Clay Buchholz (9-0, 10 QS, 1.71 ERA, 8.64 K/9, 3.09 BB/9, 4.1 WAR)
Anibal Sanchez (6-5, 9 QS, 2.76 ERA, 11.13 K/9, 2.53 BB/9, 3.1 WAR)
The Cy Young award is about endurance as much as it is about greatness.
Over the last three years, the only pitchers to receive a first-place vote while making fewer than 31 starts were Fernando Rodney and Craig Kimbrel last season—closers who each received one first-place vote while finishing in fifth place in their respective league.
As incredible as both Buchholz and Sanchez have been thus far this year, it doesn't look like either of them will be reaching that 31-start plateau. Buchholz has only made 12 starts and is likely headed for the disabled list. Sanchez has made 13 starts and is already on the DL.
We're not ruling either of them out of contention just yet. If either guy can come off the disabled list after the minimum 15 days and go back to pitching lights-out for another three months, he could win the award.
Until then, let's just focus on guys who are still on the mound today.
Chris Sale (5-5, 10 QS, 2.43 ERA, 9.07 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 3.6 WAR)
Sale is in a similar boat as Buchholz and Sanchez, though he has already emerged from a brief bout with shoulder pain this season and is pitching phenomenally.
If he can avoid missing any more starts between today and the next stock watch update, he'll likely crack into the top five—especially if the guy currently in the fifth spot finally starts experiencing some of the regression we've been waiting two months to see.
James Shields (2-6, 13 QS, 2.72 ERA, 8.07 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 2.3 WAR)
Felix Hernandez proved in 2010 that you can win the Cy Young Award without the benefit of anything resembling run support. On average, the Mariners gave him just 3.06 runs of support per start that season, as he went on to finish the year with a 13-12 record despite posting 30 quality starts.
In 2013, Shields is receiving a similarly pathetic amount of help from the Royals bats and is currently on pace for 31 quality starts.
However, even the staunchest of sabermetricians is going to have a hard time overlooking his 2-6 record. King Felix was just barely over .500 in 2010, and he picked up his fifth win of the season on June 19.
If something doesn't change in Kansas City, Shields might be lucky to pick up five wins all season.