National League Cy Young Candidates

(Numbers are as of 7:00 PM, June 22, 2005)

We’re about seventy-odd games into the 2005 campaign and thought we’d check out who’s in the running for this year’s Cy Young Award. A little criterion, this isn’t strictly about the numbers to date although it’s a large part. We’ll also go by a player’s history. For example, suppose at this juncture Roy Halladay was 7-5, 3.92 ERA and Aaron Sele weighed in at 8-3, 3.53 ERA; I’d give Halladay the nod since most likely come the end of the season Sele would regress to his career norms whereas Halladay would likely improve to his normal level of play. Furthermore we have to take the BBWAA’s various voting prejudices into play (such as fixation on the W-L record over other peripheral stats).

I’m not necessarily looking for the most deserving candidates but rather who I think the voters might think are the most deserving [candidates].

It’s not a perfect system but we’re trying to take as many factors into account as possible.

So, without further ado, we’ll begin by looking in at the candidates in the National League:

Dontrelle Willis: 11-2, 1.92 ERA, 98.6 IP 20 BB 75 K 1.14 WHIP

Last start: ND vs. LAA 7.0 IP 10 H 0 ER 1 BB 4 K

The D-Train continues to dazzle in South Florida. Willis served notice in 2003 as he helped pitch the Marlins to an improbable World Series title. After a solid, though unspectacular 2004, Willis is showing the form that captured the baseball world’s attention two years ago. Willis has only gone less than six innings once so far this year (April 30) and has yet to post a 120-pitch start so he should have plenty still left in the tank. Willis opened the season 7-0 and is unbeaten in his last four starts (3-0, 2.51 ERA). He’s got all the tools to make a run at the Cy Young, however it remains to be seen if he can sustain his level of excellence over 200+ IP.

Pedro Martinez: 7-2, 2.76 ERA, 101 IP 18 BB 114 K 0.78 WHIP

Last start: LOSS vs. SEA 6.0 IP 9 H 4 ER 0 BB 7 K

The Mets got a good thing—Pedro Martinez with something to prove. During his free agent auction, the Red Sox made much of a 90% labarum tear, how he wouldn’t be an effective pitcher over the course of a four year contract, etc. etc. Granted it’s only year one of his deal, but Martinez seems intent on showing up the Red Sox front office as he continues to add luster to his Hall of Fame resume. Despite surrendering seven earned runs in the last two starts, Martinez is 3-1, 2.00 ERA over his last six turns in the rotation. Martinez has yet to throw 115 pitches in any start and is first in the NL in K’s, WHIP, and is fifth in IP.

Jake Peavy: 6-2, 2.56 ERA, 95 IP 18 BB 107 K 0.91 WHIP

Last start: WIN vs. LAD 8.0 IP 2 H 0 ER 1 BB 13 K

Peavy opened 2005 demonstrating that his excellent 2004 campaign (15-6, 2.27 ERA) was no fluke going 5-0, 2.00 ERA. He then had a nasty two week stretch where he went 0-2, 6.60 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Detroit before righting himself against the Dodgers. Peavy’s record would’ve been even better with a little more run support. In his first seven starts he posted an ERA of 2.76 ERA yet went 2-0. Still his stingy walk rate and excellent K/IP ratio will insure that as long as he keeps the ball in the park he should continue to excel.

Roger Clemens: 6-3, 1.51 ERA, 101 IP 30 BB 97 K 0.95 WHIP

Last start: WIN vs. COL 7.0 IP 5 H 1 ER 2 BB 4 K

Now before the flames start to the effect that I’m stonecold bat#@*! mad as a bloody March hare for having Clemens fourth, well don’t blame me. Blame karma, blame last year’s Cy Young voters, blame Canada, blame it on the rain, whatever. I know Clemens is having yet another amazing year. I know he’s top five in most major pitching categories. I know as of last Sunday he was leading the majors in Lee Sinins’ RSAA. He isn’t fourth because he isn’t an amazing pitcher having an amazing year. He’s fourth because the Astros have the worst offense in the National League. The fact he’s 6-3 on a club that’s 32-39 is a tribute to the incredible season he’s having. However the Rocket is finding himself in the same boat Randy Johnson was sinking in last year—having a Cy Young season on a crappy team. I’m guessing when the season is over, you’ll see his record look much like Johnson’s did last year; a couple of games over .500 with amazing peripherals and the voters being totally clueless about it. Hey, if I were casting the vote, he’d be topping my ballot.

Chris Carpenter: 10-4, 3.01 ERA, 104.6 IP 29 BB 101 K 1.18 WHIP

Last start: WIN vs. CIN 8 IP 4 H 1 ER 2 BB 8 K

Carpenter’s success over the last couple of seasons (25-9, 3.30 ERA) isn‘t surprising to me; it is bloody frustrating though. During his tenure in Toronto (49-50 4.83 ERA) he was all potential no performance. Yeah, I’m a little bitter, but nevertheless it’s always good for baseball when a talented player makes good on his abilities. After a loss to San Diego on May 7 dropped his record to 4-2, 4.24 ERA, Carpenter has been on a tear going 6-2, 2.25 ERA over his last eight starts, striking out 61 while just walking 17 in 52 innings, and going at least seven innings in seven of those starts. If he keeps rolling (and stays healthy) he has an excellent shot at the 20-win circle, and with a break or three, might even sneak away with baseball’s top pitching honor (throws chair).

Others to watch… Speaking of pitching well on a bad team Roy Oswalt has eight wins with the Astros (8-7, 2.72 ERA). Although he is just 4-3 over his last eight rotation turns, he has posted a microscopic ERA of 1.50. John Smoltz (7-5, 2.88 ERA) is enjoying a triumphant return to the starting rotation coming off his first shutout in several years. He’s won his last three (1.73 ERA 2 CG), and since his disastrous first start (1.2 IP/6 ER), enjoys a stellar 2.42 ERA. Everyone enjoys an undefeated season and so far Matt Morris is 8-0, 3.16 ERA, and we cannot forget rubber armed Livan Hernandez (10-2, 3.38 ERA) who has thrown at least 120 pitches in nine of his sixteen starts.

Next week: the American League.

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