(GAME DATE – Sep. 16, 2019) — Will St. Pete’s Admirals ace Jose Soto snag his 3rd consecutive Sandy Koufax Award? And will the Lake League reward Knuckles Malone with his second? Both pitchers have been exceeding expectations in 2019, but has it been enough?
We look at the pitchers shortlisted for the Koufax Awards and offer our prediction on these best-pitcher season ending awards.
Last year’s winner, Toronto Nomads ace Knuckles Malone, looks almost certain to repeat as the 2019 Lake League Sandy Koufax Award winner when the season comes to its close this fall. Malone currently leads the LL in ERA (2.71), wins (a 3-way tie with 19), WAR (12.2), innings (256.0), and an amazing 21 complete games, so far this season. He is also on track to win a strikeout title, currently leading the LL with 241.
It has been a banner year for him by any measure. The longer 162-game season means he has a chance at becoming the Bull League’s first 20-game winner. And, while the 11-game winning streak he strung together from mid-May to mid-July was not his longest (which was 12, set in 2015), it remains a stand out achievement by any pitcher this year.
The horrifically intimidating knuckleballer nearly has the Koufax locked down. But there could be a challenger, as 4-time winner, Ricky Rodriguez of the Minneapolis Ravens is hot on Malone’s heels on the ERA and WAR leaderboards, and he dominates the K/BB board for the Lake League, striking out 4.5 batters for every walk issued. In fact, Rick-Rod issues so few walks and hits that once again he will find himself near the top of the all-time single-season WHIP records (which he set anyway in 2017, with 0.91).
If Malone secures the Triple Crown, he will almost certainly come away with a Sandy Koufax Award this season.
Jose Soto’s season was marred by a 4 week stint on the DL due to a rotator cuff injury. Luckily only a strain, and not a tear, it was enough to keep him off the top 10 innings pitched list for the Metro League. The lower innings and fewer starts may have impacted his ability to grab a Triple Crown, as he has 2 fewer wins at 16 than the ML leaders, teammate Harry Ferguson and Nevada Speeders ace Al Mota.
Both Mota and Ferguson are also honest contenders for the Koufax, Mota perhaps moreso with his ERA only a few points behind Soto’s league-leading 3.09. But even with the fewer starts and innings, Soto has been dominant, earning 240 strikeouts, well ahead of Mota’s total of 204. Soto’s WHIP is a paltry 1.06, Mota can only come somewhat close at 1.22.
Given his performance, it is hard not to see Soto as the clear Koufax winner, but Mota and to a lesser extent Ferguson, have put up great numbers as well. There is also an outside chance that reliever David Johnson of Arizona could pick up the award, as he is having an “best pitcher” type of year with 10 wins in relief, and 33 saves, along with a fiendish 2.96 ERA, and best in ML (among relievers) WHIP of 1.27.
More than likely, however, Johnson will have to console himself with the Woodchuck Trophy for best reliever, leaving a starter like Soto to pick up the Koufax.