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Reds’ Trevor Bauer, Indians’ Shane Bieber capture Cy Young awards

Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer captured the NL Cy Young award Wednesday, becoming the first Reds pitcher to win the honor. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

A pair of right-handed pitchers had their names carved into the record books Wednesday night when Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer won the Cy Young awards in their respective leagues. Bieber, the American League winner, was a unanimous selection, posting a 1.63 ERA in 12 starts for the Cleveland Indians. Bauer, the National League recipient, became the first Cincinnati Reds pitcher to take home the honor.

Bieber and Bauer were selected by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Bieber ran the table with all 30 writers giving him their first-place vote for dominating the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season. He outpaced Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda, Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun Jin Ryu and New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, plus seven other pitchers who received a first-, second-, third-, fourth- or fifth-place vote.

Bauer, a 29-year-old free agent, received 27 first-place votes and finished in front of Chicago Cubs right-hander Yu Darvish, New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom and San Diego Padres right-hander Dinelson Lamet, among others.

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Bauer and Bieber were former teammates with the Indians, and they had texted about their Cy Young chances at the start of the season. Bauer, more apt to follow Las Vegas betting lines, told Bieber they had the same odds to win. Bieber then suggested they go 2 for 2.

“It means the world,” Bieber said of getting the award alongside Bauer. “On a personal level, I know I’m extremely excited for Trevor and all that he’s gone through and how bad he’s wanted this.”

“As much as I’m a new-age analytics guy — that’s kind of what I’m branded as — I still respect and love the nostalgia of baseball,” Bauer said in an MLB Network interview just moments after four-time winner Greg Maddux announced his win. “I want to be out there as much as possible. I want to be out there every fourth day instead of every fifth. I love competing.”

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Bieber, 25, was the AL’s best in just his third major league season. He was the first Cleveland pitcher to sweep Cy Young voting, and he joined Gaylord Perry (1972), CC Sabathia (2007), Cliff Lee (2008) and Corey Kluber (2014, 2017) as Indians to win the award. Bieber led the majors with 122 strikeouts (a rate of 14.2 per nine innings). His pitch mix leans on a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a cutter and an oft-used curveball.

He helped nudge the Indians into October. In Game 1 of a first-round playoff matchup with the Yankees, Bieber allowed seven runs in 4⅔ innings. It was the first time in 2020 that he allowed more than three runs in an outing and the only time he didn’t complete at least five innings. The Indians won 10 of the 13 games he appeared in across the regular season and playoffs.

“Continue to develop them so I can throw them when I want, I feel like that’s the next step,” Bieber said of his key pitches. “And I feel like potentially adding a change-up would allow me to make strides.”

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Bauer’s Cy Young win kept deGrom from taking the award for the third straight year. Bauer held off both Darvish and deGrom by posting an NL-best 1.73 ERA in 11 starts. He allowed just 5.1 hits per nine innings, and a stack of analytics favored his candidacy. And Bauer, true to his carefully kept brand, even campaigned for himself to take the award.

In September, when asked about his chances, he told reporters, “I don’t know how you could see it any other way.” Then, in October, he responded to a Mets radio commentator who suggested the AL and NL Central divisions provided weaker competition than deGrom faced in the NL and AL East. It was a relevant argument considering the regional schedule enacted amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Bauer’s counter was that perhaps it was him, Bieber and Darvish, among other top pitchers, making the Central batters look inferior.

The Cy Young choices were supporting evidence. Bauer remained a free agent by declining the Reds’ $18.9 million qualifying offer last week. He is the best pitcher in what appears to be a depressed market and could be courted by the Mets, Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Reds and so on.

Any of those teams will not just get a reigning Cy Young winner but a surefire ace in his prime.

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