Philadelphia Phillies Pitcher Cole Hamels Climbs Into Thick of NL Cy Young Race

If the 2012 Major League Baseball season ended right now, it would actually be pretty difficult to pick a National League Cy Young winner.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark says he would pick Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman as his Cy Young winner if the season ended today. And yes, Chapman has been truly amazing this season.

In fact, he might be having the greatest season by a closer in baseball history. He’s 4-4 with 28 saves and a 1.26 earned run average this season. He’s pitched 57 innings, surrendered 25 hits and just 14 walks, and struck out 106 of the 216 hitters he’s faced this season. He has an 0.17 ERA against NL teams, and his 16.7 strikeouts per nine innings rate is the best mark in history.

But it’s rough to pick a Cy Young winner based off of just 57 innings, even if they are as dominant as Chapman.

When you look at the starting pitchers in the National League, however, you could choose from a number of candidates.

Washington Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmerman have been phenomenal this season.

Strasburg is on a 180-innings limit because of his Tommy John surgery last season, but he’s 13-5 with 166 strikeouts in 133 innings and a 2.90 ERA. Gonzalez is 15-6 with 158 strikeouts in 147.2 innings, and a 3.29 ERA. And Zimmerman actually has the best numbers out of any of the three, with a 9-6 record and a 2.35 ERA in 145.1 innings pitched.

New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey is 15-3 with 166 strikeouts and a 2.72 earned run average, and Reds ace Johnny Cueto is 15-6 with the best WAR among NL pitchers, to go with a 2.45 ERA. He’d actually probably be my pick for the Cy Young winner if the season ended now.

But there’s a very close knit of second tier pitchers in the league.

Philadelphia Phillies lefty Cole Hamels has pitched his way right into the middle of that group, following consecutive complete game shutouts, just the fourth such occurrence by Phillies pitchers in the last 20 years.

This season, Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.91 earned run average and 158 strikeouts in 163.2 innings. He leads the league in innings pitched and shutouts, and ranks third in strikeouts, sixth in WHIP, and eighth in earned run average.

He’ll likely make eight or nine more starts this season, and with the Phillies struggling through a disappointing season that will likely end without a postseason appearance for the first time since 2006, when Hamels was a rookie, the Cole Hamels Cy Young watch is one of the more interesting storylines for the Phillies over the season’s final six weeks.

He’d probably finish only about seventh or eighth right now, but the race is SO close that Hamels could take the lead in just one or two starts.

Imagine what he could do before the end of the season. A Cy Young award would be a great way for Hamels to begin his six-year, $144 million contract.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.

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