Handicapping The National League Cy Young Race

Jordan Zimmermann #27 of the Washington Nationals pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers during the game at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)

Over at SI.com, Cliff Corcoran consistently does great work.

With that in mind, I was shocked to notice this morning that his latest ranking of National League Cy Young candidates looks like this:

1. Jordan Zimmermann
2. Johnny Cueto
3. Ryan Vogelsong
4. R.A. Dickey
5. Matt Cain

I'll give you a moment to process those names ... none of which, by the way, appeared on anyone's pre-season ranking ... Got 'em? Okay, same list but this time with numbers:

1. Jordan Zimmermann (8-6, 2.28 ERA, 96 strikeouts)
2. Johnny Cueto (13-5, 2.39, 106)
3. Ryan Vogelsong (8-5, 2.22, 95)
4. R.A. Dickey (14-2, 2.83, 147)
5. Matt Cain (10-4, 2.82, 135)

Those are the numbers that Cy Young voters care about. I wouldn't put any money on a pitcher who's not likely to win more than 14 games, which Zimmermann isn't. Yes, Felix Hernandez went 13-12 and won a Cy Young Award, but he led the American League in ERA and innings pitched, and was just one off the strikeout lead.

As Corcoran notes, Zimmermann's limited by his prescribed workload:

... Zimmermann also hasn't pitched more than seven innings in any of his starts this season as the Nationals are still being careful with his arm. Zimmermann is 26, three years removed from Tommy John surgery, and his 161 1/3 innings last year were a career high. With Stephen Strasburg still scheduled to be shut down once he reaches his innings limit this year, the Nationals need to keep Zimmermann available through the playoffs without putting him at risk.

As a result, he has reached 100 pitches just seven times in 21 starts, has come out before 100 pitches in each of his last seven starts and has come out before reaching 90 pitches six times this year, including in two of his last four turns. That's partially a testament to Zimmermann's efficiency; he has walked just 1.6 men per nine innings this year, but despite all that coddling, he has experienced some shoulder inflammation recently and is getting an extra day of rest this week as a result.

Zimmermann's on pace for roughly 190 innings. There's almost no way he wins a Cy Young Award with 190 innings, and that's assuming he's not rested down the stretch. He doesn't belong atop the list of candidates; he doesn't belong on the list at all, because he has almost no chance of winning. Even if he continues to pitch brilliantly -- and he's been brilliantly lately -- there are just too many other good candidates.

Here are my top five candidates, based on both numbers to date and general talent:

1. R.A. Dickey (14-2, 2.83, 147)
2. Johnny Cueto (13-5, 2.39, 106)
3. Gio Gonzalez (13-5, 3.27, 137)
4. Matt Cain (10-4, 2.82, 135)
5. Aroldis Chapman (crazy strikeouts)

Really, though, just about anything could happen.

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