When Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander were teammates with the Tigers for five seasons (2010-2014), they will tell you they drove one another, competed with one another, and perhaps most important, learned from one another.
Four seasons since they were together, they remain the gold standard for performing at the highest level. As they approach an age -- Verlander is 35, Scherzer 33 -- when performance sometimes begins to decline, these two are as good, if not better, than ever.
Not surprisingly then, when we polled 32 MLB.com reporters to see where things stand in the 2018 Cy Young Award races, we were reminded of why every start by these two has become an event:
Here are the results:
1. Scherzer, Nationals
Scherzer has posted the best numbers of his career and leads the NL in WHIP (0.853), K/9 (14.3) and Fielding Independent Pitching (1.81). In 10 starts, he has pitched fewer than six innings once, and the Nationals are 8-2 in those 10 starts. If Scherzer wins a fourth Cy Young, he would join a club in which only Roger Clemens (7), Randy Johnson (5), Greg Maddux (4) and Steve Carlton (4) are members.
2. Aaron Nola, Phillies
The 24-year-old right-hander has emerged as a true ace in his fourth season, and his name is dotted across the leaderboards with a 2.37 ERA (fifth in NL), 64 2/3 innings (third) and 1.02 WHIP (tied for eighth). He has added a changeup that has helped reduce walks and home runs. His strikeouts are down as well, which has helped him go at least seven innings in five of his last eight starts. His 1.8 fWAR trails only Scherzer (2.8) and Jacob deGrom (2.3).
3. deGrom, Mets
Remember when he got hit hard back in April? Wait, what? You don't remember the Nationals clobbering him for three earned runs in 7 1/3 innings? He'd allowed the Marlins four runs in his previous start. Those are the only two starts in which deGrom has allowed more than one -- count 'em one -- earned run in his nine starts. Since that game against the Nationals, he has given up one earned run in 26 1/3 innings. He leads the NL with a 2.35 xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) and is second to Scherzer with 12.1 K/9.
Also receiving votes: Patrick Corbin, D-backs; Carlos Martinez, Cardinals; Josh Hader, Brewers.
1. Verlander, Astros
His 14th season might end up being his best. At least, that's the start he's off to with numbers that look like they were taken from a video game: 1.05 ERA, 0.714 WHIP, 374 ERA+, 2.18 FIP and 11.0 K/9. His 2.8 fWAR is tied with Scherzer for tops in the Majors. Verlander's preparation, work ethic and raging competitive fire have impacted those around him and set the bar for baseball's best rotation. He originally was reluctant to accept a trade to the Astros last August, but the marriage has been a perfect one.
2. Gerrit Cole, Astros
Cole and Verlander are so similar in style that the offseason trade that sent Cole from the Pirates to the Astros has given them the chance to learn from and push one another. Cole's 2.7 fWAR is a tick behind Verlander and Scherzer. Only Verlander has a lower ERA in the American League than Cole's 1.86, and Cole leads the AL with 13.4 K/9 and is second with a 2.12 FIP.
3. Luis Severino, Yankees
He achieved the elite status the Yankees had long expected in the second half of last season when he had a 1.99 ERA in his final eight starts. He mixes two power pitches (fastball and slider) with a terrific changeup that keeps hitters off balance. He has a 0.97 WHIP and has allowed two home runs in 65 innings. He has seven straight starts of at least six innings and a microscopic 1.91 ERA during that span.
Also receiving votes: Chris Sale, Red Sox; Rick Porcello, Red Sox; Sean Manaea, A's.
Richard Justice MLB.com