report, and he even got credited for the Cy Young Award in 2004. Changing things now for Eovaldi and Cole would seem almost hypocritical. Where was MLB when the cheating took place during the 2000s decade?
Cheating is just part of sports, and honestly, it’s part of life. The NCAA is still criticized to this day for taking away Memphis basketball’s wins during Derrick Rose’s lone season with the Tigers. There’s a good chance that Major League Baseball would receive the same criticism for taking away an honor that seems to be earned for Cole or Eovaldi.
But Spider Tack is still a major part of the issue. In fact, look at this interesting statistic about Eovaldi when he started a game on June 4th:
According to StatCast, Eovaldi’s spin rates were down on most of his pitches. While the spin rate on his curveball was actually up 12 revolutions per minute compared to his yearly average, it was down 26 RPM on his cutter, down 30 RPM on his slider, down 51 RPM on his fastball and down 166 RPM on his splitter.
However, even a change in 150 RPM is only a difference of about 5% compared to most yearly averages. Some would argue the difference is negligible.
Remember: June is when MLB was forced to penalize pitchers for using sticky substances. This doesn’t seem very coincidental that Eovaldi’s spin rates went down just as the media kept publicly talking about Spider Tack.
Regardless of controversies and trusted journalism articles about the pitchers allegedly cheating, MLB usually lets the statistics tell the story. And if sabermetrics are the new king of analyzing who wins the Cy Young, Eovaldi and Cole should finish in the Top 2 for Cy Young voting.
But what do you think? Should Eovaldi and Cole be punished for being linked to Spider Tack cheating? Make sure to comment below on who you think should win the 2021 AL Best Pitcher award. And of course, make sure to subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.