Clayton Kershaw officially broke out in 2011. With a 21-5 record, 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts, the southpaw became the 38th pitcher in MLB history to win the pitching triple crown of wins, ERA and strikeouts, the 13th since 1945. He won a Gold Glove, led the National League in hits per nine innings (6.7) and WHIP (0.977) and ranked second in the league strikeout rate and innings pitched.
That reads comparably to Justin Verlander's accomplishments yesterday, but where Verlander won in a landslide and garnered MVP buzz, Kershaw is far from a lock to win the Cy Young Award in spite of his rankings. Why? Simply, those right behind him in the stats above weren't behind by far.
Roy Halladay posted exceptional numbers as well with a 19-6 record, 2.35 ERA and 220 strikeouts. Most importantly, he pitched at Citizens Bank Park, one of the league's best hitting parks, while Kershaw pitched at Dodgers Stadium, one of the best pitching parks. That resulted in a miniscule park-adjusted ERA+ victory for Halladay of 164 to 163 for Kershaw.
Sabermetrically, Halladay led the National League in both rWAR (7.4) and fWAR (8.2), with Kershaw ranking second in both categories. Doc's talent for limiting free passes game him a comfortable buffer in the FIP-based fWAR.
So what we have here is different ideas of measuring true dominant performance, and in this case, SBNation writers were pretty well split in half. Kershaw earned one more first place vote than Halladay, but an outlier of a 5th place vote for Kershaw allowed Doc to close the gap to tie Kershaw.
So your National League Cy Young winner is.....Clary Kershaday!
If you aren't satisfied with a dual winner, take the jump to see who the Purple Row staff voted for.
In stark contrast to the SBNation vote, the Purple Row staff was nearly unanimous in their proclamation of this season's best pitcher, sticking to the WAR argument. I'll admit I was the lone vote for Kershaw. Beyond that, Purple Row agreed with the rest of the writers around the country that Cliff Lee was the obvious 3rd place pitcher, with Ian Kennedy finishing 4th for leading the league in wins and carrying Arizona to a surprise division championship.
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