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John Dewan's Stat of the Week - San Diego Padres

Defense, The NL Cy Young Race, and Blake Snell

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On May 19, Padres starter Blake Snell got clubbed for 6 runs in 4 innings in a loss to the Red Sox. His season ERA at that point was 5.40.

But from that point forward, Snell has had the most remarkable run of pitching in 2023. He has a 1.31 ERA in his last 19 starts with nearly 2.5 times more strikeouts (153) as hits allowed (62) in that span.

Snell’s season ERA is currently an MLB-best 2.50. This is remarkable given that he’s walked 89 batters, the most in the NL. That’s more than 5 walks per 9 innings, a rate that ranks 4th-highest in MLB.

Snell’s ERA is an outlier among those with the most walks per 9 innings. His walks per 9 are an outlier among the pitchers with the lowest ERAs in MLB.

So with all these crazy numbers floating around, where does Snell fit within the context of the NL Cy Young race, compared to pitchers like Justin Steele of the Cubs and Spencer Strider of the Braves?

A Twitter follower presumably looking to answer that or a similar question asked us how much defensive support the different Cy Young contenders have received this season.

The easiest way for us to answer that is to look at Defensive Runs Saved on batted balls by a team in support of a pitcher, something we did earlier this season in this article.

Pitchers Receiving Most Defensive Support From Teams - 2023
Name Team DRS
José Berrios Blue Jays 16
Blake Snell Padres 15
Corbin Burnes Brewers 13
Yusei Kikuchi Blue Jays 13
Framber Valdez Astros 12
Dean Kremer Orioles 12

Snell and the Padres show up prominently on the leaderboard. That makes sense. In order to have an ERA that good with the walk rate that high, a pitcher is going to need help in some form.

And now let’s look at this using the Top 5 NL Cy Young candidates as established by Tom Tango’s Cy Young Predictor tool (now available on FanGraphs).

Pitchers Receiving Most Defensive Support From Teams

Cy Young Candidates- 2023
Name Team DRS
Blake Snell Padres 15
Zac Gallen Diamondbacks 5
Justin Steele Cubs 2
Spencer Strider Braves 1
Zack Wheeler Phillies -1

Admittedly if we considered other areas of defense, such as keeping runners from stealing, the Defensive Runs Saved numbers behind Snell would go down a bit. Snell has allowed 20 stolen bases in 21 attempts. But he would still be well ahead of any other serious Cy Young contender. The work of the Padres defense has been an important part in Snell's ERA being the best in the game.

So if Snell does win the Cy Young Award, we’d recommend him giving some complimentary gifts to the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr.Ha-Seong KimXander Bogaerts, and others. As good as Snell’s been on the mound, they’ve been just as good for him.

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