A Quick Glance at the NL Cy Young Race

Clayton Kershaw is having another Cy Young caliber season.

With only about a month left in the season, the award races are starting to become a little more clear. The NL Cy Young race is particularly clustered this year, with 8 players within a single win of each other. Here are the top 10 NL pitchers according to Wins Above Replacement via Fangraphs:

Name   W L SV G GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR          
Clayton Kershaw   12 8 0 28 28 192.2 8.97 2.20 2.85 2.91 4.8
Johnny Cueto   17 6 0 27 27 181.2 7.13 2.03 2.48 3.04 4.6
Gio Gonzalez   17 7 0 27 27 168.1 9.41 3.37 3.10 2.84 4.5
R.A. Dickey   17 4 0 28 27 191.1 8.94 2.07 2.63 3.09 4.3
Stephen Strasburg   15 6 0 26 26 150.1 11.14 2.63 3.05 2.71 4.3
Wade Miley   14 9 0 26 23 158.0 6.49 1.59 2.85 3.05 4.1
Adam Wainwright   13 11 0 27 27 168.2 8.48 2.19 3.90  2.96 4.1
Zack Greinke   9 3 0 21 21 123.0 8.93 2.05 3.44 2.54 3.8
Matt Cain   13 5 0 26 26 182.0 8.11 1.78 2.82 3.38 3.5
Aroldis Chapman   5 4 33 60 0 64.0 15.89 2.25 1.27 1.12 3.5

Now, we have to narrow it down. We can obviously push Zack Greinke out of this group, as he is now pitching in the American League. I’d also take out Aroldis Chapman, on the basis that relievers shouldn’t win the award. I’m not going to go on a long rant, but relievers just aren’t as valuable as starters. Other than Greinke, the next closest pitcher to Chapman in innings pitched is Strasburg, who has still pitched 86 more innings than Chapman. It’s not like Chapman is having a bad season (he’s having one of the best relief seasons of all-time), but he just doesn’t pitch enough to provide the same value as the other pitchers on this list.

To narrow it down more, I’d take Wainwright, Cain, Miley and Strasburg out of the conversation. Wainwright, despite his excellent FIP, has a rather high ERA (for a Cy Young contender at least) of 3.90. Cain, who is having a great year, just isn’t on the same level as the top 4. While Strasburg should be near the top of the race for the Cy, his innings limit hinders him, as it is likely that Strasburg won’t end up with the necessary compilation numbers (WAR, K’s, IP, and the dreaded Win statistic) that will win over voters. Miley, who is having an excellent season by any standard, is hurt by the fact that he has pitched significantly less innings, with a much lower strikeout rate. At this point, Miley has a better shot at winning the Rookie of the Year award than the Cy.

Kershaw, Cueto, Gonzalez and Dickey make up the final bunch in my mind.  You could make a valid argument for each of them. There’s no clear-cut favorite here, but out of all of them I’d probably take Cueto.

Cueto has been flat-out dominant this year. Despite having one less start than Kershaw as off this writing, he trails him by only .2 in WAR. Cueto is also leading the league in ERA, and despite his somewhat high FIP, he is the kind of pitcher that will often have their ERA exceed their FIP as he has a very high groundball rate. He doesn’t have the same K rate as the others, but Cueto has the best walk rate of the bunch and excels in other areas, such as HR to fly-ball rate (best in baseball). Cueto is invaluable to the Reds rotation, and without him, who knows where they would be in the standings.

So if I were to put out my hypothetical Cy Young ballot right now, it would probably look like this:

1. Cueto

2. Kershaw

3. Dickey

4. Gonzalez



You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com. Comment below to join the discussion.

Posted on September 5, 2012, in featured. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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