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National League Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee Too Close To Call

Clayton Kershaw was masterful on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. Kershaw pitched into the eighth inning, securing his 20th victory of the season, the first Dodger in 21 years with 20 wins. He beat Tim Lincecum for the fourth time this season, and is at the forefront of the minds of National League Cy Young voters.

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At the moment, Kershaw is the NL pitching triple crown leader, leading in ERA (2.27) and strikeouts (242), and tied with Ian Kennedy for the Arizona Diamondbacks with 20 wins. Nominally, Kershaw is probably the Cy Young favorite, but it's not a slam dunk by any means. Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies leads the league in FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), and his teammate Cliff Lee (he of the six shutouts, and 0.75 ERA since the beginning of August) shares a 2.68 Expected FIP (xFIP) of 2.68, which is better than Kershaw but behind the 2.46 mark by Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Kennedy will definitely receive votes for the Cy Young Award, but I have to think the top three for the honor are Kershaw, Halladay, and Lee. Looking at the amazing Baseball-Reference.com, they have neutralized statistics, which attempts to strip away park and league factors and approximates what a player's statistics would be in neutral environment. Here is how close the top three are:

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  • Halladay: 17-7, 2.50 ERA, 223 IP, 34 BB, 213 K, 1.072 WHIP
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  • Cliff Lee: 17-7, 2.52 ERA, 218 IP, 42 BB, 223 K, 1.083 WHIP
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  • Kershaw: 17-7, 2.53 ERA, 217 IP, 55 BB, 232 K, 1.069 WHIP
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That's a razor thin margin, folks. It's hard to go wrong with any of these three Cy Young candidates.

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For a look at reactions to Clayton Kershaw's Tuesday win and his Cy Young chances, be sure to read True Blue LA.