MLB Power Rankings: The Top 5 Candidates for NL Cy Young in 2011

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIJuly 8, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The Top 5 Candidates for NL Cy Young in 2011

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    The 2011 MLB season is more than halfway over, and while we still haven't quite reached the All-Star Game, it's definitely not too early to start looking ahead to the postseason hardware.

    Last week, I took a look at the five best choices for AL Cy Young to date. Today, we turn our attention to the top pitchers in the National League.

    The Cy Young is always one of the most contentious end-of-season awards because of the intense controversy surrounding pitching statistics.

    Many voters are still stuck on the idea that pitchers' wins and losses are accurate reflections of talent instead of measuring the strength of his team's bullpen and the opponent's lineup and that luck in ERA always evens out over the course of a full season. Meanwhile, there are plenty of sabermetrics fans who quote esoteric acronyms without fully understanding what they mean.

    Here's how my NL Cy Young ballot would look if the season ended today.

No. 5: Jair Jurrjens, Braves

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    Old-school stat lovers, eat your hearts out.

    Jurrjens leads the league with 12 wins and a 1.87 ERA. He's also sixth with a 1.07 WHIP and first with a 3.21 WPA.

    The reason he's not at the top of the list is that his peripheral numbers (3.10 FIP, 3.76 xFIP) don't come anywhere close to his superficial stats. It might not just be luck, but I'm not convinced.

No. 4: Cliff Lee, Phillies

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    The rightful 2010 AL Cy Young has somehow looked even better in 2011.

    Lee's 9-6 record doesn't do him justice at all. He has a 2.92 ERA, a 2.75 FIP, and a 1.08 WHIP. His 2.78 xFIP ranks him fourth in the National League, as do his 3.5 wins above replacement.

    Amazingly, he's not even close to being the best pitcher on his team.

No. 3: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

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    For years, we've been hearing that Kershaw was an ace in the making. After two seasons as a second-tier hurler, he is now embracing his destiny.

    Don't be fooled by his mere 8 wins or 3.23 ERA—Kershaw has been absolutely dominant this year, striking out opposing hitters at a league-leading 10.1 K/9 rate.

    He's fifth in the league in WHIP (1.06), third in FIP (2.49), second in xFIP (2.66) and third in WAR (3.6).

No. 2: Cole Hamels, Phillies

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    In 2008 and 2010, Hamels was one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball. Now, he doesn't need luck—he's elite based on talent alone.

    Hamels leads the league with his 0.95 WHIP and ranks second with his 2.40 ERA, 2.44 FIP, 2.66 xFIP, and 3.9 WAR. Not to mention he's 10-4 for the best team in baseball.

    Yet, incredibly, he's not the ace of the Phillies' staff. That would be...

No. 1: Roy Halladay, Phillies

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    Halladay was the unanimous choice for NL Cy Young last year, and he's been even better in 2011.

    The box score will tell you that he's 11-3 with a 2.44 ERA, but to leave it at that is to do Doc an injustice. Halladay leads the Senior Circuit in FIP (2.21), xFIP (2.43), tERA (2.35), walk rate (1.1 BB/9), and K/BB ratio (7.7). His 4.7 WAR are the best of any MLB pitcher.

    He's not just the Cy Young—he's a legitimate candidate for NL MVP.

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