Less than four weeks remain in the 2016 Major League Baseball season, so the majority of the season has already been played. There's still plenty more to go, though, and at this point of the calendar, it's fun to discuss how the individual awards races are going to shape up. Let's do exactly that and examine the NL Cy Young race.
Before we dive in, let's point out that our awards power rankings posts are not our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. These are intended to be a snapshot of where things stand at the moment, and we're making subjective judgments on how the vote would turn out based upon recent historical voting tendencies.
Now let's give NL hurlers their moment ...
Scherzer lands at the top of the list for a number of reasons. He leads the NL in wins (that still matters to some voters, unfortunately), and he also paces the majors in innings, strikeouts, and WHIP. Scherzer also has a sub-3.00 ERA to his credit, and he's allowed just two unearned runs all season.
Mad Bum's putting up an excellent season, and his 2.51 ERA, high innings volume, four complete games, and 217 strikeouts will certainly earn him some supporters. Bumgarner also hasn't won a Cy Young before, which could work in his favor. What may not work in his favor -- and what puts him narrowly behind Scherzer at the moment -- is that he's trending downward in the second half.
When it comes to run prevention, Hendricks has been tops in the NL by a wide margin, at least now that Clayton Kershaw (see below) has slipped from the ranks of qualifiers. Hendricks leads the NL (and the majors) with an ERA of 2.07, and in second in the NL is Bumgarner at 2.51. Hendricks also leads the NL (and the majors) with an ERA+ of 194, and in second in the NL is Bumgarner all the way back at 163. There's leading all comers, and then there's crushing them. The knock on Hendricks relative to many other Cy contenders is his innings load. However, he presently ranks 10th in the NL with 165 innings. He's not likely to get to 200 innings, though, and that's historically been a cutoff for Cy voters (Kershaw is the recent exception). If Hendricks manages to push his ERA below 2.00, then that'll be hard for voters to ignore.
Here's the deal: Kershaw hasn't made a start since June 26, and he still ranks second in the NL in pitcher WAR. That's how dominant he was when healthy. In 121 innings, he pitched to a 1.79 ERA and 218 ERA+ with only one unearned run. Perhaps most impressively, Kershaw's registered a K/BB ratio of 16.11, which, if he had a qualifying number of innings, would easily be an all-time record. He's on his way back and should have time for four starts or so the rest of the way. If he's utterly dominant across that handful of starts -- and why wouldn't he be -- then he may have a shot. Voters will have to have reason to overlook all that time lost to injury, though.
Cueto's first season in San Fran is going swimmingly thus far. He's got a sub-3.00 ERA, he's closing in on 200 innings, and he's tied for the NL lead in innings per start. In 16 of 28 starts this season, Cueto has lasted at least 7.0 innings. When it comes to winning the award, he's obviously a longshot, being that he's not even the best pitcher on his own team, but a third career top-five finish is in play.
Martinez has been an absolute rock in the St. Louis rotation this season. The rest of the corps has struggled badly with consistency and health, but Martinez in 164 1/3 innings has put up a 3.07 ERA/135 ERA+. A top-five finish in the balloting is possible.
Like Cueto, he's overshadowed by a teammate in the Cy Young race, but Roark has distinguished himself thus far. To his credit in 2016, he's got a 2.89 ERA, and he's on pace for 213 1/3 innings. The 29-year-old Roark has never logged a top-10 finish in the Cy Young balloting, but that should change this year.
Lester leads all NL qualifiers in quality-start percentage, and he's also put up a 2.61 ERA/154 ERA+ in 169 innings. That ERA+ ranks fourth in the NL.
Fernandez has struck out 224 batters in 160 1/3 innings, which is just dominant. He's also struck out 34.2 percent of opposing hitters, which is an outstanding figure for a starting pitcher. The innings load is light by Cy Young Award standards, and the ERA has crept above three. In terms of swing-and-miss, though, Fernandez is without peer this season.
Thor tops the loop in K/BB ratio, FIP, and home run rate, and he's also struck out an impressive 28.9 percent of opposing batters. Also, there's nothing wrong with that ERA of 2.56. The downside is volume, as Syndergaard's 162 innings do not compare favorably to most contenders higher on this list. On a rate basis, though, he's been among the very best.