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Cards duking it out for Cy Young

Big League Stew on the unfolding drama of the National League's Cy Young race, feature Cardinal teammates Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter:

    So which pitcher has a better chance of taking home the hardware? Until Sunday's seven earned runs, I think the no-doubt answer was Carpenter and his league-leading ERA. However, he's since surrendered that lead to Lincecum and allowed Wainwright to make a case with his league-leading 18 wins and consistency from start to finish. Wainwright also has a 9-2, 1.81 mark since the All-Star break to his name as well.
    As I said before, Tiny Tim still has time to atone for the hit he's going to take for his low 13-win total - it's not his fault given San Francisco's awful offense, but it's still going to hurt him - and both Cardinals pitchers have a few more starts to better state their case.

    It all makes for an intriguing race for an individual honor and maybe for one of the best feelings a fan base can have headed into October. I'm sure St. Louis won't argue.

I suppose this is nothing new, but I'm fascinated by the award voting this year, and particularly the Cy Young balloting. Everyone keeps telling me that Zack Greinke really is going to win in the American League, even though he's got only 13 wins and probably won't finish with more than 15 (which would be an all-time low for a Cy Young-winning starter in a non-strike season). But at the same time, Carpenter and Wainwright seem to be the top candidates in the National League, ahead of Tim Lincecum, who, like Greinke has the lowest ERA in his league but only 13 wins, thanks to lousy run support.
Yes, I understand the differences. Wainwright leads his league with 18 wins and has the third-best ERA, while CC Sabathia leads his league with just 17 wins and has the eighth-best ERA (well more than a run higher than Greinke's). If you don't like 15-game winners as Cy Young candidates, it's a lot easier to justify ignoring Lincecum than Greinke, because Lincecum's only real edge over the two Cardinals is strikeouts. And even there, his 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is essentially matched by Carpenter's (Wainwright's is 3-to-1).

Don't get me wrong; Lincecum has more innings than Carpenter, a better SO/BB ratio than Wainwright, and a better ERA than both of them. I would vote for him. But a lot of the voters won't, and it's not hard to understand why, even aside from his relative paucity of wins.

Meanwhile, Greinke's got a 2.19 ERA and Felix Hernandez -- the only other American League with an ERA lower than 3.03 -- has fewer strikeouts than Greinke, while giving up more walks and (slightly) more home runs. Hernandez is enjoying a brilliant, Cy Young-quality season, exactly the sort of season we always figured King Felix would someday enjoy. He just hasn't been as brilliant as Greinke, and there's no way to massage the numbers to support another candidacy.

Unless something fairly dramatic happens over these next three weeks, Greinke can only lose if more than half the voters insist on worshipping at the altar of the Big W.