Yesterday we looked at the American League Cy Young race, which had some quality candidates lead by the stalwart Justin Verlander. Now let’s take a look at the National League, which has thus far been even tighter and more inclusive than the AL. The lack of the designated hitter plus the departure or injury to several big time sluggers like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley has resulted in some terrifying early numbers for the upper crust of NL pitching. The fact that Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Stephen Strasburg aren’t even in my top five is very telling of just how ridiculous the National League’s top mound work has been.
Deciding between Brandon Beachy and Clayton Kershaw as the leader in the Cy Young race was like picking between a free Aston Martin or a Lamborghini — it’s more or less a wash. I gave it to Beachy because he has minimally better peripherals than Kershaw (save for strikeouts) and almost as many innings pitched (61.0 compared to 61.2). The young Atlanta Ace is throwing a staggering line of 5-2, 1.77 ERA, .183 batting average against, 0.90 WHIP, and 44 strikeouts with 7 quality starts. He’s been the anchor of an Atlanta Braves team that has been one of the best in baseball for the past month and is showing no signs of slowing down. Beachy might not be as flashy of a name as Kershaw or Halladay, but statistically he’s been the best mound occupier in the NL.
That’s not to say Kershaw isn’t having a phenomenal season in his own right. Last year’s Triple Crown and Cy Young winner has put the “d” in domination up to the quarter mark of the season, leading the NL in WHIP (0.88) with an ERA of 1.90, a BAA of .193, 51 Ks, 6 quality starts, and a 4-1 record through 61.2 innings. He’s been the backbone of a Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff that is second only to the Washington Nationals in team ERA (3.23) and ranks third in overall BAA (.231). As the Dodgers continue to take the NL by force, Kershaw has led the way with his dangerous five pitch arsenal.
The other top dogs thus far are the likes of Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, and Johnny Cueto.
With Washington’s golden child Stephen Strasburg on a strict (and mildly insane) innings limit, Gonzalez is going to have to fill the role of workhorse in the Nationals’ league-leading rotation. He’s done one heck of a job so far with his 6-1 record, imposing line of 1.98/.167/0.99, 7 quality starts, and an NL-leading 69 Ks. His 11.4 K/9 is also the best ratio in baseball. While much of the discussion regarding Washington’s pitching has been centered around Strasburg (who’s having an excellent season in his own right), Gonzalez has actually been the best arm in the MLB’s best pitching staff. He’s a big part of the Nationals’ emergence this year.
Cole Hamels is Cole Hamels. He’s rocking a 7-1 record with a line of 2.17/.220/1.01 through 62.1 innings and is second in the NL with 66 Ks. Hamels is also tied for the league lead in quality starts with 8 and has a QS percentage of 89%. (Among other things, he also leads the league in ass-hattery and foot-in-mouth press conferences.) Whether Hamels stays with the Phillies through this season remains to be seen, but for now he’s a force on the rubber and is looking to snag a very nice paycheck when his contract expires at season’s end.
Johnny Cueto was on track to claim the ERA title last season before a back injury forced the Cincinnati Reds to shut down the young hurler in September. Cueto has picked up where he left off last season, going 5-1 with a 1.97 ERA and a WHIP of 1.13. He spearheads a rotation that has helped the Reds claw their way back up to first place after a rocky start to the season. Cueto might not be a fire thrower but his ability to get outs and keep a low ERA earn him a spot on this list.
Others to Watch:
Stephen Strasburg: Putting up solid numbers (2.21/.214/1.03), but recent struggles and looming pitch limit might make it hard for Strasburg to grab the title
Roy Halladay: It’s Roy Halladay… (Update: Nevermind)
Annibal Sanchez: Until yesterday, every appearance for Annibal Sanchez had been a quality start (8). Solid line of 2.87/.229/1.12 but poor support has lead to a 2-3 record.
Cliff Lee: He’s been injured and has yet to record a win but his numbers are very good in only 6 starts (2.66/.213/.86). He’ll be in the running.
Lance Lynn: Has been a godsend for a team missing Chris Carpenter with his phenomenal mound work (5-1, 2.54/.213/1.09).
Fan Hub Action
Michael T Carr May 16th
Another good article, Craig Lowell.
Charlie Lobosco May 1st
This is a very compelling story because Mr. Collins is a very passionate, tough, intelligent, athelete taking on some additional responsibliity to help others as…
Scott Cohen May 1st
Charlie.. very well said.. he does have guts
Scott Cohen May 1st
but it shouldn’t require guts. .like you said it’s nobody’s business but his own
Hisham Zameeth April 30th
best player ever…..
Kareem Musa Mayowa April 29th
We don’t need to be hopeless about the situation bryant his. Because even david villa situation also up to the level of his own to…
Maritess Lim April 28th
I still believe in KOBE’s power…… He is still the best…… He will make it possible no matter what……
mimi_aragon84 April 28th
I feel no pity for him. First of all, it is EAGLE, COLORADO, not Eagleton, secondly he enjoyed success and adulation from fans from 2003…
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