Debating the NL Cy Young

Cueto, Gio, a knuckler and a reliever battle for the crown

Updated: September 27, 2012, 12:40 PM ET
ESPN.com

R.A. DickeyAlex Trautwig/Getty ImagesR.A. Dickey currently leads the NL in both ERA (2.66) and innings pitched (220).

The most wide open of this year's awards races might be the NL Cy Young race. And with two of the contenders -- R.A. Dickey and Gio Gonzalez -- both pitching on Thursday, we decided to ask our experts to weigh in.

1. Should relievers -- in this case Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman -- get serious Cy Young consideration?

David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield), SweetSpot: Even though closers pitch high-leverage innings, they don't pitch enough overall innings to warrant serious consideration. Plus, the value of even the best closers over a mediocre closer is limited. Entering Wednesday, teams had won 95.1 percent of all games they led heading into the ninth. That's about three blown leads per team.

Chad Dotson (@dotsonc), Redleg Nation: I don't want to make a blanket statement that relievers should never get Cy Young consideration, but as great as Chapman and Kimbrel have been (each has 3.3 WAR), neither is as valuable as the top starters in the NL. Simply put, 200-plus great innings is worth more than 60-70 great innings. A reliever would need to deliver a historically good season to merit inclusion in the discussion. Of course, Chapman and Kimbrel likely will get serious consideration, but they shouldn't.

Mike Baumann (@mj_baumann), Crashburn Alley: No. Never under the current pattern of reliever usage. Kimbrel's going to throw around 60, maybe 65 innings this season. Gio Gonzalez will throw more than three times that. R.A. Dickey will throw even more. If we're going for insane rate stats in low volume, I'd rather have Kris Medlen or Stephen Strasburg. And even though a reliever's contribution comes in high-leverage situations, I don't remember the campaign to give John Vander Wal the 1995 NL MVP when he posted a 1.026 OPS in 118 plate appearances, primarily as a pinch-hitter.


2. Who should win the NL Cy Young award?

Schoenfield: I give the slight edge to Dickey over Johnny Cueto. True, Cueto has the tougher home park to pitch in, but Dickey has been terrific on the road (2.81) and didn't get to beat up on some of the weak NL Central lineups as often. Great year from Gio, but 27 fewer innings than Dickey.

Dotson: My heart says Johnny Cueto, as he's been the anchor of a very fun Cincinnati team (in a hitter's park), but my head says Gio Gonzalez should win. Gio was the first to 20 wins (Cueto and Dickey have 19), and his peripheral stats are excellent (plus he leads the league in WAR and FIP, if that matters to you). Cueto is a close second (leads NL in ERA+), but Gio's season has been masterful.

Baumann: It's wide open. I'd love to see Dickey win it because it would be such a cool story, and he'd be deserving. But Gio Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw (bum hip and all) are right there in the rate stats, even though Dickey has thrown more innings. And for what it's worth, Cliff Lee is going to have a lower xFIP than any of those guys and has six wins right now.


3. Who will win the NL Cy Young award?

Schoenfield:: You'll see four or five guys with first-place votes, but Dickey wins in a close race, especially if he wins his 20th game and holds his ERA lead. Heck, he could ending up finishing first in wins, K's and ERA. Plus he wrote a book and the other guys haven't.

Dotson: I actually think Dickey is going to sneak away with the award. Dickey is right there with Cueto and Gonzalez statistically, and he'll have a chance to win his 20th game on Thursday. Dickey also leads the league in innings pitched. Let's not discount the "uniqueness" factor with Dickey, either: he's a knuckleballer, and he's eminently quotable. It doesn't hurt that he plays in New York, either. Seems like a perfect storm.

Baumann: I'd say Dickey. He had that crazy run of dominance earlier in the season, and has 19 wins and a 2.66 ERA, which appeal to more traditional voters, as well as a K/BB ratio of 4-to-1 and a 3.28 FIP in an NL-best 220 innings, which appeals to more statistically inclined ones. And, as I've said, he's got the narrative behind him, and the margin between him, Gonzalez, Cueto and Kershaw is thin enough that I might not be uncomfortable with that putting him over the top. Any one of those four would be a worthy winner.