Rockies' Jimenez no longer atop NL Cy Young watch list
Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez had been dominating MLB hitters all year until recently
Adam Wainwright of St. Louis is now the National League Cy Young favorite
David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays continues to lead the AL chase
The unthinkable has happened: Ubaldo Jimenez has fallen from his perch atop the list of National League Cy Young contenders. With that, the races for the top pitching honor in both leagues have tightened up. In both cases, year-long consistency is trumping partial-season dominance, but only because of the handsome, voter-pleasing win totals born from that consistency.
NOTE: All stats through Sunday, July 25; League leaders in bold, major league leaders in bold and italics. The number in parenthesis after each player's name reflects his rank on the previous list.
1. Adam Wainwright, RHP, Cardinals (4)
Season Stats: 14-5, 1.94 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 8.3 K/9, 3.78 K/BB, 4 CG
Last Five Starts: 4-0, 0.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, 4.14 K/BB, 1 CG
Wainwright has allowed just one run in his last five starts (though Tony La Russa's typical overmanaging kept him from completing seven innings in three of them) and has not allowed an earned run in five of his last seven. After giving up two runs in seven innings in his first start of the year, Wainwright's ERA sat at 2.57; that was the only time all year it has been above 2.50. Wainwright reportedly picked up Tim Lincecum's changeup grip from the Giants ace at the All-Star game and has already started using it in games. In two starts since returning from the All-Star break, Wainwright has yet to allow a run in 12 innings while walking just one against nine strikeouts and pushing his ERA back below 2.00.
2. Josh Johnson, RHP, Marlins (2)
Season Stats: 10-3, 1.61 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 4.86 K/BB, 1 CG
Last Five Starts: 2-1, 1.05 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11.3 K/9, 14.33 K/BB
In his last 13 starts, Johnson has allowed as many as two runs in a game just once, posting a 0.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 7.23 K/BB over that stretch. By comparison, after his first 13 starts this season, Ubaldo Jimenez had a 1.16 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 2.47 K/BB. In other words, as great as Jimenez was to start the season, Johnson's current stretch of dominance has been both better and longer. Since lasting just five innings in each of his first two starts this season, Johnson has run off a streak of 18 straight quality starts. Jimenez has made "just" 15 quality starts all season. Jimenez has the superior record due largely to superior run support, but there should be no doubt which pitcher is having the better season.
3. Roy Halladay, RHP, Phillies (3)
Season Stats: 11-8, 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, 7.00 K/BB, 7 CG, 3 SHO
Last Five Starts: 2-2, 2.25 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 12.67 K/BB, 2 CG
Halladay hasn't strung together more than four quality starts at any point this season, but when he's good, he's so good it's easy to forgive those occasional stinkers. For example, in one of his last four starts, Halladay gave up six runs in six innings at Wrigley Field. In the other three he allowed a total of one run in 26 innings, striking out 25 against three walks. Amazingly, he only earned the win in two of those three starts as it took the Phillies 11 innings to pull out a 1-0 win against Travis Wood and the Reds on July 10.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Rockies (1)
Season Stats: 15-2, 2.75 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.0 K/9, 2.18 K/BB, 3 CG, 2 SHO
Last Five Starts: 2-1, 7.24 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 1.32 K/BB
After opening the season with 14 straight quality starts and a 1.15 ERA, Jimenez has turned in just one more in his last six starts, posting a 7.64 ERA over that recent span while thrice seeing his runs allowed exceed his innings pitched. Jimenez has experienced some correction on balls in play of late. Through those first 14 starts, his opponents' BABIP was an abnormally low .245, but it has returned to a conventional .300 over those last six starts. That was to be expected. More troubling has been the fact that Jimenez has lost the strike zone. After walking 3.0 men per nine innings in his first 15 starts, he has walked 6.3 per nine in his last five. The root of the problem seems to be that Jimenez's mechanics have broken down. It's typical stuff -- his back side is collapsing and he's flying open -- but a month has gone by without a successful adjustment being made, and his last start, a two-inning disaster in Philadelphia that saw him walk six, was his worst yet. His white-hot start and the Rockies' offense are keeping him afloat in this race, but unless he can fix the problem soon, he'll have gone form sure-thing, to off-the-list with alarming speed.
5. Mat Latos, RHP, Padres (N/A)
Season Stats: 11-4, 2.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, 3.53 K/BB, 1 SHO
Last Five Starts: 4-0, 0.80 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.89 K/BB
Given that the Padres have led the NL West since late April due almost entirely to their pitching, it's about time that a Padres pitcher made this list. Latos, who pitched one inning too many last year to retain his rookie status this season, has quickly emerged as the San Diego ace at the tender age of 22. In 14 starts since May 1, he has gone 10-2 with a 1.66 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and more than a strikeout per inning, allowing as many as three runs in a start just once. He's been extremely hit-lucky, with opponents hitting just .225 on balls in play over that span, but he hasn't been terribly reliant on his pitching-friendly home ballpark. Just five of those last 14 starts have come at Petco, and in the nine road starts he has gone 7-1 with a 1.36 ERA. Latos is unlikely to get much higher on this list due not only to a likely change in his luck on balls in play but because the Padres are going to limit his innings, as with his recent phantom sneeze-induced disabled list stay, to make sure he remains a Cy Young contender for years to come.
Off the list: Chris Carpenter (5)
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