Giants ace Logan Webb is a Cy Young Award finalist for the first time in his MLB career, and that alone is a cause for celebration.
The 26-year-old pitcher was a glimmer in an otherwise dull 2023 campaign for San Francisco, further solidifying his status as one of the league's most durable and effective starters. But does he have a shot at taking home Cy Young honors?
Blake Snell's efforts atop the San Diego Padres' rotation this season have him widely viewed as the favorite to win the award for the National League, and Webb also faces stiff competition in fellow finalist Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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Of course there's a case to be made for Webb -- even if he doesn't think so.
"He's going to win the Cy Young,” the ever-humble Webb said of Snell after pitching the second complete game of his career for the Giants in September. “He's the best pitcher in baseball."
While Snell has Webb beat in several key statistical categories, there are plenty of other areas where the Giants veteran right-hander showed he's the best. Here are three reasons why Webb should hear his name called when Cy Young winners are announced on Wednesday:
San Francisco Giants
Webb this season faced a situation not many MLB pitchers have to deal with -- a starting rotation that lacked, well, starters. His ability to log long outings more often than not for the Giants in 2023 was a major reason why the team remained in playoff contention as long as it did, and Webb embodied the true definition of a workhorse for San Francisco.
Webb became the first Giants pitcher to lead the league in innings since Gaylord Perry in 1970, tossing a career-high 216 frames across 33 starts this season. In an era where pitch counts reign supreme and analytics tend to determine mid-to-late-game matchups, Webb's longevity this season can't be ignored.
The complete game mentioned earlier was Webb's last start of the season. Had the Giants' late-season collapse never happened and the team made the playoffs, San Francisco fans would have had plenty to look forward to in the postseason.
Along with Alex Cobb, Webb held down the fort as one of the Giants' only traditional starters and proved why the No. 1 spot atop the rotation is his for the foreseeable future.
No Free Passes
Webb came in at No. 19 in strikeouts among all MLB pitchers this season with 194 -- fewer than Snell (234) and Gallen (220) -- and his ERA of 3.25 ranked fourth among NL starters, coming in a whole run higher than Snell's. While those are two of the top statistics Cy Young voters will examine when making their choice, there's another that shouldn't be ignored.
The Giants ace walked just 31 batters in 2023, giving him an average of 1.3 walks per nine innings and a 6.26 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- both of which led the NL. Additionally, Webb threw strikes 67.8 percent of the time this season and trailed only the Atlanta Braves' Spencer Strider for the NL lead in that category. Webb's 1.07 WHIP also tied for the NL's second-best mark, along with Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers and just behind Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw at 1.06.
In short, Webb didn't allow many baserunners, and that kind of control is something pitchers strive for. The most important quality a pitcher can have is a tendency to throw strikes -- and strikes that are difficult for the opposing team to hit. Webb's MLB-leading ground-ball rate of 62.1 percent this season, combined with the other stats we've compiled, show his command is top-notch -- and perhaps leagues above his fellow Cy Young finalists.
Face of the Franchise
Where do we begin? It's no secret the Giants had a tough 2023 season -- starting with the organization's failure to land a superstar in free agency last winter.
But what if the superstar was in the clubhouse all along? There are some things stats can't quantify, and in his fifth MLB season, Webb stepped up as not only a high-performer on the field but a leader in the clubhouse. While that proved a difficult role to hold at times, the pitcher held his head high through the ups and downs of a puzzling San Francisco campaign.
The Giants rarely supported Webb's stellar outings with their bats this season, producing an MLB-low 3.1 runs of support across his 33 starts and contributing to his 11-13 record. For comparison, Snell (14-9) and Gallen (17-9) received an average of 4.3 and 4.8 runs per start, respectively. But Webb, a team leader, never threw his teammates under the bus and typically put the onus on himself for losses if he gave up any runs.
"That's just part of baseball," Webb said Aug. 30 after the Giants' 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. "I've just got to go out there and, as a pitcher, if it's a 0-0 game, you've got to keep it at 0-0. It's more my fault than anything."
From taking the blame as his Webb Gems went to waste to calling for change in times of need, as he did when the Giants were spiraling toward the end of the season, Webb used his voice for good during situations that appeared anything but. He'll continue to do that in the future after signing a five-year contract extension this past spring, cementing himself as the future of the Giants.
We know intangibles aren't considered by Cy Young voters. And even though it's a long shot for Webb to take home the award, Giants fans have seen enough from the young ace to know this won't be the last time he's up for consideration. As San Francisco begins another pivotal offseason in search of a spark, they have plenty to build around in Webb, Cy Young winner or not.