Last year's NL Cy Young Award race was, well, not much of a race at all.
Roy Halladay was the undisputed winner having put together one of the finest seasons of his already distinguished career. His postseason no-hitter only managed to further solidify has status as the best pitcher in 2010.
This year, Halladay remains a front-runner for the award. But 23-year-old Clayton Kershaw finally had the breakout year Dodgers fans have been waiting for.
Halladay and Kershaw remain the overwhelming favorites to take the award home, despite facing some competition from other such aces, Cliff Lee being among them.
Let's take a look at how Halladay and Kershaw compare with just a few weeks remaining in the regular season.
Halladay: 2.34 ERA
Kershaw: 2.30 ERA
It's simply amazing just how close these ERAs actually are. Halladay managed to edge Kershaw in this category with his complete game shutout against Houston yesterday afternoon, but Kershaw retook the lead with his dominant (although shortened) start against Arizona. Is a .04 difference enough to make any real comparison? Probably not. But as of today, Kershaw does have the lead, and therefore, the point goes to the southpaw.
Halladay: 211 SO
Kershaw: 236 SO
While the ERA edge has gone back and forth, Kershaw has the clear advantage in strikeout numbers. How significant of a statistic this is to voters is questionable. But a difference of over 20 strikeouts seems to be significant enough and remains the biggest statistical difference between the two pitchers.
In this day and age, many scoff at the use of win-loss record to determine, well, just about anything. But on a team that has a sub-.500 record, Kershaw has one more win than Halladay, who plays on a team headed for a 100-win season. The margin may only be one, but Kershaw deserves immense credit for racking up that good of a win total.
Different statistic, same old story. These two are neck and neck in WHIP. Kershaw has a .06 advantage, again—not particularly significant. It is an advantage, though, and with so many close margins between the two, every tiny and minuscule detail could be enough to sway voters in either direction.
Halladay: 219.2 IP
Kershaw: 218.2 IP
Because of Kershaw's ejection last night, he failed to keep up the pace in innings pitched, as Halladay took a one inning lead. But that lead may not last too long, with Halladay unlikely to be over-used with the Phillies playoff position already locked (and the division title likely to be earned by Halladay's next start).
Halladay: 8 CG
Kershaw: 5 CG
Halladay managed to take the lead from Kershaw in complete games with his win yesterday. Kershaw has managed, however, to pitch two shutouts to Halladay's one. Nonetheless, Halladay earns the point.
We all expect Halladay to pitch like the ace he is. Kershaw? Not so much. He has had, in most respects, just as good a season, if not better, than Halladay. At the age of 23, that is just about as impressive as you can get. That's not to say that Halladay hasn't had an impressive season himself. Nearly every second he's on the mound he's impressing us all, and he's actually playing in pressure-filled games that carry true meaning in regards to the pennant race.
What Kershaw has done this year is simply and unequivocally deserving of the award. Halladay is probably, in most respects, equally deserving. But when a race is as close as this one, you've got to look at the tiny things. That is to say, the small, and even microscopic differences that persist between the two. But, who knows? There's still a few weeks left in the season, more than enough time for Halladay to outperform his competition, or maybe even enough time for a different pitcher like Lee or Tim Lincecum to make a move. However, the winner, as of today, by this article's standards, is Kershaw.