Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle is a dark horse Cy Young candidate

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle (30).
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Tyler Mahle (30). / Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY
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The National League is loaded with talented starting pitchers. Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Walker Buehler, and Zack Wheeler just to name a few. Even Cincinnati Reds starter Luis Castillo is among the elite pitchers in the NL.

But one pitcher who doesn't get enough publicity is Tyler Mahle. The 27-year-old has been steadily climbing the ladder over the past few seasons, and Mahle could be considered a dark horse candidate to take home the NL Cy Young Award in 2022.

Mahle will toe the rubber this afternoon for the Cincinnati Reds' home opener versus the Cleveland Guardians. If the right-hander can find a way to get beyond his struggles at Great American Ball Park, he'll be in the discussion to become the second Reds player in history to win the elusive award by the end of the 2022 season.

Reds RHP Tyler Mahle is a dark horse candidate for the NL Cy Young.

One could easily make the argument that the Milwaukee Brewers trio of starters (Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, and Freddy Peralta) all have a better chance of taking home the National League Cy Young Award than Cincinnati Reds' right-hander Tyler Mahle.

But before you quickly dismiss Mahle as an also-ran, be sure you have all the information. Last season, Burnes took home the Cy Young trophy, but the Brewers employed a six-man starting rotation; something that allowed their stable of starters to stay fresh. Burnes pitched in just 167 innings last season, ranking him 19th among all NL starters.

What Burnes was able to do in those 28 starts was quite impressive, but the vote was exceedingly close between him and Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Zack Wheeler. In my opinion, Wheeler, who led the NL in inning pitched and strikeouts, should have taken home the hardware. Wheeler faced almost 200 more batters than Burnes in 2021. But I digress.

Tyler Mahle needs to keep the ball in the ballpark.

When you look at some of Mahle's 2021 statistics, he's right in the thick of things with the best pitchers in the National League. His 10.50 K/9 ranked seventh last season, which was better than Walker Buehler, who finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting.

Mahle's 3.75 ERA, 3.73 xERA, 3.80 FIP, 3.74 xFIP, and 3.8 fWAR all rank in the Top 20 among National League starting pitchers. Mahle's 27.7% strikeout-rate was good enough for ninth in the NL last season. But the biggest difference between Mahle and his fellow hurlers in the NL was the long ball.

Tyler Mahle surrendered 24 home runs last season. His 1.20 HR/9 was fifth-worst in the National League among qualified pitchers. Corbin Burnes (0.38) and Zack Wheeler (0.68) finished 1-2 in that category last season. If Mahle wants to be among the best pitchers in the National League, he's got to keep the ball in the ballpark.

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That can be a chore in Great American Ball Park, where Mahle plays half of his games. Of the 24 home runs Tyler Mahle surrendered in 2021, 19 came at home. If the right-hander can keep the ball out of the stands, then Mahle has a terrific chance to be in the Cy Young conversation at season's end.