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Cliff Lee (14-7, 2.71) is second in the NL in strikeouts with a league-leading five shutouts and has been as good as anybody in the second half (not to mention his surprisingly hot bat).
Cole Hamels (13-7, 2.62) has been reborn this year, leading the NL in WHIP while being in the top 10 in ERA, strikeouts and wins as the Phillies' No. 3 man.
The Phillies' problem may be their collective greatness. Who’s the best pitcher on the staff? Hamels, Lee and Halladay could cancel each other out as Halladay, while dominating, isn’t running away with the field like he did last year.
Jair Jurrjens (Atlanta Braves) has had a remarkable season, but since July 1, he’s gone 1-2 while seeing his ERA rise from 1.87 to 2.71. He’ll be a contender with 13 wins, but Kershaw has him beat in nearly every category for the moment.
Tim Lincecum (San Francisco Giants) is having a quiet season in the National League top five for strikeouts and ERA. Kershaw has outdueled him twice and it’ll take a lights-out month for him to win a third Cy Young award.
A sleeper candidate is Ian Kennedy, who has Kershaw’s win total and has a 2.74 ERA since late April (3.22 overall). Arizona is in a playoff race too, which could help his case better versus Kershaw.
In theory, I only see Halladay as Kershaw’s only competition, while Lee or Hamels (and possibly Kennedy) could threaten some of their teammates’ thunder.