In baseball, the Cy Young Award is usually reserved for starting pitchers. For a reliever to win it, the hurler has to have put together numbers that are good enough to outweigh the difference in innings thrown. The numbers that Gerry Kelly (Undecided) put up in the 2021 campaign were so ridiculous that there was no surprise when the league announced on Wednesday that the southpaw had been named the 2021 Cy Young Award winner. Kelly is the first relief pitcher to earn the award since David Litchfield (UCF) did so for the Altamonte Springs Scorpions in 2017, and is the first ever Lightning pitcher to earn the award.
Though multiple starting pitchers had strong cases for the Cy Young award, which is given to the best pitcher in baseball that season, Kelly’s dominance game in and game out ultimately earned him the award. In the regular season, the former Pasco Hernando State College product went 2-0 over 19 innings across 11 appearances.
His numbers in the 2021 season were video game like: In those 19 innings pitched, he faced 55 batters and allowed only nine of them to reach base, a rate of just 16%. Of those 55 faced, 32 of them went down on strikes, leading to a ridiculous 14.897 strikeouts per nine innings. He led all relievers in strikeouts and was fifth in the league (32), was the only pitcher with a sub-one earned run average (0.93), was the only pitcher with a sub .100 opponent batting average (.078), and was the only pitcher with a WHIP under .50 (0.47). At one point in the season, Kelly went ten consecutive innings without allowing a baserunner, which stretch over a calendar month.
A pitcher of Kelly’s caliber allowed Coach Rich Billings to relax every time he inserted him into the game, saying, “You can always breathe a little bit when he’s on the mound.”
The league continues to announce its 2021 award winners. You can see the updated list on the league site at http://www.floridaleague.com/view/fcsl.
Matias Weilmann (Ithaca College)