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2012 midseason awards: NL Cy Young

Jul 5, 2012, 6:56 PM EDT

R.A. Dickey AP

It was easy coming up with pitcher snubs from the NL All-Star team because there are a whole bunch of NL pitchers with great numbers right now. One does stand out above the rest, but there’s an excellent field of Cy Young candidates to choose from at the midway point. Here’s the top 15, according to ERA:

R.A. Dickey (NYM): 12-1, 2.15 ERA, 116/25 K/BB in 113 IP
Ryan Vogelsong (SFG): 7-3, 2.26 ERA, 72/34 K/BB in 103 2/3 IP
Johnny Cueto (Cin): 9-5, 2.35 ERA, 86/25 K/BB in 114 2/3 IP
James McDonald (Pit): 8-3, 2.45 ERA, 90/31 K/BB in 103 IP
Matt Cain (SFG): 9-3, 2.53 ERA, 114/23 K/BB in 113 2/3 IP
Chris Capuano (LAD): 9-3, 2.62 ERA, 95/34 K/BB in 106 1/3 IP
Clayton Kershaw (LAD): 6-4, 2.65 ERA, 112/30 K/BB in 115 1/3 IP
Jordan Zimmermann (Was): 5-6, 2.70 ERA,72/20 K/BB in 103 1/3 IP
Johan Santana (NYM): 6-4, 2.76 ERA, 93/33 K/BB in 98 IP
Kyle Lohse (StL): 8-2, 2.80 ERA, 63/19 K/BB in 109 1/3 IP
Stephen Strasburg (Was): 9-3, 2.81 ERA, 122/27 K/BB in 93 IP
Wade Miley (Ari): 9-4, 2.87 ERA, 66/19 K/BB in 94 IP
Gio Gonzalez (Was): 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 112/39 K/BB in 95 2/3 IP
Cole Hamels (Phi): 10-4, 3.08 ERA, 111/28 K/BB in 111 IP
Zack Greinke (Mil): 9-2, 3.08 ERA, 106/24 K/BB in 108 IP

Here’s how Baseball-reference WAR rates them:

Dickey: 3.7
Cueto: 3.6
Zimmermann: 2.8
Greinke: 2.7
Vogelsong: 2.7
Matt Belisle: 2.6
Kershaw: 2.6
Lohse: 2.6
McDonald: 2.6
Capuano: 2.5
Santana: 2.5

After Dickey and Cueto, WAR is really no help. But it is interesting that WAR lifts Cueto so far above the pack. Cincinnati and Milwaukee have both played as big hitter’s parks thus far, which explains part of why Cueto and Greinke rate so well.

I’m not going to include the opponent’s OPS here like I did for the American Leaguers, simply because there just isn’t much of a spread for the NL pitchers. Hamels, Strasburg and Kershaw have faced somewhat weaker hitters than the rest of the group, but not to the point that I’d give it much weight. Dickey, for what it’s worth, is right in the middle of the pack.

And Dickey is my choice for the Cy. I don’t think it’s as tough of a call as WAR suggests. He’s first in ERA. He has an incredible 0.88 WHIP. Cain owns the league’s next best mark at 0.95, while Cueto is 15th at 1.13.

After that, there just isn’t much separating these guys. Cain looks the strongest to me with his outstanding WHIP and strikeout rate. Dickey, Cain and Santana are the only NL starters with two shutouts this season.

On a pitch-by-pitch basis, one could put Strasburg with Cain, but the fact remains that he’s thrown 20 fewer innings this season. His Cy Young can wait a year or two.

Cueto’s K/BB ratio and WHIP don’t stand out; much of his success comes from refusing to yield home runs, even in a ballpark that tends to favor them. He’s surrendered just five homers this year. Last year, he allowed eight in 156 innings. History suggests he’ll fade as the year goes on; he’s always been a first-half pitcher anyway and he’s never undertaken this big of a workload. At the moment, though, he’s worthy of the third spot on the ballot.

Unfortunately, that means leaving McDonald off. The Pirates are 11-5 in McDonald’s starts this year. In the five losses, they’ve scored a total of three runs. They’ve actually been shut out in all three of the losses charged to McDonald.

And while I’m not giving any relievers serious consideration here, there are two worth mentioning in Belisle and Craig Kimbrel. Belisle is up to 44 1/3 innings already, the last 12 2/3 of them scoreless, and he’s been invaluable with the rest of the Rockies staff falling apart. Kimbrel, the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, is pitching even better this season, with 23 saves in 24 chances and a 1.50 ERA.

My ballot
1. Dickey
2. Cain
3. Cueto

  1. styx630 - Jul 5, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    If Dickey can have a solid second half and wins the Cy, he’s gonna need a new epilogue for his book. And good for him. The guy deserves all the success he’s having.

  2. ksyeszir - Jul 5, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    Dickey should definitely be in the lead right now but why not show Ryan dempster some love. He’s having a career year. 2.11 ERA 1.02 WHIP 66/22 K/BB. If he played for a team that could actually score some runs he’d have a great record as well. Did you leave him off just cus he’s on the DL right now?

    • hondoheaven47 - Jul 5, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      I’m guessing it’s due more to the time Dempster’s missed on the DL. He’s been fantastic this year, but with only 81 IP, it’s hard to put him on the list. That’s 12 innings fewer (or roughly two starts) than the lowest guy on the list (Strasburg).

  3. agc99 - Jul 5, 2012 at 10:47 PM

    Dickey is clearly the leader but McDonald deserves some press.

  4. giantssb42champs - Jul 5, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    The Dickster is the man! R.A. for CY.

  5. Ben - Jul 6, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    If you told me prior to the season that the NL Cy Young award was between Dickey, Vogelsong, Cueto and McDonald I’d have thought you were just pulling names out of a hat to mess with me.

    • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Jul 6, 2012 at 4:10 AM

      This is one of the things I love the most about baseball.

      • stex52 - Jul 6, 2012 at 9:02 AM

        FTW

  6. mgflolox - Jul 6, 2012 at 1:44 AM

    I commented earlier that Dickey was on Fresh Air on NPR last Friday. If you can get access to the podcast or transcript, I would strongly encourage it. He is a very intelligent, articulate and humble man. I was a fan before, now I’m an even bigger fan. An even better person than a pitcher, if you can believe it.

  7. pozzbsu13 - Jul 6, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    You could easily add Lance Lynn in that group.

    • ajcardsfan - Jul 6, 2012 at 9:12 AM

      I’m a Cardinals fan and I’m going to disagree with you. He’s good, but he doesn’t deserve any awards for a 3.33 ERA and 1.23 WHIP

      • stlouis1baseball - Jul 6, 2012 at 9:47 AM

        I agree with you AJ. He doesn’t belong in the group (although he has really pitched well).
        But I disagree in regards to him receiving awards.
        He very much deserves an award. A huge reward….
        The “Bailed Out The Starting Rotation In Chris Carpenter’s Absence Award.”

  8. dexterismyhero - Jul 6, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    There are no mid season awards. This is starting to sound like the Top 100 players in the NFL for 2012.

    • md23rewlz - Jul 6, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Nothing is as annoyingly pointless as the Top 100 NFL players. ARBITRARY OFF-SEASON RANKINGS YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT BECAUSE WE ARE TELLING YOU TO CARE ABOUT THEM. At least “mid-season awards” are based on the stats of an ongoing season.

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