You ever see three little children fighting over a shiny toy? Such a scene may very well symbolize the strength of the Philadelphia Phillies’ pitching this season. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels appear to be fighting each other for the NL Cy Young Award with each gem they pitch.
This trio of pitching wizards probably gives hitters nightmares and visions of three-headed monsters. The Phillies’ three-headed monster is a collective 46-19 with a 2.52 ERA this season. Their pitching numbers are virtually mirror images of each other, as all three have surrendered 56 earned runs apiece; Halladay allowed 56 in 202.2 innings while Hamels allowed 56 in 194 innings and Lee allowed 56 in 203.2 innings.
Roy Halladay (16-5, 2.49 ERA)
Halladay is the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner and will pitch tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers. On the season, Halladay has 195 strikeouts and 26 walks for a 7.50 K/BB ratio. Since the All-Star break, Halladay is 5-2 in nine starts with a 2.58 ERA. Halladay was 3-1 in five August starts with a 2.62 ERA.
For years, I considered Halladay to be the best pitcher in baseball and I stand by that belief now. Halladay is a warrior who wants the ball and wants to pitch all nine innings every time. Halladay’s mentality – combined with his conditioning and abilities – may be what enables him to pitch his way out of a jam.
When viewing Halladay’s monthly splits, you will notice that he is consistent. His worst month of the season was May, in which he went 3-2 in six starts with a 3.00 ERA. Halladay’s ERA was under 3.00 in every other month (currently 3.00 in one September start).
Despite pitching in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, Halladay is 8-2 in 14 home starts with a 2.32 ERA this season. Since joining the Phillies in 2010, Halladay is 20-7 with a 2.26 ERA at Citizens Bank Park!
Cliff Lee (16-7, 2.47 ERA)
While Lee’s overall numbers are most impressive, his season has been a tale of two pitchers. In April and May, Lee looked very human with a 4.18 ERA in five April starts and a 3.78 ERA in seven May starts. Lee also struggled with a 4.91 ERA in five July starts. In those specific months, Lee is 5-7 in 17 starts with a 4.22 ERA.
In the other months, Lee dominated as if he were playing a simple video game. Lee was 5-0 with a 0.21 ERA in the month of June; he repeated that performance in August with a 5-0 record and 0.45 ERA. Lee won NL pitcher of the month in both June and August. Lee is currently 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the month of September.
Lee’s June/August/September numbers combine for an 11-0 record with a 0.30 ERA (three earned runs allowed in 90.2 innings)! If Lee continues his hot streak in the month of September, that may be all that is needed for him to steal the Cy Young Award away from Halladay or Hamels.
At this time, I could not vote in good conscience for Lee because Halladay and Hamels were much more consistent this season. If Lee’s hot streak does not cool off soon and he dominates yet again in September, then he may be worthy of the Cy Young Award. Since the All-Star break, Lee is 7-1 in nine starts with a 1.76 ERA.
Like Halladay, Lee also dominates in the Phillies’ hitter-friendly park. For the season, Lee is 11-2 in 16 home starts with a 1.97 ERA.
Cole Hamels (14-7, 2.60 ERA)
Although Hamels gets the least fanfare among the three aces, he is as dominant as the others when his game is on. Although Hamels has an impressive 14-7 record, he has been a victim of poor run support at times. Like Halladay, Hamels has been consistent this season. The only months in which Hamels had an ERA of 3.00 or higher were April (3.13 ERA in five starts) and July (3.25 ERA in five starts).
In August, a lack of run support cost Hamels several wins. In August, Hamels was 1-1 in four starts with a 2.42 ERA. The month of August was not the first time Hamels was a victim of poor run support, as he went 2-2 in six starts with a 1.31 ERA in the month of June.
While Hamels continues to pitch well, his numbers since the All-Star break are not on par with Lee and Halladay’s numbers; therefore, Hamels may be slipping on the Cy Young Award radar. In nine starts since the All-Star break, Hamels is 3-3 with a 3.19 ERA.
What hitter-friendly park???
Although Citizens Bank Park has a reputation for being a hitter-friendly ballpark, the Phillies’ three-headed monster is making a mockery of that reputation.
Three aces at home this season:
Lee: 11-2, 1.97 ERA
Halladay: 8-2, 2.32 ERA
Hamels: 7-5, 2.45 ERA
Combined, this three-headed monster is a collective 26-9 at home with a 2.23 ERA! It should be no surprise that the Phillies have the best record in baseball with such fantastic pitching numbers, especially at a hitter-friendly ballpark.
If Halladay, Lee and Hamels were not to win the NL Cy Young Award this season, then who would the possible usurper be? I see Clayton Kershaw (17-5, 2.45 ERA) of the Los Angeles Dodgers as that possible trophy thief.
Kershaw is having a fantastic season and may be the best young pitcher in baseball today (yes, even better than Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners).
I am surprised with how little recognition Kerhsaw received over the past two seasons. In 2009, Kershaw had a 2.79 ERA in 30 starts; the Dodgers’ pathetic run support for him led to an 8-8 record that season. In 2010, Kershaw dominated again with a 2.91 ERA in 32 starts; however, the Dodgers again failed to give him the run support, as his record was only 13-10.
Kershaw took matters into his own hands this season by lowering his ERA to a new career-best 2.45 at this time. The Dodgers have provided Kershaw with enough run support this season, as he currently has 17 wins (more than Halladay, Lee or Hamels).
Since the All-Star break, Kershaw is 8-1 in 10 starts with a 1.44 ERA. At the very least, Kershaw is forcing voters to consider him for the NL Cy Young Award.
Cy Young Chances
In the end, I think it will be a three-horse race with Halladay, Lee and Kershaw. While Hamels has strong numbers, his numbers have cooled off in the second half and may make voters forget about him for now. Halladay’s consistency and dominance always make him a contender for the award; Lee and Kershaw have been baseball’s hottest pitchers since the All-Star break and may steal votes from Halladay.
Hamels will likely have no effect on the Cy Young voting; however, Halladay and Lee may end up stealing votes from one another and allow Kershaw to sneak in and steal the prize. If Kershaw begins to cool off, it will be a two-pitcher race between Halladay and Lee. If Lee continues his hot pitching throughout the month of September, then Lee may win effortlessly. Regardless of what Halladay does, the performances of Lee and Kershaw in the month of September may determine who wins the Cy Young Award this season.