NL Cy Young award looks all locked up (cont.)
1. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Rockies (1)
Season Stats: 11-1, 0.93 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.69 K/BB, 2 CG, 2 SHO
Last Four Starts: 4-0, 0.58 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 7.0 K/9, 3.00 K/BB
Jimenez made his 12th start this season on Sunday, June 6. Last year, eventual AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke went 8-1 with a 0.84 ERA through his first 10 starts, but by his 12th start, on June 5, his ERA was up to 1.55. He finished the year 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA. In 1968, Bob Gibson set a live-ball-era record with a 1.12 ERA. Pitching in a five-man rotation, Gibson also made his 12th start on June 6. His season stats after that start paled next to Jimenez's (5-5, 1.52 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 6.3 K/9, 2.88 K/BB). Gibson completed eight of his first 12 starts in 1968, three of which went into extra innings, while Jimenez has finished just two this year, but both of Jimenez's complete games have been shutouts, one of them a no-hitter, while Gibson had just one shutout at the same point in 1968. However, that one shutout came in Gibson's June 6 start and was the first of five in a row for Gibson and one of 13 shutouts in his final 23 starts of the season. The chances are almost nil that Jimenez can continue to rival Gibson, but what he's done already this season has been nearly as unlikely. If it's possible to wrap up an award this early, as Greinke appeared to do in the AL last year, Jimenez has done it.
2. Roy Halladay, RHP, Phillies (2)
Season Stats: 8-3, 2.03, 1.03 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, 5.92 K/BB, 5 CG, 3 SHO
Last Four Starts: 2-2, 2.93 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9, 6.25 K/BB, 1 perfect game
Three weeks ago, I reported that no pitcher had thrown a no-hitter and won his league's Cy Young award in the same season since Mike Scott in 1986. Well, the only pitcher to throw a perfect game and win his league's Cy Young award in the same season was Sandy Koufax in 1965. Between Jimenez and Halladay, one of those bits of trivia will likely have to be updated this November, but Koufax's achievement seems safe for now.
3. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals (N/A)
Season Stats: 8-3, 2.05 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.86 K/BB, 3 CG, 1 SHO
Last Four Starts: 3-1, 1.20 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.8 K/9, 5.14 K/BB
The Cardinals have three starters worthy of Cy Young consideration at this point in the season. Rookie Jaime Garcia (5-2, 1.47 ERA) got the nod over Wainwright on my list three weeks ago, and Chris Carpenter (7-1, 2.76 ERA) just missed making the list this week. Carpenter and Wainwright finished second and third in last year's voting, respectively, and each is as important to the Cardinals' postseason aspirations as perennial MVP Albert Pujols. Wainwright has come on strong in the last three weeks and is actually tied with Jimenez for the major league lead in quality starts and quality start percentage, both turning the trick 11 times in 12 starts. Wainwright is also one of three pitchers in this week's rankings to deliver on his promise as a starting pitching prospect after working high-leverage relief innings for a pennant winner, Price and Hughes being the other two.
4. Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Mets (N/A)
Season Stats: 8-1, 2.39 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 6.5 K/9, 1.86 K/BB
Last Four Starts: 4-0, 1.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, 1.91 K/BB
Pelfrey is the only man on this list with a save, which he earned by pitching the bottom of the 20th inning in St. Louis back on April 17. That relief outing came in the middle of three scoreless April starts, but an early-May hiccup kept him off my previous list. As the above stats show, he's since rediscovered his early-April form. The six-foot-seven Pelfrey was the ninth-overall pick in the 2005 draft and is now in his third full season in the Mets' rotation at the age of 26. His success in the early going this year has come from the introduction of an effective split-finger fastball to compliment his low-90s sinker. That new pitch has contributed to small improvements in a variety of areas, including strikeout rate, home run rate, infield pop-up rate, and perhaps most importantly, ground-ball rate, that last boosting his double-play rate to a Pettitte-like 21 percent.
5. Josh Johnson, RHP, Marlins (N/A)
Season Stats: 6-2, 2.10 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.21 K/BB
Last Four Starts: 3-1, 0.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.88 K/BB
Since returning from Tommy John surgery around just before the 2008 All-Star break, Johnson has gone 28-8 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, and 3.17 K/BB to establish himself as one of the National League's best starters. This year, he hasn't allowed more than three runs in a start since Opening Day (when he allowed four) and has limited the competition to one or none in seven of his 12 starts including each of his last five (0.53 ERA, 3.75 K/BB). Amazingly, Johnson won just three of those last five starts. In the other two, he took one no-decision (in a game the Marlins won 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth) and one loss. In the latter, he had the bad luck of being the opposing pitcher in Halladay's perfect game, which the Phillies won 1-0 on an unearned run.
Off the list: Tim Lincecum (3), Barry Zito (4), Jaime Garcia (5)