The All-Star Break is upon us, and until game action starts up again on Friday, we're going to do a brief season in review of the 2012 MLB season thusfar. Our staff has voted on a variety of awards, and we're going to roll them out over the next four days.
The National League's Cy Young race is dominated by one pitcher, with a host of others filling out the rest of the ballots. But here's the funny part: the player that's dominating the voting isn't the pitcher who leads the league in fWAR.
NL Cy Young Award
1) RA Dickey (20 points, six first place votes)
2) Zack Greinke (seven points, one first place vote)
3) Matt Cain (four points)
4) Gio Gonzalez (four points)
5) Stephen Strasburg (four points)
6) Johnny Cueto (three points)
RA Dickey's 2012 season has been insane. He's averaging seven innings a start, he's striking out a batter per inning with a fastball that averages 83 mph, and he went on a stretch in June where he allowed just one unearned run in 42 2/3 innings. Dickey is having an unbelievably good year, and I'm not sure there's anything else I can really say about him. He's just been phenomenal.
Despite Dickey's dominance this year, Zack Greinke has been even better. Despite an ERA nearly a run higher than Greinke, his FIP is much lower (2.35 for Greinke compared to 2.76 for Dickey). Greinke has also thrown a comparable amount of innings and his strikeout and walk rates extremely close to Dickey's. But Greinke's BABIP is more than 75 points higher than Dickey's, and his strand rate is 6% lower than Dickey's. Thanks, Brewers defense! Greinke's year is going under the radar in comparison to Dickey's, but if he has a stellar two months with his new team, he could easily swoop in and take the award from Dickey.
Matt Cain of the Giants threw a perfect game this year, and it was one of the best-pitched games in baseball history. While teammate Tim Lincecum has struggled, Cain has fluorished after signing an extrension with the team this spring. His strikeout and walk rates are both career bests, and Cain has transformed himself this season from a solid 2/3 innings eater to a bona fide ace and one of the best pitchers in baseball. I was critical of the Cain extension four months ago, but right now, he's absolutely making it look like a great decision by the Giants brass.
Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg are very similar players. Both strike out oodles of players, don't last too long in games due to lots of pitches being thrown, and throw pretty hard. Gonzalez came out of nowhere to be a dominating force for the Nationals after they acquired him from the A's last winter, while Strasburg was the highly touted first overall pick that was expected to do this. The only reason that the two players are equal in fWAR at 3.1 is that Strasburg is allowing twice as many homers, and having worse luck with balls in play. He's striking out more hitters and walking fewer than Gonzalez, but still…I think the Nationals are happy with their duo.
All-Star snub Johnny Cueto of the Reds is an interesting guy, beacuse over the last two years, he's had a really low ERA despite peripherals that say it should be a lot higher. This is a much better year for him than last year, where he had a strikeout to walk ratio of only a hair above 2:1. This year, it's well above 3.00, and his BABIP and strand rate are a lot closer to league average. He's having the best year of his career so far, and unlike last year, the peripherals are making it sustainable.