Is Cliff Lee sneaking into the NL Cy Young race?

Cliff Lee's strong second half may be gaining the attention of NL Cy Young voters. (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

With all of the talk that Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have generated this year for the Phillies, it is easy to look past Cliff Lee‘s success in his return to the team. In fact, Lee has had a historical season, so far, and is on pace to become the first pitcher since 1985 to pitch seven consecutive innings of shutout baseball in 10 or more games.

Lee’s domination of the Mets on August 22 gives him nine starts this season with seven shutout innings. This puts him behind just Dwight Gooden and John Tudor, who both accomplished this 10 times in 1985. With Lee scheduled to make close to six more starts, it is realistic to think that this will be a historic season for him. The funny part is he’s not getting much Cy Young Award talk at all. This may be because he is on a staff with Halladay and Hamels, who are having outstanding seasons, or it may be because he is simply expected to do what he does, excel.

Lee is going to set a career high in strikeouts this year and is only two wins behind the league leader while posting a 2.71 ERA. He has been as consistent as the much-praised Halladay, as much of a strikeout machine as Clayton Kershaw and as fun to watch as both of them combined. Does this not sound like a Cy Young type of year?

If the season ended today, my Cy Young ballot would look like this:

1. Halladay — The number-one pitcher for a clear division winner and the team with the best record in the National League. The most wins in the league, and a sub 3.00 ERA.

2. Kershaw — Young stud that finally came into his own. League leader in strikeouts and is tied for the league lead in wins.

3. Hamels — Most consistent pitcher on the best team in the NL. Only 13 wins, but a late-season injury may keep him from a top-three finish.

4. Ian Kennedy — Surprising ace for a first place team. Tied for the league lead in wins and has a 3.09 ERA.

5. Lee — Has been overlooked by Halladay’s and Hamels’ early-season performance. Coming into his own after the All-Star break.

There is still a month of baseball left, and anything can happen. I feel that Lee will conmtinue to carry his momentum and finish the season strong. Halladay has had trouble getting decisions recently and Hamels has shoulder inflammation. With that, here are my predictions for the end of the season Cy Young race in the National League:

1. Lee — Continues his recent dominance. Finishes one win shy of league lead. Leads NL in strikeouts and ERA stays in 2.70 range.

2. Kershaw — The Cy Young race will be all Dodgers fans have to look forward to in September. Will Kershaw keep his breakout season going? I think he ties with Lee for second in wins and finishes second in strikeouts, but it is not enough to win.

3. Halladay — Leads league in wins, but recent “struggles” continue and he falls back a bit in ERA. Still, a successful year, but Lee’s dominance actually steals votes from Big Roy.

4. Kennedy — Good but not great year. Ace of a playoff team but no real Cy Young threat.

5. Hamels — Late-season injury takes any chance of winning the award and throws it out the window.

Let the debating begin in the comments section below!


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