Hey Johan, bring back that Cy Young Award, would you? Seems like we might have been a little quick handing out the hardware.
Sunday's scintillating showdown between two starting studs -- Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks and Jake Peavy of the Padres -- should force us all to open up the debate on who the best pitcher in the National League really is. A lot of us seemed ready to automatically hand that title to two-time American League Cy Young winner Johan Santana when he was traded to the Mets last winter. And, to be fair, Santana is off to a fine start in New York.
But it's not as good as Webb. Or maybe even Peavy. Or possibly some other guys, too.
Here's a look, not a month into the season, at some hurlers who might give the Cy a run:
1.) Webb. The '06 NL Cy Young winner outdueled Peavy on Sunday, giving up five hits and a run in six innings. It was, arguably, his worst outing of the season. He's 6-0 with a 1.28 ERA and a .192 opponents' batting average, has gone at least six innings in every one of his starts, and has given up just one home run in 41 innings.
2.) Peavy. Last year's NL Cy winner took his first loss Sunday, though he went seven innings and gave up only four hits and two runs. Peavy (3-1, 2.09) has an NL-best 38 strikeouts and opponents are hitting a mere .194 off him.
3.) Santana. He might well end up with this hardware. Santana (3-2, 3.12) has gone at least 6 2/3 innings in every one of his starts, with four quality starts in five outings. Santana is second in the league in walks per nine (1.30), first in strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.40) and third in runners per inning (0.92).
4.) Ben Sheets, Brewers. Always good when he's healthy, which isn't nearly often enough, the big righty leads the league with an 0.96 ERA after four starts (he's 3-0, and pitches again Tuesday). Sheets has given up only 14 hits in 28 innings and struck out 24. His runners per inning (0.64) mark is the best in the league.
5.) John Smoltz, Braves. He's already been juggled around in the rotation because of a sore shoulder, and now there's some thought he may miss significant time if it doesn't heal quickly. Retirement may have to cross his mind, but that would be no way for a guy to go out, especially one performing as well as Smoltz. He's 3-2, leads the NL with 12 K's per nine innings, is fifth in ERA (2.00) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.50).
Also watch out for: Carlos Zambrano (Cubs), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Tim Lincecum (Giants).