Handicapping the Awards – NL Cy Young Edition

The National League Cy Young race is quickly becoming a two man showdown in the NL West. The reigning champion Tim Lincecum and division counterpart Dan Haren are putting together two of the better seasons we have seen this decade. This does not mean that others like Javier Vazquez as will be discussed don’t merit discussion for the award; it is more that they will not have the numbers voters desire to win the award. With that said a look at what has occurred to this point in the season and projections for the final 70 games.

*/ stats provided are in the order of ERA/Whip/FIP

** Stats up to date through play on 7/22/09

Old West Shootout, The Champ and the Challenger

Tim Lincecum – SP – San Francisco Giants (5.5 WAR)

The reigning National League Cy Young winner is back after last year’s breakout season. Putting all question to rest about whether he could maintain his performance with that unorthodox delivery, Lincecum has been as good as could have been expected. In 134.2 IP the righty has posted a 10-2 record with a 2.27/1.04/2.01 line and a national league best 159 K’s and 10.63 K/9. Those numbers put Lincecum 2nd in the NL in ERA, 3rd in wins, 4th in K/BB, first in FIP by almost a half run over Javier Vazquez and on a pace to post a 10 WAR season. ZIPS projections for the end of the season have Lincecum finishing at 2.52/1.10/2.20 and an NL best 260 strikeouts.

Dan Haren – SP – Arizona Diamondbacks (4.7 WAR)

The lone bright spot in the Arizona dessert this season Dan Haren is putting together one of those seasons pitchers dream of. In 138.0 IP Haren has posted a line of 10-5 1.96/0.80/2.62 with 137 strikeouts, currently third in NL. Haren’s K-BB ration of 7.611 would be the best in the NL since Ben Sheets 8.2 in 2004. His current WHIP of 0.80 would place him 4th on the all-time list for one season and his 1.96 ERA would be only the third sub 2.00 ERA this decade, putting his name right next to Roger Clemens (’05) and Pedro Martinez (’00). ZIPS project a final line of 2.52/0.93/2.73 with 225 strikeouts. If the projections find their way in to reality the voters are going to have one heck of a time deciding between these two pitching studs.

Predictions and Apologies

More so then the other 3 major awards previously discussed the NL Cy Young seems to have two gentlemen with a firm grip and no real chance of giving it up. Apologies to Javier Vazquez who has posted an excellent 1st half or so with a line of 7-7 2.86/1.05/2.46 with a 4.3 WAR but the voters just do not give love to pitchers without large win totals. Also of note is Lincecum’s pitching cohort Matt Cain who has been tremendous to this point going 11-2 2.32/1.23/3.83 but when you’re on the same team with THE man in the NL right now winning this award is a challenge.

A case can be made as I have done for both Lincecum and Haren, the stat-heads will look at Lincecum’s FIP and WAR and claim Lincecum should be a shoe in for the award, while others look at the ERA, WHIP, and the supposed struggle for support that Haren has had to overcome and claim he should be the obvious choice. Both sides have a case and neither is wrong. However I am part of that first group, Lincecum’s strikeout ability and his lack of home runs given up is what sways it in his favor in my eyes. If both pitchers end the season with similar win totals and ERA’s around the ZIPs projections then I believe Lincecum’s strikeout total and ‘dominance’ will win the day. However if Haren can keep his ERA below that magical level of 2.00 the voting may swing in his favor. Ladies and Gentlemen don’t forget to keep checking in on these two dominant pitchers in the oft forgotten NL West.

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