2011 MLB Cy Young Award: Ranking the Top 5 Candidates in Each League
The big storyline heading into the season was how Philadelphia's four aces would do over the course of the season. While Roy Oswalt has been hampered by injury, the trio of Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have dominated. Where will they land on the NL side?
Overall, the American League has had more depth from an aces perspective. Cutting the junior circuit's list down to five aces was a bit more difficult than the senior circuit's.
You'll notice that I included some honorable mentions. They aren't necessarily my 6-10 rankings as much as I wanted to show some unheralded starters some love.
NL Honorable Mentions
Ian Kennedy (Ari): 170.1 IP 15-3 3.12 ERA 1.11 WHIP 142 K
Daniel Hudson (Ari): 165.1 IP 12-8 3.76 ERA 1.26 WHIP 125 K
Jair Jurrjens (Atl): 139.2 IP 12-5 2.84 ERA 1.17 WHIP 86 K
Jaime Garcia (Stl): 152.2 IP 10-6 3.42 ERA 1.32 WHIP 128 K
Jordan Zimmerman (Was): 145 IP 7-10 3.23 ERA 1.12 WHIP 113 K
NL No. 5: Tim Lincecum (SF)
Tim Lincecum: 164 IP 11-9 2.58 ERA 1.15 WHIP 175 K
Lincecum's kept the Giants afloat in the NL West over the last month. They're just 6-13 since July 29.
He's 4-2 with a 1.11 ERA since the All-Star break, and certainly back in the Cy Young discussion.
After walking Jimmy Rollins on four pitches to start the finale of a four-game against Philadelphia on Aug. 9, Lincecum began pitching out of the stretch instead of the wind-up with no one on base. He continued pitching out of the stretch during his next start against Florida.
NL No. 4: Cliff Lee (Phi)
Cliff Lee: 179 IP 13-7 2.82 ERA 1.07 WHIP 184 K
Lee entered June with just a 4-5 tally and 3.94 ERA. In June he went 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA. He exited the month with a 2.66 ERA.
His ERA mark was the sixth best by an NL pitcher in a calendar month. Orel Hershiser and Dwight Gooden each went an entire month without allowing an earned run.
Lee had three consecutive complete game shutouts in June, the second Phillies pitcher in franchise history to do so (Robin Roberts). His 34-inning scoreless streak was still 25 innings short of Hershiser's MLB record mark of 59.
He leads all of baseball with five shutouts.
NL No. 3: Cole Hamels (Phi)
Cole Hamels:172 IP 13-7 2.62 ERA 0.99 WHIP 155 K
During his 2008 postseason run, Hamels went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He was primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher.
In 2009, the hitters adjusted and Hamels got hit hard.
Last season he added a cutter and curveball to his repertoire, and reaped the benefits this year. He leads the NL in WHIP.
NL No. 2: Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
Clayton Kershaw: 175.2 IP 14-5 2.72 ERA 1.03 WHIP 193 K
Kershaw leads the National League in strikeouts, and is near the top in a lot of other starting pitcher categories.
The development of his slider has been one of the main reasons why Kershaw's become a top contender for the Cy Young.
To start his career, Kershaw was known for his devastating curveball. He threw it 23 percent of the time in 2008, and 16.8 percent in 2009.
He's now throwing Uncle Charlie just 4.6 percent of the time while throwing the slider 21.9 percent.
NL No. 1: Roy Halladay
Roy Halladay: 184.2 IP 15-5 2.53 ERA 1.05 WHIP 177 K
I don't think Halladay has a strangle-hold on this award as many people suggest. Kershaw certainly has a legitimate case as well.
Nevertheless, Doc's having another consistent season.
He leads the NL in complete games with seven, although he's surprisingly yet to record a shutout.
AL Honorable Mentions
James Shields (TB): 184.2 IP 11-10 2.83 ERA 1.03 WHIP 173 K
C.J. Wilson (Tex): 167.1 IP 11-5 3.28 ERA 1.23 WHIP 153 K
Ricky Romero (Tor): 166 IP 11-9 2.87 ERA 1.14 WHIP 141 K
Gio Gonzalez (Oak): 147.1 IP 9-11 3.36 ERA 1.37 WHIP 146 K
Ervin Santana (LAA): 174.1 IP 9-8 3.10 ERA 1,14 WHIP 143 K
James Shields and that changeup have been dominant all season long. I had a tough time leaving him off this list, and fully expect to hear from it from somebody in the comments section below.
C.J. Wilson had a solid year last season, but with the departure of Cliff Lee as the team's ace, he's taken the role of No. 1.
AL No. 5: Justin Masterson (Cle)
Justin Masterson: 167 IP 9-7 2.69 ERA 1.17 WHIP 127 K
Masterson's dominance this season has been a bit overlooked by the public eye.
His dominance has come due to the effectiveness of his sinker. He throws it 84.2 percent of the time.
In a start about a month ago against Minnesota, he threw 104 pitches; 103 of them were fastballs. When he's not throwing the sinker, he's keeping hitters off-balance with his slider.
AL No. 4: Dan Haren (LAA)
Dan Haren: 183.1 IP 12-6 2.95 ERA 0.97 WHIP 148 K
When you think of the upper-echelon pitchers in baseball, the names Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia and David Price immediately come to mind. But what about Danny Haren?
He has fantastic control (a career 1.96 BB/9 average), he's durable (216-plus innings pitched average over the last six years) and he has great stuff.
Haren's having another great, but quiet year.
AL No. 3: CC Sabathia (NYY)
CC Sabathia: 190.2 IP 16-7 2.93 ERA 1.14 WHIP 175 K
Sabathia continues to be the workhorse at the top of the Yankee rotation despite all of the drama behind him.
While he's had another outstanding year, his numbers against the Red Sox this season are mind-blowing; in four starts he's 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA. He's 16-3 against everybody else.
He's looking to eclipse the 230-plus innings pitched and 190-plus strikeouts plateau for the fifth consecutive season.
AL No. 2: Jered Weaver (LAA)
Jered Weaver: 181.1 IP 14-6 2.13 ERA 0.97 WHIP 153 K
Everything starts with Weaver's deceptive delivery, but the deception only gets you so far. He's really been going with his two-seam fastball and likes to change speeds to keep the hitters off-balance.
Although his strikeouts are down, he's really cut down on the walks; just 1.99 walks per nine, down from his 2.44 walks per nine career average.
He's the AL leader in ERA.
AL No. 1: Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander: 202.2 IP 18-5 2.31 ERA 0.88 WHIP 204 K
Verlander's first in the AL in wins, strikeouts, WHIP, batting average against and innings pitched.
He's been the most dominant pitcher in MLB this season. The flamethrower already threw one no-hitter, and threatened to do it again on two other occasions. There have been 11 no-hit bids after seven innings, Verlander has three of them.
Nolan Ryan is the only pitcher to throw two no-hitters in the same season (1973). Last year, Roy Halladay threw a perfect game in the regular season, and a no-hitter in the postseason.