5 Early Leaders for the NL Cy Young Award

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NL Cy Young Award: Top 5 Early Leaders

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Even before the 2013 MLB season began, it was certain that 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey will not be winning the award again. The knuckleballer left for the AL East Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason, leaving an open seat on the NL pitching throne.

Some of the perennial contenders have sunk down and disappeared into the background. San Francisco Giants pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have had lackluster seasons, only managing 4.29 and 4.64 ERAs, respectively. The two have also only combined for a 9-13 record. Kyle Lohse, of the St. Louis Cardinals, has an ERA of 3.63 and only a record of 3-6 after finishing last season with 16 wins.

These perpetual stars have disappointed thus far, but still have time to catch up to the men on this list before the season is over.

Despite not a single pitcher obtaining an ERA below 2.00 so far, there are still several dominant hurlers in the NL ballparks. There are already 13 NL pitchers who have over 100 strikeouts on the season. Young Cardinals star Lance Lynn holds a 10-2 record and is just shy of 100 strikeouts on the season. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ young pitcher Jeff Locke boasts a 7-1 record with an ERA of 2.06 and a WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched) of 1.11.

The biggest surprise of this season has been Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins’ 20-year-old pitcher. Fernandez came out of nowhere in his rookie season to burst onto the scene with a bang. He ranks near the top of multiple statistical categories including ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. If only he could get some run support — he only gets 3.50 runs per game on average — Fernandez could be a household name.

Alas, none of these great stars made the cut today. There are a few pitchers that stand out above the rest. So, I begin this list with an honorable mention followed by the five front-runners for the 2013 NL Cy Young Award.

Note: All statistics are as of July 1.

Isaac Comelli is a Los Angeles Dodgers writer for Follow him on Twitter @IsaacComelli, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg

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The Washington Nationals phenom has had a great year despite struggling to get wins. Stephen Strasburg’s 4-6 record is not at all indicative of his pitching performance. The Nationals have only managed to give Strasburg 2.60 runs of support per start, literally last in the entire National League. Despite that, the powerful righty ranks in the top 10 in ERA, WHIP and WAR. Strasburg was so close but just missed out on the top five.

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No. 5 Jordan Zimmermann

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Strasburg’s teammate, Jordan Zimmermann, has been around for a few years but is probably not a household name, especially on the West Coast. He holds a fantastic 12-3 record with the Nationals, who apparently love him much more than Strasburg. Zimmerman gets the seventh-most runs per game of support in the NL, but does not often need all of it. His 2.45 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 allow him a solid chance to win each of his starts. In the prime of his career, I expect this 27-year-old stud to continue to produce big numbers.

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No. 4 Adam Wainwright

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Adam Wainwright cruises into No. 4 on the list as a result of his stellar numbers. Wainwright is among the top five pitchers for ERA, WHIP, WAR and strikeouts. The towering, 6-foot-7 right-hander has sat down 114 batters so far and continues to win games for the Cardinals. Having won 11 of his 17 starts, Wainwright is easily on pace to match or best his career-high of 20 wins in a season.

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No. 3 Cliff Lee

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The Philadelphia Phillies’ Cliff Lee slips into the third slot of this list despite having less wins and a higher ERA than the previous two players. Nevertheless, Lee’s 9-2 record is nothing to be snuffed at and he ranks fourth in the NL with 115 strikeouts. The real kickers that pushed Lee past Zimmerman and Wainwright were his 4.5 WAR and his lack of run support, receiving only 3.53 runs per game. Lee gets the job done just about every start despite not getting much help from his offense.

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No. 2 Clayton Kershaw

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Clayton Kershaw continues to be the heart and soul of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, as I was writing this list, Kershaw finished off a complete game shutout to only further solidify his No. 2 spot. This is likely the most controversial pick I will make on this list given Kershaw’s win-loss record of 6-5, but as we all know, records are not the only telling sign of a great pitcher. Kershaw boasts the third rank in all of the major categories I have mentioned and would have more wins if it were not for only receiving 3.00 runs of support per start.

If you still do not believe that he should be this high on the list, just keep in mind that in his six no-decisions this season, Kershaw has given up a grand total of 10 runs. If the Dodgers had been hitting the ball, he would likely have a record of at least 11-5.

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No. 1 Matt Harvey

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The New York Mets' surprise ace leaps his way from anonymity to the front-runner for this year’s NL Cy Young Award. Matt Harvey was not on anyone’s radar screen during his rookie season in 2012, but he is certainly a scary highlight on every scouting report now. The 24-year-old righty sits atop the leaderboards for strikeouts (132), WHIP (0.85), WAR (4.6) and ERA (2.00). His modest 7-1 record is a result of over half of his 17 starts becoming no-decisions.

Harvey gets it done on the mound regardless of whether or not the underwhelming Mets can help him get wins. Harvey gets only 4.24 runs of support per game, ranking 20th in the NL. Without Harvey, the Mets would likely be 15 games below .500 rather than 10 games. Harvey’s only loss on the season came on seven innings, five hits, and seven strikeouts with only one run allowed.

The NL Cy Young is Matt Harvey’s to lose. Only time will tell if the pressure will cause the young man to buckle or if he will continue to be nearly untouchable.