MLB: 5 Candidates For 2015 NL Cy Young

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On the heels of last week’s look at the top five candidates for the American League Cy Young award, we follow up with a list of the front runners for the National League hardware for best pitcher.

The senior circuit is jam-packed with Cy Young hopefuls, each very worthy for their own reasons. It was difficult to narrow the field to five pitchers most deserving at the start of the final month of August.

The list includes a few perennial choices who are no strangers to being in this award’s discussion at the end of the summer. There are also two newcomers though, both of whom are critical members at the top of their respective rotation hoping to lead the team to a surprise playoff berth.

Here are some quick facts about the five leading men for the 2015 NL Cy Young award.

— Four of the pitchers are righties while just one is a lefty
— Four of them are pitching for teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today
— The average age among the pitchers is 29 years old
— The group has 12 all-star appearances and five Cy Young awards between them

Honorable mentions: Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh Pirates), Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants), Michael Wacha (St. Louis Cardinals)

1. Zack Greinke

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Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Age: 31
Statistics through Aug. 23 (w/ NL rank in parentheses): 13 wins (3), 1.67 ERA (1), 0.85 WHIP (1), 155 SO (10), .191 AVG (1), 172.1 IP (2), 1 CG (tied for third)

At or close to the top in nearly every pitching statistic category, Zack Greinke may be having his best season yet in 2015. This says a ton about his campaign as now an indisputable co-ace of the Dodgers rotation, given his earning of the AL Cy Young award in 2009.

Greinke is a very different pitcher now than he was six years ago. He is now in the midst of his third season – and by far his best – playing in one of the media capitals of the country on a team that has been expected to make the playoffs each year recently. The Dodgers are in a battle with the defending World Series-champion Giants for the NL West crown and if L.A. falters, it would be surprising if it came at the fault of Greinke.

2. Jacob DeGrom

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Team: New York Mets
Age: 27
Statistics through Aug. 23: 12 wins (tied for fourth), 1.98 ERA (2), 0.89 WHIP (2), 158 SO (9), .196 AVG (tied for second), 154.1 IP (13)

This Mets 2010 draftee has followed up his solid rookie season with an even better 2015. The righty has led the surprising Amazins to the top of the NL East division and is only entering his prime years in his mid-20s.

Think we’re talking about Matt Harvey? Think again. Jacob DeGrom has been a consistent force atop New York’s rotation all season long and while Harvey has been good in his return from Tommy John Surgery, DeGrom has been better. The 2014 Rookie of the Year has already surpassed his totals in wins, games started, innings and strike outs from a season ago and has his ERA and walks are down as well.

3. Max Scherzer

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Team: Washington Nationals
Age: 31
Statistics through Aug. 23: 11 wins (tied for fifth), 2.79 ERA (9), 0.93 WHIP (tied for fourth), 201 SO (2), .209 AVG (6), 171.0 IP (3), 3 CG (tied for first), 2 SHO (tied for first)

Max Scherzer may have had the best two-start stretch in MLB history back on June 14 and June 20. Those two starts alone (a complete game, 16-strikeout, one-hit shutout and a 10-strikeout no-hitter) have kept one of the richest pitchers in baseball in the Cy Young chase for 2015.

The Nationals are trailing the aforementioned Mets in the division and would shockingly not make the postseason if the season concluded today. Luckily for baseball fans in the nation’s capital, they have Scherzer to help lead the push in September.

4. Jake Arrieta

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Team: Chicago Cubs
Age: 29
Statistics through Aug. 23: 15 wins (tied for first), 2.30 ERA (4), 0.99 WHIP (6), 170 SO (5), .205 AVG (5), 168.0 IP (5), 2 CG (tied for second), 1 SHO (tied for second)

Could Jake Arrieta be the pitcher that leads the Cubs to their first championship in forever? The North Side has been waiting for that elusive ring for 107 years and Arrieta has been the surprise arm that has carried them right into the thick of the playoff race.

While the division may be a stretch for the Cubbies, the ever-important wild cards are very much within reach. The young hitters throughout the Chicago lineup may be the focus of the casual baseball fan and Jon Lester is the most recognizable name in the starting rotation, but Arrieta is the real threat for some individual hardware in the offseason.

5. Clayton Kershaw

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Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Age: 27
Statistics through Aug. 23: 12 wins (tied for sixth), 2.29 ERA (3), 0.92 WHIP (3), 222 SO (1), .203 AVG (4), 177.0 IP (1), 2 CG (tied for second), 2 SHO (tied for first)

This list would be incomplete without the two-time reigning winner of the NL Cy Young award.

Clayton Kershaw may be having a bit of a “down” year this season and has even been a little overshadowed by Greinke’s prowess. This “down” year for the man who many still call the best pitcher in the game would be season’s that nearly all other hurlers could only dream of. He may not be the leading option for the award right now, but number 22 still has all of September to shine.

All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball-Reference.com.