Fortunately, when there are no 20-game winners in a season, the voters tend to look at more indicative measures of success than just wins. So let's take a gander at the top candidates, sorted by ERA:
|Name||W-L||ERA||IP||Hits Allowed||K/BB||WHIP||SLG||HR||Unearned Runs||DP|
|Roy Oswalt (Astros)||15-8||2.98||220.7||220||166/38||1.17||.403||18||3||27|
|Chris Carpenter (Cardinals)||15-8||3.09||221.7||194||184/43||1.07||.364||21||5||20|
|Brandon Webb (D'Backs)||16-8||3.10||235.0||216||178/50||1.13||.361||15||10||36|
|Bronson Arroyo (Reds)||14-11||3.29||240.7||222||184/64||1.19||.397||31||10||19|
|Carlos Zambrano (Cubs)||16-7||3.41||214.0||162||210/115||1.29||.351||20||10||19|
|John Smoltz (Braves)||16-9||3.49||232.0||221||211/55||1.19||.393||23||3||22|
|Derek Lowe (Dodgers)||16-8||3.63||218.0||221||123/55||1.27||.360||14||9||30|
|Aaron Harang (Reds)||16-11||3.76||234.3||242||216/56||1.27||.433||28||11||25|
Okay, it looks tight. Zambrano has the best winning percentage here despite playing for the worst team in the National League. However, he also walked twice as many batters as just about anyone else on this list. Oswalt and Carpenter posted the best overall numbers, but did not log as many innings as some of the other workhorse candidates. Webb, Arroyo, and Harang each posted fantastic numbers in extremely tough ballparks for pitchers, but they each also allowed a bunch of unearned runs. If Webb had allowed as many unearned runs as Oswalt, for example, his ERA would jump to 3.37. An official scorer's decision here or there can really affect a pitcher's ERA.
With numbers this close, we need to look at some intangibles:
In my mind, it really comes down to Oswalt and Webb, and I have to give Oswalt the slight edge because of his consistency. Minute Maid Park is no Chase Field, but it still isn't a real great place to pitch in, and Oswalt made it work for him. Either pitcher would be a good choice, and Oswalt's mine.
How will the voting actually go? Well, Harang and Arroyo are going to split consideration among the few voters who are either Cincinnati fans or who actually take home ballpark into account. Derek Lowe doesn't have those sexy strikeout numbers that voters like. Smoltz and Zambrano will both get consideration, but probably not enough because of their slightly higher ERA totals. I don't expect the voters to give out back-to-back Awards to Carpenter without his really separating himself in the second season.
So again, we're left with Brandon and Roy. Will voters go with the extra win or the lower ERA? In this case, they'll opt for the lower ERA because that sub-3.00 ERA looks oh-so-pretty and no one reached that magic mark of 20. But if Webb does pull it off, neither he nor his fans should consider it a cheapened award. You can make a great case for either Oswalt or Webb's Cy Young credentials, and both pitchers are great ones to build a franchise around.
Read more from Keith Glab at www.baseballevolution.com