It's not often that the debate between the top two Cy Young candidates for a specific league becomes a debate over two teammates. But, that is exactly what is going on in the National League and in Cincinnati in 2012.
What makes this even more rare is the fact that it is going on in Cincinnati.The Reds have won their fair share of league MVP awards (12), Rookie of the Year awards (seven), and countless Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
But, they have never won a Cy Young award. Simply put, it is a statistical anomaly that the Reds legitimately have the top two candidates to take home this season's award.
Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman are without argument the front runners to take home the N.L. Cy Young award this season—no questions.
The real question remains though, which of them will actually win it?
You can make a great case for both of them, and personally I find it very difficult to choose. Let's take a look at what makes them the top two candidates.
Johnny Cueto has developed into the ace and anchor of the Cincinnati Reds pitching staff. Many so-called experts called Cueto's stats of a year ago a fluke. Cueto has stepped up this season and continued right where he left off and said "fluke this."
Cueto owns a 15-6 record with a 2.45 ERA, leading the league in wins and coming in at a close second in ERA. What about the infamous WAR category? Johnny is one of only two pitchers with a WAR above four. Jordan Zimmerman owns a 4.4 WAR while Cueto is weighing in at a whopping 5.4—one full win (23 percent) more than Zimmerman's second place ranking.
For those who are not familiar with WAR, in simple terms, it is a measurement of how valuable you are to your team based on how others perform at your position throughout the league during the same season. It isn't the "be-all, end-all" stat that many make it out to be, but it is a very reliable measurement when evaluated in context with other performance stats.
That being said, many have been clamoring for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to take home the award and I say nah-baby-nah.
Dickey has had a great season, but great does not equate to the best season. His peripheral stats look very good—15 wins and a 2.89 ERA—but his true value to his team has been nominal compared to the likes of Cueto. Dickey owns a pitching WAR of only 3.6. Cueto's rating is an astronomical 50 percent greater than Dickey's.
Let's switch over to Aroldis Chapman for a bit. Read this next potion very closely. Chapman owns a 3.1 WAR, ranking ninth in the league in this category.
Hold on, let's say that again in a different context.
A relief pitcher has accumulated a WAR larger than the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Gio Gonzalez, Zack Greinke, Cliff Lee and a list of other staff aces.
This is one stat fact that I cannot even find words to describe how astonishing it is. Most impressive is not the names I just listed but, that he has done it in only a third (58 IP) of the innings pitched.
Chapman would project to have a WAR of nearly 10 in a comparable amount of innings—that's 85 percent greater than Cueto's current number.
I am not normally a supporter of relief pitchers winning the Cy Young award. But every once in a while a player makes himself so valuable to his team that you must to look closer at it. The argument can be made that Chapman is the most important pitcher to his team. If you have not yet read Jason Stark's recent article about why Chapman is the N.L. Cy Young, then you need to. He points out some even more eye-popping facts.
The debate will continue for the rest of the season. But one thing is for sure, the N.L. Cy Young hardware belongs and will end up in Cincinnati at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Johnny Cueto for N.L Cy Young—Aroldis Chapman for N.L. Cy Young—who would you choose?
You can follow Joshua Ramsey on Twitter @JRamCincy.
Check out more B/R articles by Josh here.