Roy Halladay is the front-runner for NL Cy Young. Can anyone keep him from repeating?
Roy Halladay was last year's National League Cy Young winner, and the argument could be made that the eight-time All-Star has been even better this time around.
His ERA last season was 2.44, just slightly ahead of his 2.51 this season. He's already won 15 games, and barring injury, should get to 20 for the fourth time in his career and the third time in the last four seasons.
He's been just as effective at keeping runners off the basepaths as in years past, posting the same WHIP of 1.04 and league-leading walks per nine innings rate of 1.1.
Knowing that Halladay's own stats compare to his Cy Young season a year ago would be enough to make him the frontrunner for the award again, but he's been better in a couple of important areas to voters.
He's currently 15-4, and the winning percentage is the best of his career. He has hit double figures in losses the last three seasons because he pitches deep into games, but won't approach that mark this year.
Additionally, he's improved his strikeouts per nine innings to a career best 8.4. Impressive considering he hasn't needed to sacrifice control for that improvement.
Cliff Lee is a member of the Phillies stable of aces.
Lee has been dominant and near unhittable at times this year, and is a threat to toss a complete game shutout anytime he takes the mound. But overall he's been the third-best pitcher in Philadelphia this season.
At 12-7 with an ERA of 2.83, Lee has been everything the Phillies hoped for when they brought him back on board via free agency last winter, but even though his salary isn't, his numbers are that of a poor man's Roy Halladay.
Cole Hamels, a former World Series MVP, is having his best season yet,
The 27-year-old Hamels is enjoying his finest season in the MLB yet, sporting his lowest ERA and WHIP, and is just two wins away from his career high with a month and a half to go.
As good as 13 wins and a 2.62 ERA is, he still trails Halladay in both. Additionally, Hamels hasn't shown the same ace ability, as he trails seven to two in complete games.
Ryan Vogelsong spent five years away from the MLB before turning into one of it's best pitchers in 2011.
Before the season started, if any San Francisco Giant would be a Cy Young candidate, two-time winner Tim Lincecum would've been a safe guess. Or All-Star Matt Cain. Or up-and-coming Madison Bumgarner. Or no-hitter throwing Jonathan Sanchez.
Very few people would've guessed a guy who threw his last big league pitch in 2006 would be one of Halladay's biggest competitors this season, but Vogelsong is just that.
He owns a 10-2 record and a very impressive 2.47 ERA. The downside is he's only thrown 102 innings this season, and has almost zero chance to catch Halladay in wins this year.
Cueto is sporting the best ERA in the MLB this season.
Cueto is emerging as the ace of the Cincinnati Reds staff, and currently has an ERA better than any other starter this season at 1.94.
He loses ground to Halladay because he's only got 120 innings pitched compared to more than 175, he's 8-5 and has only struck out 78 while walking 37.
Kershaw is leading the MLB in strikeouts.
Kershaw poses the best competition for Halladay over the next six weeks. He currently has a very respectable ERA of 2.72 while sporting a 14-5 record.
He's blowing Halladay out in strikeouts this year, leading the MLB with 193 in 175.2 innings so far.
Right now, Halladay is probably No. 1 for the Cy Young, and if that is indeed the case, Kershaw is No. 1A.
What it will come down to is which pitcher throws better over the final six weeks of the season. They'll both finish near the top of the triple crown categories, and this race likely goes to whoever winds up with more wins at the end of the year.
Prediction: Halladay wins the award, after winning 20 for the fourth time during his MLB career. The 23-year-old Kershaw falls just short, finishing with 19 but serving notice that he has turned into one of baseball's true aces and that he has a few Cy Youngs in his future, starting in 2012.
But this season is all about Roy Halladay, who wins his third top pitching award and second consecutive with Philly.