Last year's National League Cy Young competition was quite the horse race. Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum, and Adam Wainwright all received significant votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), as well as vocal and passionate support from fans.
While this year's race is far from unanimous, there is one obvious favorite who would win hands-down if a vote was held today.
Need proof? Well, Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists had a vote last week, so you can see for yourself.
Using a scoring system identical to that of the BBWAA, we have determined an idea of not only the best pitcher in the NL, but how the other top arms rank. The top six vote-getters are featured here with commentary submitted by different writers. The full results of the voting are included as well.
Thanks to everyone who participated, and look for the American League results to be posted Wednesday!
Featured writer: Todd Hayek
Mike Pelfrey as a candidate for the National League Cy Young half way through the season? Not in the wildest dreams would anyone have predicted that prior to the season.
Last year he had a losing record and an ERA over five, as the New York Mets' disastrous season affected everyone on the roster. This year, Pelfrey has a surprising 9-2 record and a save. He’s showing good command with a 2:1 strikeout ratio.
Odds are, he is pitching beyond his abilities and he will likely fall off in the second half as Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter, and others pass by him in stats. But for now, he is one of the league's most productive starters.
Cy Young? Not likely. In the discussion after one half of a season? Definitely.
Featured writer: Andrew Brining
Matt Cain has been pretty damn good.
The old guard probably rankles at his 6-5 record in 14 starts, but the increasingly savvy modern baseball fan knows better. He/she knows the ratio stats tell the real story underneath the lies spewed forth by an antiquated, borderline irrelevant win-loss record.
And that tale is a page-turner— 2.16 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .203 BAA, .572 OPSA, and only 3.51 RS/9 in 100 IP.
The key to Cainer’s success has been better control (2.7 BB/9 is a career-low) and an absence of the gopher ball that’s plagued him, like so many power pitchers (he’s cut his HR/9 almost in half to 0.5).
What’s more, the San Francisco Giants' ace is historically a (marginally) better second half starter. That’s gonna be tough to pull off this season, but Giant fans will take their chances with the "Quiet Kid".
Featured writer: Cliff Eastham
Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals was the true NL Cy Young winner last season. As I wrote in an earlier article, Tim Lincecum won the award by default. Writers couldn't decide on Wainwright or teammate Chris Carpenter, therefore we were stuck with a 15-win CYA winner, the lowest in history for a starter.
This year he is again in the shadows, this time in the person of Ubaldo Jiminez.
Wainwright is currently 10-4, with a magnificent ERA of only 2.23. He knows how to work out of a jam, as his opponents BA is only .152 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
If a team is going to beat him they need to jump on him early. Batting averages plummet each time a batter faces him in a game, going from .267, the first time to a cold .120 in their fourth AB of the game.
Featured writer: Dan Tylicki
I picked Josh Johnson over others (Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson) who play for better teams simply because, as good as his stats are, put in perspective they’re even better.
He’s second in the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and third in ERA, and while he has two losses, one was Roy Halladay’s perfect game, so he could easily be 8-1 now. His other loss was his debut appearance, which he has clearly shaken off.
His other stats (0.98 WHIP, 232 ERA+) are great, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is very solid as well. He doesn't seem to have any major weaknesses, as he's keeping his home run totals in check this year.
It’s a tight NL East race, and without Johnson, the Marlins would be dead last.
Featured writer: Thomas Pinzone
The Philadelphia Phillies have gotten everything they expected from Roy Halladay and more so far in 2010.
He's lived up to his reputation as a workhorse starting pitcher who likes to finish what he starts. Halladay leads the NL in complete games with five, complete game shutouts with three, and innings pitched with 115.
Halladay also brought his pinpoint control with him to the NL, his 1.25 walks per nine is tops among NL starters, as is his 6.13 strikeouts per walk. While only seventh in ERA at 2.43, Halladay sits third in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) at 2.80, and first in xFIP at 2.99.
His unmatched combination of control and durability has been worth 3.5 wins above replacement, tops among NL starters.
Featured writer: Bob Warja
To say that Ubaldo Jimenez is the leading candidate for NL Cy Young Award, is a little like saying that there is slight interest from NBA teams in LeBron James right now.
In short, Jimenez has been brilliant this season. At 13-1, he is off the best start by a pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986.
His ERA is a miniscule 1.15, and teams are hitting .189 against him. Some stats suggest that he has been lucky: BABIP of .239, lowest swinging strike rate of his career, a FIP and xFIP way over his ERA, for example.
Still, pitchers that win the Cy Young are historically lucky that season and lucky or not, Jimenez is having the best season of any pitcher so far.
1. Ubaldo Jimenez—112 (20)
2. Roy Halladay—52 (4)
3. Josh Johnson—22
4. Adam Wainwright—16
T5. Matt Cain—4
T5. Mike Pelfrey—4
T7. Jaime Garcia—3
T7. Tim Lincecum—3
Voting on a 5-3-1 basis. Number of first-place votes is in parentheses.