Among National League starters, R.A. Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and a few others are making strong cases for the Cy Young award and appear to be the front-runners. However, Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports and Jayson Stark of ESPN believe that two other pitchers should be at the forefront of the Cy Young discussion: relievers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel, 24, has a 1.26 ERA, 3.6 H/9 and 15.7 K/9 in forty-three innings.
Chapman, also 24, has a 1.26 ERA, 3.9 H/9 and 16.7 K/9 in fifty-seven innings.
In the fifty-six years since the advent of the Cy Young award, only nine relievers have come away with the trophy. That is, of the one hundred one Cy Young awards handed out in baseball history, 8.9% have gone to relief pitchers. Only one reliever, Eric Gagne in '03, has won the award in the last twenty years.
The biggest knock on giving the award to relievers in recent years has been their low innings count. When Mike Marshall became the first reliever to win the award in 1974, he threw a ridiculous two hundred eight innings across one hundred six appearances, record numbers that are absolutely unheard of today. In a full season today, relievers will throw at most a little over one-third of the innings of a quality starting pitcher.
This small sample dilemma bears itself out when you break down the performance of one of the starter Cy Young candidates. From May 17 to June 18 this year, R.A. Dickey put up a 0.66 ERA, 4.28 H/9 and 11.7 K/9 over fifty-four and two-thirds innings. That sample only makes up seven starts for Dickey but encapsulates an entire season for Kimbrel.
There is no doubt that Kimbrel and Chapman are both having incredible seasons. But are they Cy Young worthy?