Monday, ESPN senior baseball writer Jayson Stark wrote a very compelling feature. In this feature he made a pitch for Aroldis Chapman to win the 2012 NL Cy Young Award over R.A. Dickey, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann.
If you talk to hitters about the pitchers in this Cy Young field, they'll tell you that they admire Dickey. They respect Cueto. They have no fun facing Zimmermann. They have no interest whatsoever in hitting against the other lights-out closer candidate, Craig Kimbrel. But you know what they think about Chapman?
I can sum it up in one word: Fear.
After reading Stark’s very enjoyable piece, it became difficult to counter-argue that Chapman does not deserve the NL Cy Young at this point.
That said, there are some holes in this piece that should be filled to create a more objective picture for baseball fans. For as I neared the end of Stark’s piece I began wondering why other deserving NL pitchers had been left out of the conversation.
For example, Stark’s piece would have been even more legit if he had included St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse (12-2/2.72 ERA), Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg (13-5/2.90 ERA) and the much improved Pittsburgh Pirates hurler A.J. Burnett (14-4/3.32 ERA).
Stark also left out Gio Gonzalez. The Washington Nationals hurler is 15-6 with a 3.29 ERA. MLB hitters are batting just .210 against Gonzalez. No other qualifying pitcher comes close (Dickey has .217 BAA).
Then there is Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels. Tuesday, Hamels threw a wrench in the NL Cy Young debate when he tossed a complete game shutout over the Miami Marlins—his second shutout in a row. (To be objective, Hamels fired his second shutout after Stark wrote his feature).
Perhaps Hamels’ mind is at ease after signing a six-year, $144 million extension with the Phillies in July.
Whatever the reason, Hamels is now 13-6 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 23 starts for the Phils. He also has 156 strikeouts, which trails Dickey, Strasburg and Gonzalez, per MLB.com stats.
This in mind, why did Stark only include guys like Zimmermann, Cueto, Dickey and Kimbrel? Besides the fact, these guys do not boast the same fear-factor as Chapman?
Stark may have given his agenda away at the very end of this feature.
“Aroldis Chapman Cy Young fever,” Stark wrote. “Catch it. Please.”
With all due respect, I cannot catch this fever—not at this point at least.
I copy Stark wants to tug at the heartstrings of baseball fans to support Chapman for the NL Cy Young. I also get it that closers oftentimes do not get the recognition they deserve (minus Dennis Eckersley and Eric Gagne).
But when making an argument, shouldn’t all deserving NL pitchers be considered?
Yes, Chapman instills fear in MLB hitters.
Yes, Chapman is a strong candidate of the NL Cy Young.
But just because other MLB pitchers are not blessed with herky-jerky windups and 100 mph fastballs, does not mean they are any less deserving of the NL Cy Young.