Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson has truly broken out as everyone had hoped. He’s finally delivering the results that he flashed in the Minor Leagues and is leading the rotation. But is he a National League Cy Young Award Candidate?
Despite lacking an All-Star appearance or a ton of recognition, Milwaukee Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson ranks among the NL’s best this year. Nelson is second in the National League among qualified pitchers with a 4.8 WAR. He’s second only to Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer‘s 5.3 WAR. He’s ahead of Zack Greinke‘s 4.7 WAR. Clayton Kershaw was cruising to his next Cy Young win when a back injury in late July cost him a month. Even without the month of August, Kershaw is going to finish in the top two. But, is there a chance that Nelson could pull a ‘Pat Hentgen‘ and add a Cy Young to his mantle?
How good is Jimmy Nelson, really?
Better than Zach Davies, but not as good as Max Scherzer is probably the best answer possible. Nelson is in the middle of his first full Major League season with a sub-4.00 ERA. His ERA currently sits at 3.59, and barring disaster, he’ll end up under 4.00. He’s also striking out over a batter per inning and his BB/9 is the lowest it’s been since 2014. This is the best season Nelson has ever had in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform.
What’s changed with Nelson?
Nelson’s batted ball data is essentially the unchanged from previous seasons, so his results aren’t baseball being baseball. The biggest difference lies in his pitch usage rates. He’s using his curveball more, and throwing it harder than he ever has before. This has lead to a swinging strike percentage over 10% for the first time in Nelson’s career. The swinging strikes are usually coming on the all important third strike.
Should Nelson win the Cy Young?
Not unless Scherzer and Kershaw inexplicably retire in the next four weeks. Nelson has enjoyed a great season, no doubt, but there are several factors that will hurt him in voting in the Fall. Playing where he plays, and lacking ‘Good-Lord-He’s-Amazing’ numbers will keep him out of the top spot.
Nelson is a solid bet to finish in the top five when the vote is taken. He’s compiled enough quality starts, strikeouts, and all-around solid numbers to warrant attention. However, he’s not quite Cy Young Award worthy…yet.