The NL Cy Young award, like the AL award, is a two horse race. Kershaw. Harvey. Kershaw. Harvey. It's interesting that the award has come down to these two pitchers, despite neither of them leading the National League in fWAR. But Kershaw leads baseball in ERA, and Harvey is fourth in the majors while leading the National League in strikeout rate, so it at least makes sense that these two are prominently involved.
But at the end of the day, experience won out over the flavor of the week.
TOC's midseason National League Cy Young winner is Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.
Kershaw has continually been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last three seasons, and all he's done is win one Cy Young and finish as runner-up for a second. This year, it's been more of the same, as the 25-year old (did I mention he's just 25?) has pitched to a 1.98 ERA in the first half of this season, striking out 139 batters in 145 1/3 innings. Despite his strikeout rate falling to its lowest mark since his rookie year of 2008 when Kershaw was just 20, mind you), he's also cut his walk rate to its lowest point in his career, leading to the second-best strikeout to walk ratio of his career. Throw in an ever-improving and fantastic whiff rate and a groundball rate that has perked up over the last two years, and you have the making of a superstar.
Despite the struggles of the New York Mets in recent years, there have been reasons to be optimistic about the team. The latest is Matt Harvey, who aims to become the team's second straight Cy Young winner, following in RA Dickey's footsteps from a year ago. The 24-year old Harvey is absolutely annihilating the National League, punching out 147 hitters in 130 innings while walking just 28. His strikeout rate is tops in the National League, and his 2.35 ERA is just behind Kershaw, Jeff Locke, and Pat Corbin (by percentage points). He'll start the All-Star Game for the National League tonight, but he's actually the underdog to win the Cy Young award due to New York manager Terry Collins' desire to skip some of his starts in the second half to control Harvey's innings and possibly avoid an injury to the latest phenomenon to take control of the Big Apple.
Finishing third in our voting is a guy who set the world on fire in the first month of the season: Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. Wainwright has anchored a strong St Louis pitching staff this year, but has also slowed (by the high standards set for himself) in July. Despite that, he still has a 2.45 ERA (fourth in the NL) and a major league leading 8.67 strikeout to walk ratio for the season. He would have sleepwalked his way to the award if it weren't for those pesky kids!
Rounding out our ballots were the aforementioned Pat Corbin of the Diamondbacks, and Jordan Zimmermann of the Nationals. Corbin won't turn 24 until Friday, yet has a sterling 11-1 record along with a 2.35 ERA that barely edges Harvey for the second-best mark in the NL. Corbin lacks the dominant strikeout power of both Kershaw and Harvey, as well as the precision control of Wainwright, so his strikeout and walk numbers don't jive as well in comparison to that trio. Then there's Zimmermann, who has replaced Stephen Strasburg as the de facto ace of Washington's rotation this year in the eyes of some fans. Zimmermann is second in the NL in walk rate (to Wainwright, of course), and his strikeout to walk rate is actually better than all NL starters aside from Wainwright and Cliff Lee of the Phillies. Zimmermann has always been the quiet man on Washington's pitching staff, generally getting overshadowed by Strasburg, the random veteran of the week (Edwin Jackson, Dan Haren), and Gio Gonzalez, but this year, he's outclassed them all.
FINAL BALLOTING (5-3-1 point system)
Kershaw (29 points, five first place votes)
Harvey (28 points, three first place votes)
Wainwright (16 points)
Corbin (5 points, one first place vote)
Zimmermann (3 points)