I'm not quite prepared to make the case for Dontrelle Willis to win the Cy Young Award this year. But if he finishes out the month as strong as he's started it, Dontrelle will have to merit some serious consideration. To do it, he'll have to overcome the leads that Chris Carpenter and Roger Clemens likely hold on him right now.
Helping Dontrelle's cause, to some degree, is Roger Clemens' slowdown. Maybe it's due to injury. Maybe it's due to age. Or maybe it's just due to the fact that it isn't possible to do what Clemens did for his first twenty-some starts over the course of a full season. Roger's ERA is "up" to 1.78, which is still much lower than Willis' or Carpenter's, but it's closer to the same universe.
ESPN's Cy Young tracker currently has Chris Carpenter as the front runner. Dontrelle is a fairly distant second place (although the A-Train's points would be enough to give him a healthy lead in the AL race).
Carpenter benefits significantly from being on the Cardinals, who are once again running away with their division. Should Willis continue to lead the Marlins to the Wild Card, I would think that should weigh heavily in Dontrelle's favor. Without Carpenter, the Cards are still likely looking at the playoffs. Without Willis, the Marlins could be talking about the cellar.
Some "stats" to keep an eye on:
- ERA - Willis: 2.49, Carpenter: 2.31
- ERA (Home/Road) - Willis: 2.33/2.67, Carpenter: 2.55/1.99
- Shutouts - Willis: 5, Carpenter: 4
- WHIP - Willis: 1.11, Carpenter: 0.99
I'm not trying to sell Dontrelle - at least not yet. I haven't crunched the numbers to make a strong case. But the A-Train definitely deserves to be in the discussion.
Whether he wins the Cy Young Award or not, Dontrelle has had a heck of a year. As Fishfan mentioned yesterday, Dontrelle has the second most wins (45) of all time for a pitcher under 24. Only Greg Maddux won more games. Maddux will go down in history as a 300-game winner and as one of the greatest of all times. Had the Cubs held onto Willis (or if Willis was with the Yankees, Mets, or Red Sox), Dontrelle's starts would likely lead SportsCenter. This is truly something special.