The Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) recently announced Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves) and Jose Valverde (Detroit Tigers) as the winners of the 2011 Goose Gossage Award, which is awarded to the top relief pitchers in both the National League and American League.
Being a member of the Philadelphia chapter of the BBA, my votes are restricted to just the NL. Displayed below are my votes for the 2011 NL Walter Johnson Award, which is awarded to the top starting pitcher in baseball.
1st place: Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
In my opinion, Kershaw should be the BBA’s unanimous choice for the 2011 NL Walter Johnson Award.
Kershaw led the NL in wins (21), ERA (2.28), WHIP (0.98) and strikeouts (248). Kershaw also had the best batting average against (.207) in the NL.
Kershaw’s 233.1 innings trailed only Roy Halladay (233.2) and Chris Carpenter (237.1).
Kershaw was especially dominant in his wins. In 21 wins, Kershaw had a 0.69 ERA. Kershaw led the NL in wins, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and batting average against; the dominance of his overall body of work this season cannot be denied. Kershaw is worthy of a first place vote.
Second place: Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)
Once again, Halladay was dominant in 2011 for the Phillies. Halladay ranked third in the NL in wins (19), second in ERA (2.35), second in innings pitched (233.2), third in strikeouts (220) and fourth in WHIP (1.04). Halladay ranked 12th in batting average against (.239); however, he was stingy against right-handed hitters, as they only hit .206 against Halladay. Halladay again led the NL in complete games (no surprise) with eight.
In my eyes, Halladay is the best starting pitcher in baseball. His statistics certainly make him worthy of a vote for the Walter Johnson Award; however, he receives my second place vote because Kershaw was the leader in virtually every pitching statistic.
Third place: Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies)
Another vote, another ace from the Phillies. Lee finished fourth in the NL in wins (17), third in ERA (2.40), fourth in innings pitched (232.2), second in strikeouts (238) and third in WHIP (1.03). Lee also ranked sixth in batting average against (.229) in the NL. Lee’s six complete games trailed only Halladay’s eight; however, Lee led the NL with six shutouts (no other pitcher had three).
Lee’s 2011 season will be mostly remembered for his incredibly hot stretches of pitching. In the month of June, Lee went 5-0 in five starts with a 0.21 ERA. Lee again dominated in August with a 5-0 record and a 0.45 ERA. Lee’s hot pitching continued through the month of September, in which he went 2-1 in five starts with a 1.42 ERA. After the All-Star break, Lee went 8-2 in 13 starts with a 1.79 ERA.
Fourth place: Cole Hamels (Philadelphia Phillies)
Among my top four votes for the Walter Johnson Award, Hamels is the third Phillies pitcher on my ballot. It would be an understatement to say that the Phillies’ deep pitching made them World Series favorites for the 2011 season. Although the Phillies fell short of their goal, their pitchers were certainly not to blame.
Hamels was a victim of a lack of run support at times; however, he put together a very strong season. Hamels ranked ninth in the NL in wins (14), sixth in ERA (2.79), 10th in innings pitched (216), 10th in strikeouts (194) and second in WHIP (0.99). Hamels also ranked second in batting average against (.214) in the NL.
Fifth place: Ian Kennedy (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Kershaw, Halladay, Lee and Hamels were expected to be superstar pitchers in the 2011 season; however, Kennedy and the Diamondbacks were not expected to have a superb season and win the NL West.
Kennedy’s 21 wins (first in NL) and 2.88 ERA (seventh in NL) were definitely big surprises (and new career-bests for Kennedy). Kennedy also finished fifth in the NL in innings pitched (222), eighth in strikeouts (198), sixth in WHIP (1.09) and fifth in batting average against (.227).
These five starting pitchers posted dominant seasons in 2011; however, Kershaw’s numbers stick out the most, as he was the league leader in everything. I would be stunned if Kershaw were to NOT win the 2011 NL Walter Johnson Award.