MLB: National League Cy Young Contenders

  on October 04 2012 3:44 AM
MLB: National League Cy Young Contenders

This award is going to be a very tough decision on who to vote for on the ballot. (Unlike the 2012 Presidential election.)

There are a boatload of guys that you can make a strong case for:  R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Matt Cain, Cole Hamels, Kyle Lohse and Craig Kimbrel are all thankful that Kris Medlen didn't start enough games to get serious consideration for the award. (In 12 starts with Atlanta he was 9-0 with a ridiculous 0.97 ERA.) 

 

St. Louis Cardinal fans are already nervous because they get to face Medlen in a one-game playoff on Friday.

 

GIO GONZALEZ

 

What a year he had for the Washington Nationals. He led the Majors with 21 wins and proved the Nationals made the right move by trading four of their top prospects for him in the offseason.

 

Rankings among starting pitchers in the NL

 

21 wins (1st)

2.89 ERA (6th)

207 K's (T-4th)

1.13 WHIP (8th)

4.6 WAR (4th)

9.4 K's / 9 IP (1st)

2.72 K's / BB's (25th)

.206 opponent batting avg. (1st)

.582 opponent OPS (1st)

199.1 IP (19th)

 

All the talk this year was about Stephen Strasburg, but Gio Gonzalez was the best pitcher for the Washington Nationals. The numbers he put up this year are a main reason why the Nationals finished the regular season with the best record in baseball.

 

To help make his case for the Cy Young, he pitched phenomenal down the stretch. In his last six starts he was 5-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Baseball writers love to focus on what have you done for me lately, and Gonzalez was arguably the best pitcher (besides Medlen) the last five weeks of the season.

 

CLAYTON KERSHAW

 

Kershaw is the first pitcher to have the best ERA in back-to-back seasons in either the AL or NL since 2003, when Pedro Martinez did it for Boston. Anytime you are in the same breath as Martinez, it's saying something. 

 

Despite the Dodgers missing the postseason, Kershaw did everything he could to keep them in the race. He didn't allow more than three earned runs in his last 12 starts.

 

Kershaw posted the best ERA (2.53) in the Majors and if he would have received more run support, Kershaw could have posted his second straight 20-win season. He ranked 35th in run support this year, compared to Gonzalez and Dickey who ranked second and 14th respectively. 

 

Rankings among starting pitchers in the NL

 

14 wins (T-16th)

2.53 ERA (1st)

229 K's (2nd)

1.02 WHIP (1st)

5.8 WAR (1st)

9.05 K's / 9 IP (5th)

3.63 K's / BB's (10th)

.210 opponent batting avg. (2nd)

.591 opponent OPS (2nd)

227.2 IP (2nd)

 

You could make the argument that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the National League, and the best lefty in the game. If Kershaw wins for the second consecutive season, it will be the first time since Tim Lincecum did it in 2008 and 2009. He would be the ninth Cy Young winner to win it back-to-back and would be the 17th pitcher to win the award multiple times. It would be the 11th time the Dodgers' franchise have won the Cy Young, which is tops in the business. 

 

CRAIG KIMBREL

 

The Baseball Writers' Association of America sure doesn't like to give the Cy Young to relief pitchers. Only nine relievers have won the award. 

 

This could be the year that number reaches double-digits.

 

Kimbrel is having a great season for the Atlanta Braves. If you are down in the ninth against the Braves you should just throw in the towel. 

 

He has allowed two earned runs in his last 33 appearances. 

 

No reliever has done what Kimbrel has this year. He has faced 227 batters this year and has struck out 113 of them. He's averaging an insane 16.5 K's / 9 IP, which is the best of all-time. 

 

Only 26 of those 227 batters have got a hit off Kimbrel. His .123 opponent batting average is the best of all-time (50 IP minimum.) His 0.65 WHIP is the best ever by any National League relief pitcher. 

 

Wait, still not done, his opponent's .356 OPS is the best anyone has ever had over the last 65 years. (It could be longer, but that is as far back as the stats go to find this stat.)

 

The guy is having one of the best seasons any closer has ever had. His 42 saves are best in the National League. His 1.02 ERA is easily tops in the NL among relievers who have pitched at least 50 innings. 

 

He only allowed four extra-base hits and seven earned runs in 61.2 innings. He averaged a ridiculous 8.07 strikeouts to every walk, which was by far the best among all relievers who pitched at least 35 innings. 

 

Kimbrel being a closer could cost him a chance to be the first relief pitcher to win the Cy Young since 2003 (Eric Gagne). 

 

However, he has arguably had the best season any reliever has ever had, so he has a shot to become the 10th relief pitcher to win the award. 

 

R.A. DICKEY

 

There hasn't been a better story in baseball than his. Dickey has been through it all. He was abused as a kid. He was homeless and went from shelter to shelter as a young boy. He was raped when he was a teenager. He had a serious elbow injury that cost him millions of dollars when the Texas Rangers selected him in the 1996 MLB Draft.

 

Now all of that seems so long ago for Dickey. 

 

His knuckleball was down right filthy this year. No one could figure it out. The craziest part about Dickey this year is he just revealed that he pitched most the season with a torn abdominal muscle. He tore it after his second start of the season on April 13th. You have to love his competitiveness, because the Mets were out of playoff contention for three months, but he kept on dealing.  

 

He was number one is strikeouts this year in the National League with 230 K's. 

 

Rankings among starting pitchers in the NL

 

20 wins (2nd)

2.73 ERA (2nd)

230 K's (1st)

1.05 WHIP (3rd)

5.5 WAR (3rd)

8.86 K's / 9 IP (8th)

4.26 K's / BB's (3rd)    * (This is an insane number for a knuckleball pitcher)

.226 opponent batting avg. (4th)

.640 opponent OPS (6th)

233.2 IP (1st)

 

If Dickey wins the Cy Young he would become the third Mets pitcher to win the award and the first since 1985 (Dwight Gooden). He has a great chance to add a Cy Young to his mantle, and it would be one of the best stories in the history of the game. I don't know if there is a pitcher in the game who has gone through as much as R.A. Dickey. He posted amazing numbers this year, while playing for a team that only won 74 games. He was responsible for nearly 30% of their wins this year, which was by far tops in the game. 

 

While Johnny Cueto, Matt Cain, Aroldis Chapman, Kyle Lohse and Cole Hamels were great this year, they will all finish outside of the top three in the NL Cy Young. It is going to come down to the other four I mentioned. 

 

Who knows what ace or closer will take home the award, but this is how I would vote.

 

1. R.A. Dickey

2. Clayton Kershaw

3. Craig Kimbrel

4. Gio Gonzalez

5. Johnny Cueto

 

Comment below on who you think will take home the NL Cy Young and rank them 1-5 if you disagree with the way I see it.