Clayton Kershaw's Cy Young competition a near match

The NL Cy Young race is intriguing, as the three finalists are very different in pitching style, but very similar in statistical accomplishments.

The case could be made for any of the three. Let’s look closely at the advantages for each.

The case for Clayton Kershaw

The Los Angeles Dodgers lefty’s win total wasn’t as gaudy as either of his competitors, but he fared better in other traditional and advanced statistical measures.

NL Cy Young Race
Advantage: Kershaw

Kershaw led the NL in both ERA and WHIP. One neat thing about Kershaw’s WHIP is that his defense helped in thwarting those who did reach.

Of the baserunners he allowed, 14 were wiped out either by caught stealing or pickoff, well more than Dickey and Gonzalez.

Kershaw also led the NL in highest average Bill James Game Score. That stat rates a pitcher’s start (usually on a scale of 0 to 100), based on innings, runs, hits, strikeouts and walks.

How did Kershaw thrive? Largely on the strength of his breaking ball. His 156 strikeouts on breaking pitches were 17 more than any other pitcher.

Lastly, Kershaw led the NL in Baseball-Reference’s wins above replacement, a stat intended to show how tough it would be to replace that pitcher.

No one rated more irreplaceable than Kershaw.

The case for R.A Dickey

The New York Mets' knuckleballer outdid his fellow finalists primarily in the area of accumulated totals.

NL Cy Young Race
Advantage: Dickey

Dickey led the NL in both complete games and shutouts, and led the majors in quality starts (those of at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer allowed).

He also won the NL strikeout crown by one whiff over Kershaw. That came about largely because of the improvement in his knuckleball location. Dickey got misses on 29 percent of his swings against pitches in the upper half of the strike zone, up from a 17 percent rate in 2011.

Dickey’s biggest advantages over his competitors come in his win-loss record (a .769 winning percentage) and that he demonstrated great control with a non-traditional pitch.

He averaged 4.3 strikeouts per walk, considerably better than Kershaw and Gonzalez.

The case for Gio Gonzalez

The Washington Nationals lefty made a great transition from the AL to the NL.

Gonzalez led the NL with 21 wins. Though some might say that doesn’t measure pitching performance well, he has other numbers to back up his efforts.

NL Cy Young Race
Advantage: Gonzalez

They include the highest strikeout rate in the NL and the lowest opponents’ OPS.

Gonzalez thrived largely because of his ability to get opposite-handed hitters out. Righties hit just .199 against him, the second-lowest opponents' batting average in the majors.

Gonzalez’s ability to strike out hitters at a high rate and keep opposing hitters from hitting the ball out of the ballpark led to him also leading the NL in fielding independent pitching.

That stat is an ERA estimator based partly on those two abilities that are key to any pitcher's success.