There was a lot of great pitching in the NL this season. And, if you have any doubts about that, just go take a look at the stats of guys like Jordan Zimmerman, Mat Latos, Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Teheran. None of those guys cracked my top-5, but they all had very good seasons on the mound. So, without further ado, here are my top 5, culminating in this year’s winner.
#5 – Craig Kimbrel (ATL). It’s not every year that you see someone rack up 50 saves. It’s only been done 13 other times in history, and Kimbrel became the youngest reliever ever to achieve that mark this year. The rest of his numbers aren’t quite as staggering as they were a year ago, when he finished 5th in Cy Young voting. But, they’re still good enough to make my list: 1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and a 4.90 K/BB ratio.
#4 – Zack Greinke (LAD). He only started 28 games this season, and his strikeout total is fairly low (148), but Greinke still had a great year in LA. He won 15 games, while only losing 4, giving him the best win pct. in the NL. He had a 2.63 ERA (4th), 1.11 WHIP (10th), 3.23 FIP (10th), and held opponents to an impressive .229 avg. (10th).
#3 – Cliff Lee (PHI). Lee has to have had the worst luck of any pitcher I know. Even when pitching for good teams like the Rangers or Phillies, he just can’t seem to get the wins he deserves. A 3.16 ERA and 1.11 WHIP a year ago netted him all of 6 wins! It went a little better for him this year, though he still didn’t have the record you would expect, based on the rest of his numbers. He had a 14-8 record in 31 starts, a 2.87 ERA (6th), 1.01 WHIP (4th), 2.82 FIP (6th), 222 K’s (2nd), held opponents to a .230 avg., and he led the league with a 6.94 K/BB ratio.
#2 – Adam Wainwright (STL). I’m not sure how many Cardinals fans still consider Chris Carpenter their ace, but it’s high time they moved on. Wainwright is clearly the linchpin of that rotation. He had a fantastic year, leading the league in wins (19), while accumulating some other very impressive numbers: 2.94 ERA (7th), 1.07 WHIP (7th – in spite of leading the league in hits allowed), 2.55 FIP (3rd), 219 K’s (3rd), and a 6.26 K/BB ratio (2nd). All very good numbers. But, all just a notch below this year’s winner . . .
#1 – Clayton Kershaw (LAD). Kershaw led the league in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and strikeouts (232). He also had a 4.46 K/BB ratio (5th), held batters to a .192 avg. (2nd), and had a 2.39 FIP (2nd). He may have only finished with a 16-9 record, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Kershaw was the best pitcher in the NL this season. If he wins the award, then at the ripe old age of 25, he will have 2 Cy Young awards already under his belt, along with a 2nd-place finish in the year between his wins. We could be seeing something very special brewing in LA.