Posted 06/21/2011 at 02:55 PM
Approaching the midpoint of the season brings the requisite conversations about end of season awards even though there is much yet to happen. Here is my take on the NL Cy Young race at this point in the season.
1. Roy Halladay – You have to remember that this award like most in baseball is not merit based really, it simply comes down to a vote. While the voters did give Tim Lincecum back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2009 it was a year with no clear alternative and there has to be at least a few stubborn old writers that don’t like to see back-to-back winners or putting someone in the elite 3-time winner club (Clemens, Johnson, Calrton, Maddux, Koufax, Martinez, Palmer, Seaver). Halladay’s numbers are again sparkling however and in the three big categories he is 1st (9 wins), 2nd (114 strikeouts), and 5th (2.56 ERA).
2. Cole Hamels – Doc’s teammate is not far behind in the statistics, placing 1st (9 wins), 4th (103 strikeouts) and 3rd (2.51 ERA). Hamels has allowed just five home runs in 104 innings and opponents are hitting just .200 against him (.234 vs. Halladay). Halladay does have four complete games but Hamels owns a miniscule 0.93 WHIP. This pair of aces is tough to distinguish right now but Halladay will likely end up with more innings and an edge in the counting stats which stand out to voters.
3. Jair Jurrjens – I’m certainly in the camp that is not expecting this start to hold up for Jurrjens but with a 2.11 ERA to pace the NL and nine wins he warrants inclusion in any conversation. Jurrjens has made just 13 starts and his 53 strikeouts will make him a fringe candidate to some but the Braves have hung close to the Phillies with his work along with Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson leading an outstanding front three in the rotation. After eleven consecutive quality starts to start the season Jurrjens has failed to get there in his last two outings so the erosion of his numbers may be on its way.
4. Clayton Kershaw – The Dodgers may need to become more relevant for Kershaw to enter the conversation but he leads the NL in strikeouts with 117 and with a 7-3 record and a 3.01 ERA his numbers are good enough to be on the map. Kershaw has had five starts where he has not allowed a run including two recent complete game shutouts and as one of the hardest throwers in the game and at just 23 years old his ceiling has not yet been reached. His numbers on the road are nowhere close to his numbers at home however so it is unlikely he can avoid the occasional rocky outing that swells his ERA above the competition.
5. Johnny Cueto – This is a long shot as Cueto has made only eight starts on the season after opening the year on the DL. Cueto however has been incredibly impressive with a 1.68 ERA and no outings in which he allowed more than three runs. Opposing batters are hitting .195 against Cueto this season and while he will not catch the top contenders for wins or strikeouts he could rise into the mix especially if he can push the Reds back to the forefront of the NL Central race.
Others deserving mention: Tommy Hanson, Ian Kennedy, Shaun Marcum, Anibal Sanchez, Jhoulys Chacin, Joel Hanrahan