the only thing more up in the air than the National League playoff race is the run for the National League Cy Young Award. There have been some very good efforts in the senior circuit this year, but unlike Johan Santana’s magic in the AL there hasn’t been one hurler who makes you stand up and whistle.
As of right now there are a bunch of guys clustered near the top.
A small caveat: I’m going to try to look at this through the eyes of the voters, so traditional stats obviously will have more weight than more advanced ones. I retain the right to add my own two cents as we go along, however. If you think I wrote something completely asinine, then rest assured I’m looking at it from the Baseball Writers Association of America’s point of view. If you think I wrote something incredibly brilliant and insightful—well that came from me.
Just so we’re clear (cough cough).
So to get things rolling, let’s look at my BBWAA-inspired (with my usual generous caffeine supplementation and a cameo appearance from the oft-consulted little voices inside my head “What’s that you say little voices? David Samson is history’s shortest monster?”)
Without further ado (and hopefully Thorazine) and in no particular order (yet) here are my five candidates: Bronson Arroyo, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Zambrano and Roy Oswalt. Stats are as of Wednesday, September 20 at 1 p.m. EST.
1. Brandon Webb
W L ERA CG SHO IP H BB K WHIP 16 6 2.92 5 3 216.0 200 47 163 1.14
Webb is either first or tied for top spot in wins, complete games and shutouts; second in ERA and WHIP; and third in innings pitched (although second among our contestants). Webb’s .727 winning percentage on a club that’s won just over 47% of its games this year is—suffice it to say—quite impressive. He was almost a mortal lock not long ago, but despite being 6-3 in his last 10 starts, he has posted a 3.75 ERA in those outings (4.88 ERA over the first eight of his last 10). However his back-to-back complete-game gems (1 ER 0 BB 15 K) against the Rockies and Cardinals put him on top of this list.
2. Chris Carpenter
W L ERA CG SHO IP H BB K WHIP 15 6 2.79 4 3 206.2 173 41 173 1.04
The National League leader in both ERA and WHIP is just ninth in innings pitched, although he’s second in complete games (and tied for first in shutouts). Although he’s ahead of Webb in strikeouts and issued fewer walks, the Cardinals are leading the NL Central and Carpenter’s winning percentage (.714) isn’t quite as impressive as Webb’s in light of the Redbird’s .537 mark. He’s coming on strong though; the former Blue Jay is 5-0, 1.46 ERA with three complete games over his last seven starts, and he went eight frames in two of the other outings. He’s red hot right now and a definite candidate to cop back-to-back Cy Youngs. As a Jays fan all I can say is [you really don't want to go here].
3. Bronson Arroyo
W L ERA CG SHO IP H BB K WHIP 14 9 3.17 3 1 221.1 204 55 172 1.17
The Red Sox are probably wondering how well he would’ve pitched this year in Boston. Granted, there is a lot more offensive firepower in the AL East than the NL Central. Regardless, even an ERA of 4.00 in over 221 IP would’ve been an immense boost to the Red Sox Nation. The major league leader in innings pitched is also fifth in ERA and sixth in strikeouts. Arroyo, like Carpenter, is making a strong final charge going 4-0, 1.13 ERA over his last four starts.
4. Carlos Zambrano
W L ERA CG SHO IP H BB K WHIP 15 6 3.38 0 0 200.0 153 108 194 1.31
Zambrano’s 15 wins and .714 winning percentage on a club that’s barely playing .400 ball is amazing. The fact his right arm hasn’t been mounted by Dr. Frank Jobe and placed over Dusty Baker’s mantle alongside Mark Prior’s and Kerry Wood’s even more so. He’s four behind the league lead in strikeouts and is sixth in ERA. He’s been scuffling (for him) a bit of late (5-3, 3.98 ERA over his last 10), and he’s over the century mark in bases on balls. He’ll draw votes.
5. Roy Oswalt
W L ERA CG SHO IP H BB K WHIP 14 8 3.05 2 0 206.2 207 34 156 1.17
Charge! Ten starts ago Oswalt was a .500 pitcher (7-7, 3.35 ERA), although it should be noted that his record was more indicative of Houston’s offense than it was of Oswalt’s abilities. He’s won his last four starts and is 7-1, 2.45 ERA since he last visited the 500-level. His recent surge has him third in the loop in ERA, tied for third in WHIP and is averaging a measly 1.48 BB/9 IP. What’s most amazing about Oswalt’s year is that he’s logged 109.2 innings in the Juice Box and has a 2.71 ERA and 1.04 WHIP there. My dark horse candidate for the honor.
Like the National League playoff picture this probably won’t be decided until the last pitch is thrown in the 2006 regular season.