NL Cy Young Race
I have been focusing primary on the Cy Young race in the American League up to this point, basically because I am an American League guy at heart. However, I think the NL race is much tighter and subsequently more interesting and worthy of discussion. The race, at this point, seems to have three viable candidates and a host of other good pitchers that will be unfortunately lost. To start with those left behind, Javier Vazquez, Dan Haren, and Josh Johnson are all having excellent years that are being lost in the discussion. Vazquez and Haren rank 2nd and 3rd in strikeouts and are both in the top 10 in ERA. By advanced stats, Vazquez is second in FIP and third in WHIP, while Haren leads the league in WHIP. If the Braves make the playoffs, Vazquez might end up part of the vote for the Cy Young. At the moment, he would be third on my ballot. But let us turn to three contenders getting the most attention, Tim Lincecum, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright.
Linceum is leading the league in strikeouts, K/9, FIP, WAR (Wins above replacement, not likelihood to survive a 1-year tour in Iraq), etc. He has the misfortune of playing for the offensively putrid Giants, which has hurt his won-loss record, nevertheless it is still a respectable 14-7. However, that is the worst of the three major candidates. He is also second in ERA.
Carpenter has the best storyline, coming back from major surgery that caused him to miss all of the 2007 and most of the 2008 season after winning the Cy Young in 2006. He is leading the league in ERA, third in fewest walks/9, second in fewest HR/9, third in FIP, and has a sterling 16-4 won-loss record, allowing him to lead the league in winning percentage.
Wainwright leads the league in wins with 18, is third in ERA (behind only Carpenter and Lincecum), 5th in strikeouts, and leads in inning pitched. That last stat is important, because it means the Cardinals have the advantage of ignoring their bullpen when Wainwright is pitching more often than any other team with any other pitcher in the National League.
So given these three cases, how should the vote turn out? Carpenter’s story, though inspiring, should be ignored. His ERA is a bigger mark in his favor, but he has pitched substantially less innings than any of the other candidates. Though he has probably been the best pitcher in the National League since he has returned from the disabled list, it is by a small enough margin that his time on the DL outweighs his later contributions. Health matters. Despite the fact that Lincecum pitches for a weaker hitting team, Wainwright ranks higher in tough losses (losses in games in which a pitcher went at least six innings and gave up 3 or less runs). However, in the end I think that Lincecum’s lead in strikeouts overcome his deficit in wins. But I could easily be talked out of that choice.
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Adam Wainwright
3. Javier Vazquez