MLB spring training is just getting under way and that means that it is time for predictions.
Over the course of spring training I will be posting lots of slideshows with my predictions for all kinds of things in the MLB this year.
My first list is for the top five contenders for the NL Cy Young award.
There are obviously lots of pitchers who will have great seasons in the National League, so it is very hard to narrow the list down to just five, but here is who I believe will be the top five Cy Young candidates in the National League.
These picks are in no particular order, except for the last slide, which will be my prediction for the winner of the Cy Young award.
2011 Stats: 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 217.0 IP, 220 K, 1.21 WHIP
Although Tim Lincecum did not receive very many wins in the 2011 season, it certainly was not his fault. The Giants offense was extremely mediocre, and as you can tell from Lincecum's outstanding ERA, did not put up very many runs.
Lincecum will once again have to be at his best each night, since the Giants offense will again not be crushing people in 2012. I expect him to put up very similar numbers to what he did last year, but while I don't expect the wins to increase by much, I do expect the losses to be down in the single digits.
Lincecum won the Cy Young award in 2008 and again in 2009, when he went 18-5 and 15-7 respectively, and I expect it will take a similar record for him to be a contender again this year.
Having Buster Posey back behind the plate and in the lineup will ultimately help the Giants offense produce more runs and allow Lincecum to get more wins.
This all adds up to Tim Lincecum being a strong contender for the Cy Young award in 2012.
2011 Stats: 21-4, 2.88 ERA, 222.0 IP, 198 K, 1.09 WHIP
Last year Ian Kennedy was right there in the race for the NL Cy Young award. Kennedy tied for the lead in the National League with wins and was first in winning percentage.
Kennedy's outstanding efforts throughout the season helped lead the Diamondbacks into the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The main question for Kennedy going into 2012: Can he maintain this success?
The 2011 season was truly a breakout one for Kennedy.
Each of his stats listed above was by far a career high for him. I do not think Kennedy will be as truly dominant as he was in 2011, but I think he will have a good enough year to make a strong push towards the Cy Young Award.
In the wide-open NL West it will be very important for Kennedy to continue his strong starts if Arizona wants to return to the playoffs.
If Kennedy wants to be a Cy Young Award winner, he likely will need to lead his team into the playoffs and past some of the other strong arms that the NL West has to offer.
2011 Stats:19-6, 2.35 ERA, 233.2 IP, 220 K, 1.04 WHIP
Roy Halladay gave everything he had for the Phillies in the 2011 season. Unfortunately, in the team's final game, Halladay just did not quite have enough, as his Phillies fell 1-0 to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
In that game Halladay showed why he is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and why he is considered one of the premier pitchers in MLB. His eight-inning effort in which he held St. Louis to only one run was truly the performance of a dominant pitcher.
In 2012 the Phillies will need Halladay back in top form if they want to win what could be a very competitive NL East division. Halladay was ranked in the top five in almost every major statistical category in 2011, including being ranked first in complete games with eight.
Halladay will once again be one of the front-runners to win the Cy Young award in 2012. Age may soon be catching up with the man they call Doc, but I do not expect this to be the season. I expect Halladay to have numbers very similar to what he has had over his past two seasons in Philadelphia.
2011 Stats: 21-5, 2.28 ERA, 233.1 IP, 248 K, .98 WHIP
Well obviously the defending Cy Young award champion is once again going to be one of the favorites to win the award in 2012.
Clayton Kershaw was dominant to say the least in 2011. The Dodgers' ace ranked first in the NL in wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP last season. He was also named the Gold Glove award winner for NL pitchers last season.
The 23-year-old Kershaw will once again need to have a strong season if he wants to lead his team through the NL West against competitive pitching staffs that feature other top Cy Young award candidates such as Tim Lincecum and Ian Kennedy.
The Dodgers will need Kershaw to have another Cy Young-caliber season to anchor down their pitching staff in 2012, and help them make a playoff push.
If Kershaw does continue his success, he will be a favorite to repeat as the Cy Young award winner, and his Dodgers could be a strong competitor come October.
2010 Stats: 20-11, 2.42 ERA, 230.1 IP, 213 K, 1.05 WHIP
The reason I have to put Adam Wainwright's 2010 stats up here is because Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Even without Wainwright, the Cardinals were still able to win the 2011 World Series, but the Birds will certainly need a Cy Young-caliber season this year if they want to repeat as champions.
Wainwright is an extremely risky pick to take home the hardware in 2012, mainly because it is uncertain how he will perform after having to undergo such major surgery—but the Cardinals have been very careful with Adam and it appears he is finally ready to go.
Wainwright was one of the most dominant pitchers in the NL in 2009 and 2010, and I think he can quickly return to that form again in 2012.
The Cardinals will need a supreme effort from Wainwright to fill the void that the departure of Albert Pujols leaves, but while this puts extra pressure on him, I think it also gives him a great opportunity.
If Wainwright can step up and be a leader for this team once again, it will show what a big factor he is in his team's success, and it will show that the Cardinals have the best pitcher in the NL on their team.
Adam Wainwright will walk away with the NL Cy Young award in 2012.