It has just got to drive the batters in the National League batty that the best pitcher in the league all year throws a knuckleball. The knuckleball is a flirt. The knuckleball makes hitters look foolish. And that’s exactly what the New York Mets’ R.A. Dickey has been doing all season in the best season of his life.
To me Dickey is the hands-down Cy Young Award winner for the NL. He is 18-5 with 197 strikeouts in 205 innings and a 2.68 earned run average. He has never had a slump in 2012 and he has had only a few bad days. The American League has two pitchers who are just about equal in Cy Young worthiness in David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays and Jered Weaver of the Los Angeles Angels. I can’t make a really solid argument separating one from the other, but I lean towards Price.
Dickey has been wowing hitters all season. He is the only full-time knuckleball pitcher in the majors these days and he is upholding the honor of the little-used and less-understood pitch that few hurlers can control. Typically having the ball arrive at the plate at around 75 mph Dickey also throws the rare pitch faster than many of his predecessors. At least when he’s on the mound it doesn’t look like a slow-pitch softball game.
The next best National League pitcher this year is Gio Gonzalez, who is 19-8 and missed out on his first try at becoming the majors’ first 20-game winner. He has a 2.95 ERA, but then the question arises if he is even the best pitcher on his own team, the Washington Nationals. This returns us to the brouhaha surrounding the shut down of Stephen Strasburg for the season. Strasburg is 15-6 and his ERA only went over 3.00 in his last start. But without pitching during the second half of September, Strasburg won’t be able to show that he could have been a Cy Young contender
Up until recently, the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Cueto was in the mix, but after losing a few in a row he is 17-9, though still with a 2.92 ERA. However, his recent slump has taken him out of the running. Cueto’s teammate Aroldis Chapman has received as much attention as any closer in baseball this year with his 35 saves, 1.60 earned run average and especially his 119 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings, although his record is just 5-5.
Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel also has 36 saves with a 1.14 earned run average. He is 2-1. The San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain is 14-5 with a 2.93 ERA and he pitched a perfect game this season.
The American League vote might be closer than the Obama-Romney presidential campaign. Price has been exceptional all year, compiling an 18-5 record for Tampa Bay with a 2.54 earned run average and 181 strikeouts in 187 2/3 innings. His own teammate, closer Fernando Rodney, has been out of sight, collecting 43 saves with an 0.66 ERA. The Angels have not played as well as they expected to, but that has not been Weaver’s fault. He is 17-4 with a 2.74 ERA.
Young Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale has been the rock of that team’s rotation with a 17-6 record and a 2.78 ERA, but Price and Weaver have been a hair better. Last year the Detroit Tigers’ Justin Verlander was basically the best player in baseball and not only won the American League’s Cy Young Award, but the Most Valuable Player award, too. This season the Tigers have not provided the same run support, but Verlander has still been terrific with a 14-8 mark, a 2.82 ERA and an AL-leading 218 strikeouts. The won-loss record will prevent him from repeating his Cy Young recognition.
Then there is King Felix, the Seattle Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, who is 13-8 with a 2.92 ERA and who tossed a perfect game in August. Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the game, but he doesn’t deserve the Cy Young award this year. Of course, he didn’t deserve it two years ago, either, when he won it with a 13-12 record, so you can never tell what those wacky voters will do.