Roy Halladay pitched really good in 2011, as he did in 2010 when he won the NL Cy Young award. Unfortunately for Halladay, Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was just a little bit better, and Kershaw took home his first career award. These two are the odds on favorites to win in 2012, but as usual, there are a lot of other starters looking to make some noise.
Favorites: Clayton Kershaw was awesome last year, and at his age, he’s only getting better. Roy Halladay won the award the year before, and even though he’s much older than Kershaw, he’s just as good of a pitcher. Halladay has a pair of teammates in Cliff Lee (who is a former winner of the AL award) and Cole Hamels who are going to contend this season for the award as well. I’d also can’t forget to mention Tim Lincecum of the Giants, who’s won the NL award twice in his career.
Young Guns Blazing: There are a number of young studs in the league that will hope to contend for the award if everything goes well. Josh Johnson of the Marlins is one of the most talented pitchers in the league, but he’s never healthy. If he starts 30 games, he could be the best pitcher in the league. Tommy Hanson of the Braves is in the same position as Johnson: limitless talent, limited health. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals will only be limited to 160 innings, but if the Nationals are in the thick of the playoff race, would they extend him? I’d assume so, and with his talent, he could win the award in a full year.
Former Contenders Want It: Zack Greinke of the Brewers won the AL award in the past, and was one of the best pitchers in the NL last year, and if it weren’t for missing the first month of the season, he could have finished very highly in the rankings. Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals is in his first season back from Tommy John, and has finsihed top three in the voting before. Ian Kennedy of the Diamondbacks finished pretty high last year, though that was largely inflated by a great win/loss record. His overall stats paled in comparison to some others.
Dark Horses: Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers has been on the verge of taking the next step into superstardom, but hasn’t gotten there quite yet. With Greinke bound for free agency this offseason, Gallardo needs to step up this year. Matt Cain of the Giants just got THE LARGEST CONTRACT EVER FOR A RIGHT-HANDER, and a Cy Young win would do a lot to endear himself to Giants fans. Don’t forget about Nationals starters Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez, who could thrive with a full season in the National League under their belts. One more player to watch is Mat Latos of the Reds, who the team paid a bounty for last season. However, I hae a nagging feeling that the Great American Ballpark is going to hurt his overall numbers.
The Verdict: There are so many valid choices this year, but I’m going to go with Zack Greinke of the Brewers. If Milwaukee wants to repeat as NL Central champions, Greinke is going to need to have a dominant year, and I think he’s more than capable of doing it.